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NBA: What next for the Brooklyn Nets?

Coming into the season, the Brooklyn Nets were being built up as title contenders.

On paper, they had a roster ready to contend, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving excelling to lead the team into the playoffs after an injury-hit 2021-22 campaign.

The Nets were lacking defensively last season, but trading Royce O’Neale and Ben Simmons should have dealt with those problems. 

However, the Nets, who are 15/2 to win the NBA Atlantic Division, seemingly can’t steer clear of issues both on and off the court.

They’ve already dismissed Steve Nash after a rocky start but he isn’t the root of their troubles, he’s just paid the price for dysfunction within the organisation. 

Things need to change, but where do the Nets go from here with the '7-11' experiment seemingly at its end?

Nets need Nash successor

At this point in the season, there isn’t a whole lot an NBA team can do but sack the coach. Trades won’t pick back up until December, so this is the roster that Nash’s successor is stuck with. 

The Nets need to hurry up and settle on a name, as this team needs some leadership.

Ime Udoka was the one the Nets chased out of the gate, they looked to have him lined up immediately after dispensing of Nash. The lack of movement in the days since suggests that they are getting cold feet.

Udoka brings baggage with him having been suspended by the Boston Celtics in the offseason. That’s probably something the Nets could do without. 

However, his season in charge in Boston established him as a formidable coach on the defensive end, which could be potentially game-changing for the Nets.

Nash was reportedly the choice of Durant and Irving, a coach who KD then turned on during his summer trade request. 

Regardless of how the Nets view the future of those two players, the next coach they choose – Udoka or otherwise – needs to be their own man.

Can the Nets stay competitive this season?

Looking further ahead, the Nets likely have a couple of months at the minimum with this roster. They’re currently without Kyrie Irving who has been suspended by the team, with the guard being set a list of six requirements in order to make up for his off-court controversies before he can return to the side.

As with most things when it comes to Kyrie, the future is very uncertain. He might come back and play in a contract year, but he also may never pull on a Nets jersey again. 

It’s hard to see him currently having any trade value whatsoever, so he’s likely to be on the payroll for the year regardless.

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A new coach will need to settle on how the Nets approach the year and they are 12/1 to win the NBA Championship outright.

They can still build a strong side around Durant and they have quality perimeter threats in Seth Curry and Joe Harris, plus the defensive ability of O’Neale and Simmons.

Getting more scoring around KD will be a priority, but a defensively-savvy coach can make the Nets a tough matchup for anyone in the playoffs.

Can the Nets rebuild without losing Durant?

When the KD and Kyrie trade requests came in during the summer, it was reported that ownership was more than happy to accommodate. 

They would rather have a hard-working, solid team hovering around the Play-in rather than deal with the egos of a big two or three.

That sounds a lot like the 2018-19 Nets, the team which they blew up on order to acquire Durant, Irving and James Harden.

Getting the roster back into that position will take work. The Nets did boost their draft capital with the Harden/Simmons trade, but the original Harden trade cost them dearly. 

They have little choice but to contend this year, given that Houston have the option to take their 2023 draft pick.

The quickest, easiest route out for the Nets is to trade Durant. Last summer they were waiting on an astronomical offer which never materialised, but they can still add picks and young players by offering out a star who will be 35 by the start of next season.

It should be harder to consider parting with one of the greatest players in NBA history, especially after failing to compete during his stint in Brooklyn. 

However, ownership seem ready for a rebuild. Durant arrived in Brooklyn to play with Kyrie, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them depart together, setting the Nets up for a pivot towards a hopefully more consistent future.

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