Brooklyn Nets: It’s now or never to create the superteam

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses with two Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophies and two NBA Finals MVP trophies during the Golden State Warriors media day on September 24, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses with two Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophies and two NBA Finals MVP trophies during the Golden State Warriors media day on September 24, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The potential for a Brooklyn Nets superteam may be now or never.

In the past decade the vast majority of NBA championship teams have all been superteams with only two exceptions; the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks and the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs. This is why the Brooklyn Nets should build a superteam in the upcoming 2019 offseason.

Since 2014 every NBA championship team has been a superteam consisting of multiple superstars and competent role players. This is not a secret and only trending upward.

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The pathway is there for Nets general manager Sean Marks to build a super-team right now. The path is a difficult one, but the notion that this kind of path even exists is one Marks must consider exploring.

The best possible free-agent signings for the Nets would be to acquire both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. This may seem impossible, but it is plausible.

The probability of the Nets acquiring Durant and Leonard would increase significantly if Golden State and Toronto were eliminated from this year’s playoffs.

If Durant fails to three-peat as an NBA champion with Golden State, he may look to leave to become the leader of a championship-caliber team to repair his reputation of being a “snake” for leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the rival Warriors in 2016.

Durant’s close friendship with Caris LeVert could be a big factor in his decision to potentially come to Brooklyn.

If the Raptors are eliminated from the playoffs, Leonard may look to leave Toronto as well. Outside of the emergence of Pascal Siakam Toronto’s future viability as a contender is questionable with a fading Kyle Lowry and an aging rental in Marc Gasol.

Leonard has been the subject of rumors linking him to the Clippers, but perhaps he could be persuaded to stay in the weaker Eastern Conference in Brooklyn.

If Durant signs with Brooklyn, Leonard could be enticed to join Durant, who is regarded as the best player in the NBA. Leonard and Marks both have ties to the San Antonio Spurs organization, so this could also play a big role in Brooklyn’s pursuit of Leonard as well.

Should Golden State and Toronto lose in the playoffs this year, Sean Marks should make signing Durant and Leonard top priorities. It would take genius-level general management to make this a reality, but that’s why Marks was hired.

Assuming the Warriors and Raptors are eliminated this year, Marks would have to move the contract of Allen Crabbe and renounce the Nets’ rights to D’Angelo Russell’s restricted status to clear up the cap space to sign two max-level free agents like Leonard and Durant.

Moving Crabbe’s contract would likely involve trading some of Brooklyn’s future draft picks. This can be done with some timely and clever wheeling and dealing by Marks.

This is where things get complicated. If Marks deals Crabbe in a package including draft picks, he would theoretically be sacrificing some of Brooklyn’s future to make a huge splash in free agency this offseason. It is a high-risk/high-reward gamble.

Considering the short list of top tier 2020 free agents it could be a gamble worth taking.

Indeed, it is a complicated jigsaw puzzle with many moving pieces, time constraints and contractual limitations.

However, if everything fell into place the Nets could have a potential starting lineup of  Shabazz Napier, LeVert, Durant, Leonard and Jarrett Allen for next season with a solidified bench of Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rodions Kurucs (assuming these players aren’t moved in the offseason).

Marks would likely upgrade the bench with big men and another point guard as well.

Signing Durant and Leonard would make the Nets favorites to win the NBA championship if the right role players were added to bolster that core; especially if LeVert stays healthy and has a breakout season. This is why the handling of Russell’s contract is very important.

On July 1, free agency officially begins. Assuming Marks does not renounce D-Lo’s rights, the Nets would only be able to pursue one max-level free agent, thus making the potential for building a superteam impossible.

That is unless you are of the opinion that D-Lo, Durant or Leonard (not both) and LeVert is the core of a superteam, which I don’t believe.

If Marks wants to build a superteam the window is there now. The window is small but it may not be open at all next year or for years to come as the best free agent available in 2020 is Anthony Davis.

Outside of Davis, the 2020 free agency crop is much weaker compared to this year. Davis also plays the same position as Allen, so there is some conflict there … in addition to concerns about AD’s ability to stay healthy.

If Marks was somehow able to sign Durant he would be wise to see how many max-level players show interest in coming to Brooklyn to join Durant.

Undoubtedly, other stars will gravitate to Durant and that would make the loss of Russell a moot point with ancillary benefits of cap flexibility to sign another star like Leonard.

In this respect, the priority should be to sign Durant by any means necessary. He is the magnetic key to building a superteam. It’s also common in today’s NBA for players to consult each other during free agency to align on the same team.

Unfortunately, the rest of the NBA will be pursuing Durant just as aggressively for these same reasons.

The Nets’ advantages over other teams in free agency is they have an excellent training and coaching staff, one of the best facilities and a new arena. They also have Sean Marks.

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New York City is a great basketball market for potential off-court endorsements and the fan base in Brooklyn is great. The Nets, with or without Russell, have a good core as well.

Durant’s relationship with LeVert should not be understated either. They have a special bond sharing the same surgeon.

Another thing to consider is if the Nets somehow manage to acquire both Durant and Leonard for the next four years I believe majority Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will spare no expense and be willing to go over the NBA luxury tax to round out the rest of the roster.

He is a fierce competitor in his own right.

The alternative to not trying to build a super-team would be to re-sign D-Lo to a max contract and attempt to fill voids on the current roster. This is not a terrible path to go down, but it would not put the Nets anywhere near championship-level contention.

It would likely get them back into the playoffs though. In the NBA, the middle of the pack is technically the worst place to be as middling teams won’t win a championship, but by making the playoffs will get lower draft picks as a result.

By going this route it would lock up Russell for at least four more years.

Assuming D-Lo plays like a perennial All-Star, this would give Marks the option of trading him at a later date, perhaps in the final year of his assumed max-contract when a better free agency crop emerges, or perhaps even earlier if the right deal presents itself.

Or perhaps not at all if he starts playing like a Hall of Famer.

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The problem is even if D-Lo improves and Marks decides to build around him the free agency crop for 2020 and beyond doesn’t look good enough to turn Brooklyn into a superteam in the near future.

The 76ers also appear primed to re-sign Ben Simmons, who put the clamps on Russell in the playoffs, after next season. The looming free agency of LeVert after next season also throws some contractual obstacles into building the necessary superteam to win it all.

But it gets even trickier when considering D-Lo’s contract situation. In order to have enough cap space to go after two max-level players, Marks would have to renounce the rights to Russell and allow D-Lo to become unrestricted.

This would make re-signing D-Lo virtually impossible as the Nets would no longer have the right of first refusal to match any offer sheet D-Lo signs with another team. Russell could view this as an insult and just leave, with the Nets getting no value in return.

If Marks doesn’t renounce Russell’s contract the cap hold of $21 million attached to D-Lo’s restricted status contract stipulation will also make it impossible to pursue two max players given the Nets’ salary cap situation, again, making the creation of a superteam impossible.

The only way to go after two max-level players while not renouncing Russell would be to just let another team steal D-Lo away with an offer sheet and wait until that deal is finalized to release that $21 million cap hold attached to Russell’s contract, but by then Durant and Leonard may sign with other teams.

This approach wouldn’t make any sense for Marks.

The Nets could also miss out on the big-name free agents, which would be disastrous for the franchise if they also lose Russell in this endeavor.  However, this is another gamble Marks might have to take if he wants to build a Brooklyn superteam.

Without question this offseason is the biggest in Brooklyn Nets history. It’s high stakes gambling with all the chips on the table and no player is sacred. If Marks is going to gamble, he might as well bring a big bank to the table and play for the whole pot.

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By the end of July, the Nets could be a championship contender, a middle-of-the-pack playoff team, or back at the bottom of the league. This is uncharted territory for the franchise and Sean Marks will be there to guide the Brooklyn Nets and their loyal fans through the arduous journey.