Damian Lillard was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster deal that involved the Bucks, the Phoenix Suns, and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Brooklyn Nets were named as contenders to land the Portland All-Star. His relationship with Mikal Bridges and the Nets’ array of assets made them an attractive destination. With Lillard off the market, the Nets can focus on in-house development opportunities. While having Lillard was alluring, Brooklyn has everything it needs within a hand’s grasp.
Purgatory or Prosperity? What the Damian Lillard Trade Means for the Brooklyn Nets
1. The Brooklyn Nets Can Further Develop Their Young Core
History tells stories of the Brooklyn Nets trading their future for win-now prospects. In 2013, Brooklyn traded several first-round picks for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Then, the organization went all in on supporting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and traded their talented young players. Needless to say, acquiring superstars does not bode well for the Nets. Thus, Damian Lillard’s arrival would not guarantee success. Instead of looking to land superstars, the Nets should build from within.
The average age of players on Brooklyn’s roster is 24.6. Thus, there is no shortage of young talent. Fortunately, Brooklyn received a nice haul when Durant and Irving were traded last season. Notable returns included Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. In addition, Ben Simmons is showing signals of being a future-building piece from the James Harden Trade. The rise of Nic Claxton and Cam Thomas promises additional support, while draft prospects and signings from this summer add more depth. In retrospect, the Nets have done a great job acquiring future building blocks. Now, they must work to develop it.
2. The Chemistry Between Brooklyn’s Core Can Grow
Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Ben Simmons are each new players traded to the Brooklyn Nets within the last year and a half. Simmons’ injury woes meant he did not have adequate time to develop chemistry with his teammates. Furthermore, the Nets signed a host of players making their franchise debut. Besides Spencer Dinwiddie, who returned after being traded in 2021, Nic Claxton is the longest-tenured Net. It is vital for Brooklyn’s core to gain experience with each other. With Damian Lillard’s arrival out of question, the roster can focus on developing more chemistry. The team appears to be healthy and ready to play together.
The Last Word: Damian Lillard’s Absence Moves Brooklyn Forward
Many analysts believe the Brooklyn Nets need more firepower to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Nets projected 2023-24 record is 37-45, per Bleacher Report. Missing out on Damian Lillard likely strengthens this prediction. Nevertheless, Brooklyn has everything it needs to be a successful competitor. The Net’s projected starting lineup is filled with two-way players who can match up well with other teams. The improvement of Brooklyn’s young talent has already started and will continue on a steep incline. The team’s success hinges on developing chemistry and finding the best way for their talent to play together. If the Nets remain healthy, they can shock the NBA world.