The Brooklyn Nets’ offseason has so far been eventful, even as other teams have taken more of the headlines with their big-name transactions.
Nets fans tuning into the Tokyo Olympics were in for a treat as two of their players for next season took center stage in the games held in the Saitama Super Arena.
After struggling during the earlier portions of the competition, Kevin Durant eventually had his fingerprints all over what was arguably Team USA’s toughest run to the gold medal. The two-time NBA Finals MVP was a steady presence for the Americans, especially during the knockout stages, where the United States faced double-digit deficits and slow starts.
Despite the world getting better, naysayers chirping with every setback, and the odds stacked against them, Durant led Team USA to its fourth straight gold medal and his third as a member of the senior national team.
Aside from being one of the newest members of the Nets, Patty Mills was one of the best players in the Olympics. Averaging 23.33 points, 6.33 assists, and 1.67 steals through six games, Mills was at the heart of the Australian offense, capping off his campaign with a 42-point performance in the bronze medal match against Slovenia.
That the two already linked up during the medal ceremony only added to the excitement of the Brooklyn faithful especially with training camp set to start in less than two months.
Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, whose contract with the Nets expired this offseason, also played big games for France in the knockout stages and could be someone Brooklyn could bring back thanks to his performances.
Olympics aside, It has been a relatively quiet free agency for Nets so far, who have only signed James Johnson to a one-year, $1.7 million deal and David Duke Jr. while also re-signing Kevin Durant (four years, $198 million), Blake Griffin, and layup legend Bruce Brown (one-year, $4.7 million). They also acquired Jevon Carter from the Phoenix Suns and he provides extra backcourt insurance for when injuries pile up.
Aside from Luwawu-Cabarrot, Chris Chiozza, Mike James, Tyler Johnson, and Reggie Perry remain unsigned and their statuses will largely depend on how the market plays out. Alize Johnson has a partially-guaranteed contract and it remains to be seen if he will remain on the roster as well.
Their draft hauls from the recently concluded NBA Draft will serve as insurance for any of the free agents they don’t get to sign. Cameron Thomas (27th overall), Day’Ron Sharpe (29th overall and acquired from the Suns), Kessler Edwards (44th overall), Marcus Zegarowski (49th overall), and RaiQuan Gray (59th overall) may not immediately make major contributions from their bench, but they do come with good deals thanks to the rookie scale contracts.
Production-wise, it may be too early to tell even with a full summer league, but they could find some key pieces from their summer league roster. Aside from Johnson, Perry and the rookies, the likes of NBA players Brandon Knight, Chris Silva, and Quinndary Weatherspoon could also crack the roster.
Among all the additions so far, it’s the one of Mills that provides the most help and promise. The former San Antonio Spur has shown at both the international and professional levels that he can score and create plays for others. It may be too much of an ask for Mills to become FIBA Patty every night, but he is an effective enough scorer that when Kyrie Irving heads to the bench, the point guard position still remains an offensive threat.
Spencer Dinwiddie would have filled this role perfectly, but he partially tore his right ACL back in December and his price tag (the Nets executed a sign-and-trade deal with the Washington Wizards that gave him a three-year, $62 million contract) would have been too hefty for the Nets, who signed Mills to a very cap-friendly two-year, $12 million contract.
Brooklyn is definitely a title contender, but their championship hopes hinge greatly on their roster’s ability to stay healthy. The injuries to Irving and James Harden put more of the load on Durant’s shoulders, and while he valiantly brought the Eastern Conference semifinal series with the eventual champions Milwaukee Bucks to seven games, the fact that the Bucks were more complete on both ends of the floor was too much to handle. Hopefully, with a full training camp and some more game reps, the big three and the rest of the squad can develop the chemistry needed for a deep playoff run.
The composition of this Nets roster will remain in flux until the 2021-2022 NBA Season tips off in October. In the same vein, Brooklyn may finish with a different roster come wherever they will end their season. They were among the more active teams in the buyout market and it is highly likely that that will be the case once more next season.
As it stands, the Brooklyn Nets remain one the title favorites for 2022. The moves they’ve quietly made so far this offseason have solidified that. Following through on that is another matter, but the moves they’ve made this season can build the foundation for championship success.