Nets: 3 moves Brooklyn has to make this offseason for title run

Kevin Durant. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant
Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Right now, James Harden is probably thinking about Kevin Durant’s game-ending Game 7 shot while sitting alone in the east trophy wing of his million-dollar mansion staring at an empty cabinet with the precipitously-etched plaque reading: 2020-2021 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP.

His ring finger feels as barren as the hearts of Brooklyn fans everywhere.

Despite the obviously disappointing early exit, the Nets might have done the best they could with their crapshoot of a season. Almost everything bad that could have happened, happened. Kyrie got injured in the playoffs. Harden too. Durant almost did. LaMarcus Aldridge retired. And from the bench, Spencer Dinwiddie watched the Nets season spectacularly fizzle out with a quiet, barely discernible “poof.”

The only linings of the year were more brass than silver: Durant went full-on beast mode in his first season back from a torn Achilles, and somehow Blake Griffin did too, in his first season back from everyone calling him a loser.

Sure, anyone could tack on this overused and generally meaningless phrase to the Nets’ 2021 season: “They were unlucky.” But as one famous wise guy from Rome put it, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

The Nets need to be better prepared for next season’s title run, and it’s up to Sean Marks and the front office to get things done this summer. With a horde of players entering free agency, the Nets also have limited financial flexibility to work with: the Big Three is owed roughly $115 million next season, and another $26.4 million is tied up between Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan. After the semifinal loss, no one but your crazy, trash-talking, and subtly racist uncle saw coming, there are more questions than answers about Brooklyn’s future as an elite superteam. Here are three moves Brooklyn has to make to win it all next year.

3. Nets Must Bulk up on Defense

When the Nets first formed their superteam, they banked on the wager that their sturdy, cannon-loaded war tanks in Durant, Harden, and Irving would blast their opponents out of the water. They read the bookmarked and neon-highlighted page out of winners’ books claiming “Defense Wins Championships,” scratched their heads and said, “Nah.”

Maybe if their Big Three had stayed healthy, they would have proven their naysayers wrong, but for next season, the Nets need a reliable wing defender to prepare for one of those game scenarios when, you know, you have to play defense.

To be fair, the Nets didn’t post the season’s worst defensive rating (they were 22nd overall), but among playoff teams, it was the second-lowest score. When your best option at defending Giannis is Blake Griffin, your team probably could use some backup. (All respect to Griffin this postseason, but he can be a bit…dense.)

The Nets have the mid-level exception to sign a stopper, and with Spencer Dinwiddie likely declining his $12 million player option in search of greener (as in the cash, not grass) pastures, Brooklyn could use him as bait. There were earlier rumors that the Nets wanted to send Dinwiddie to Golden State in exchange for Kelly Oubre Jr., and honestly, that package rocks. They could also go after the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma or even the Bucks’ PJ Tucker, who was pretty buddy-buddy with Durant (and his mom) this series. Other options include Avery Bradley, James Ennis III, Kris Dunn, or Josh Jackson – all players who by no means will skyrocket the Nets’ defense to unstoppable heights, but at least will raise it a couple steps. Brooklyn can no longer afford to bet on their offense in the future, and gaining a mid-level defender this summer should be at the top of their agenda.