If it wasn’t obvious, the NBA is on the precipice of sweeping change.
Some of the biggest names in basketball have a date with the soon-to-be-open market. Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler are but a few that will populate the offseason battleground and, through their decisions, the competitive landscape of the NBA could see a drastic reformation.
And now, according to ESPN, another team has seemingly entered the fray.
Other teams – the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks – have long been expected to make big waves this offseason, but with their most recent deal, a salary-clearing Allen Crabbe for Taurean Prince swap with the Atlanta Hawks, the Brooklyn Nets have moved themselves into the spotlight.
Over the last five seasons, it seemed as if Brooklyn was chained to the bottom of the NBA barrel. A series of bad decisions – including their now famous ill-fated trade with Danny Ainge and the Celtics – coupled with improper management and spending left them bereft of any major means of improvement.
But thanks to this week’s events, the Nets find themselves amongst the biggest bidders on the free agent market.
Despite their lack of draft selections, Brooklyn, via some roster building wizardry courtesy of general manager Sean Marks, managed to turn a group of castoffs and undervalued players –D’Angelo Russell, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, etc. – into a postseason contender. The Nets made their first postseason appearance in four years and, while they were knocked out in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, they paved the path to future success in Brooklyn.
Today, with the cap space to spare, the Nets have the means to expedite that success. It has also made them quite an attractive free agent destination.
A few seasons ago, the idea of the Nets going after the premier players on the market this offseason, let alone landing them, would have been laughed at. Even more recently, while many would expect an up-start Brooklyn squad to go after the big-name free agents, it would be crazy to think there were players of that caliber looking to make the move to Brooklyn.
But this trade — and the move for a vast amount of cap space — would seem to affirm that there has been some sort of reciprocation of interest. In fact, with a hungry roster ready to compete for a title and some excellent management behind it all, it’s hard to find a reason a free agent wouldn’t want to sign on.
It may complicate their dealings with the breakout star of Russell, a restricted free agent, but a move for a Butler, Irving, Walker or Durant type asset — or even two of them — would seriously transform Brooklyn, their future outlook and status around the league. The complete turnaround, from league laughing stock to a potential title contender, would be a testament not only to the front office, but just how far the Nets have come.
And, with one or two of those players leading the charge on the floor, the Nets could very well find themselves on track to a run of sustained success that the franchise hasn’t seen since they made the move to Brooklyn back in 2012. The dreams that led to Billy King’s infamous blunder could finally be realized, albeit it not quite in the way they planned.
For Atlanta, this deal isn’t exactly a loss. Sure, they lose a good, young player in Prince and take on a bad contract in Crabbe, but they are still clearly in asset acquisition mode. While they showed flashes last season, the Hawks know that they weren’t ready this season and, apparently, that they won’t be next year either. They have a plan to build for the future, not the now, and having two extra first-round picks should go a long way in realizing that path.
Still, in the now, it’s clear that this was a major win for the Nets.
In a vacuum, the trade may not be the biggest move, but it is evident that something big is brewing in Brooklyn. On an even grander scale, the Nets’ surprising entrance into the latest offseason arms race has made what was already set up to be a momentous offseason even bigger. With so many teams and even more players in play, some free agency fireworks seem inevitable — so get ready for a wild ride.
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