Last Word On Basketball

Where Do the Nets Go After Trading Kyrie?

Kyrie Irving (11) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) during the third quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 30, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) during the third quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a whirlwind few days for the polarizing figure Kyrie Irving. Not long after being named an All-Star starter, he demanded to be traded from the Brooklyn Nets. His wish was swiftly granted, and Kyrie’s been dealt to the Dallas Mavericks. Initially, this looks like a win for Luka Doncic. The MVP favorite has been carrying this middling Mavs roster on his own all season long. Luka has his legitimate co-star now in Kyrie, and they can now make a push to make a run at the West. As for Brooklyn, well, it’s been frankly a long time coming- this marriage has been rocky since the start. A clean break is best for both parties. For all his talents and great games on the court- he’s made far more headlines off of it since becoming a Net. So where do the Nets go from here after trading Kyrie?

Where Do the Nets Go After Trading Kyrie?

Trade in Full:

Brooklyn Nets are trading star Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first-round pick, and multiple second-round picks. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the deal is as follows:

Brooklyn receives:

Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, 2029 First Round Pick, ’27 and ’29 Second Round Picks.

Dallas receives:

Kyrie Irving, Markieff Morris.

Initial thoughts on the Nets’ return

Finney-Smith is a nice player. A solid wing defender, particularly strong defending the perimeter. He can switch to defend guards as well as bigs. He’s also a solid perimeter shooter, shooting 36% from three over his career. Over his last 10 games, he’s averaging 11 points, seven rebounds, and 38% from deep. He’s still a low-usage scorer, but he’s an above-average player in a number of categories and should be a useful role player in Brooklyn as a starter or off the bench. Dallas will miss his defense.

Spencer Dinwiddie returns to the team where he had the best years of his career. His best season was in 2019, when he averaged over 20 points per game and 6.8 assists. He’s had an injury-plagued career to date, but he’s had somewhat of a resurgence this season. After a slow start, he’s picked it up over his last 10 games averaging 23 points and shooting nearly 40% from the perimeter. I can foresee a further resurgence from him, returning to a place he loved playing in.

The biggest concern has to be shot creation for the Nets. Dinwiddie is more of a volume scorer than a primary facilitator or someone who can create his own shot. This means an even higher burden on the incredible Kevin Durant than the considerable burden he already shoulders. When he’s off the court, they really struggle to score the basketball or create their own shot. Dinwiddie will at least help the scoring aspect, however.

Where do the Nets go from here after trading Kyrie? When KD returns from injury, they will be a good team. Well-coached under Jacque Vaughn. They will be defensively astute, but they have a limited ceiling. Almost certainly, it removes them from the title conversation. They will be a better defensive team and more unified, but their overall direction remains in flux until they sort out the future of Durant.

It’s a decent return, not an earth-shattering return, but the Nets had very little leverage in this scenario.

Where Do the Nets Go From Here After Trading Kyrie?

I like that they have two solid rotational two-way wing players in Royce O’Neale and now Finney-Smith. Both are switchable, will defend the perimeter, and can knock down open threes when called upon. Ben Simmons will be in the mix once he’s healthy, Claxton has had a solid season at the five, and Dinwiddie and KD will handle the scoring load. Yuta Watanabe is an underrated role player having a strong season also.

Cam Thomas is a name to keep an eye on for the Nets after Kyrie’s departure. Cam is coming off a 44-point night, defeating the Wizards on 16-23 shooting. The second-year guard was out of the rotation until now.

He’s inconsistent, but he can develop into a solid scorer at the NBA level. He has averaged 46% from the field and 40% from-3 over a small sample size in his career. Last season he was known for scoring 21 points against the Knicks at MSG, so Cam clearly has it in his locker. He’s a strong candidate to command large two-guard minutes going forward. It would be wise for the Nets to see what they have in him as a possible foundational piece after this deal.

It appears the immediate plan will be for KD to carry a rotation of solid role players for the rest of the season. This will weigh heavily on Durant’s thinking moving forward. Let’s not forget he asked for a trade in the off-season, then rescinded it. This might not be the right situation for him at this stage in his career. Especially if he’s seeking another ring.

However, sources believe the Nets will do all they can to build talent around Kevin Durant. If Durant stays, he will always keep the Nets competitive.

If Durant does choose to leave, expect the Phoenix Suns to do all they can to acquire him. It will be an interesting next few days to see if the Nets try and add further pieces prior to the deadline or if we learn more of Durant’s thinking.

Nets ‘Big Three,’ Then ‘Big Two’ Ends in Disaster

One thing is for sure, the Nets’ immediate run at a title has ended in failure. They built something solid and sustainable with Kenny Atkinson coaching Jarrett Allen and D’Angelo Russell. They traded it all for a speculative shot at a championship. Firing Atkinson for rookie coach Steve Nash– for the players to essentially pick their own coach felt like a mistake. Case in point, when Kyrie said he viewed himself in a ‘co-management relationship’ with the Nets, it raised serious eyebrows. The Nets allowed this to go unchecked, which is their responsibility, also. Hiring Vaughn is a step forward for the franchise.

Obviously, acquiring Kevin Durant was a no-brainer, but Kyrie Irving has proven to be a mercurial figure. Add James Harden to the mix; asking him to take a tertiary role was also a mistake. These pieces all mixed together like oil and water. Both Kyrie and Harden need the ball to be effective. They rarely saw the court together as a trio, and for all their individual genius, there was little on-court chemistry. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, either. It just felt this wasn’t a good fit. Harden is thriving in Philadelphia, leading the league in assists for Embiid since his move. I wouldn’t be surprised if Irving does the same in Dallas. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons has not moved the needle in Brooklyn.

One by one, the Big Three asked to be traded in short order. So far, only Durant’s request was rejected. Net fans have a right to wonder what exactly went on behind the scenes for this to end up as such a spectacular failure- Is it Sean Marks? Is it owner Joe Tsai? For whatever reason, questions should be asked.

When asking where do the Nets go from here after trading Kyrie? I’d say moving forward, they need to stick to a vision and believe in it.

Last Word on the Kyrie Trade

Kyrie is a temperamental figure. Until this season, he barely played more than 50% of the Nets’ games since joining. When on the court, he’s been sensational. Rightly becoming an All-Star this season. He still has the greatest handles in the league besides Steph Curry while routinely dropping 30 a night. However, he made far more headlines off the court than he did on it. And that’s saying something. I won’t go through chapter and verse all of his controversies; for instance, going AWOL and sitting out most of last season over the vaccine. Needless to say, it’s best for both parties that this marriage has ended. Despite his talent, his commitment to whichever team he’s on remains in question due to the acrimonious way his stops in Cleveland, Boston, and Brooklyn have ended.

However, I still like his fit in Dallas, and I feel he will thrive beside Luka Doncic and vice-versa. I think Dallas got the better end of this deal, and they add another star in a star-driven league.

As for the Nets- the writing was on the wall last season that Kyrie’s time as a Net would end sooner than later. A mercurial talent, a basketball genius, but never someone to build around. The Nets’ ceiling is limited as of right now. Their scoring and shot creation has taken a hit that will be unlikely to be fully addressed by Thursday’s deadline. Perhaps, however, they can start to build a foundation now. They have a good coach, solid depth, and, at least for now, Kevin Durant to build around moving forward.

Although, I can’t help but wonder whether Durant also requests to be traded in the offseason to a destination closer to being a title contender. In which case, the Nets will need to start from scratch. These next few days will be very interesting either way.

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