The Eastern Conference postseason suddenly looks like a realistic destination for the Brooklyn Nets, now enjoying a seven-game win streak.
During this stretch, the Nets have defeated conference rivals in the Toronto Raptors as well as the Philadelphia 76ers. Surprising though it may be, they look like potential contenders who could make some noise as a lower seed in the playoffs.
According to Brian Windhorst, it is entirely possible that the front office would look to add pieces to bulk up their roster before the deadline is up in February (via ESPN):
“Spencer Dinwiddie, who just signed a $34 million extension, is also having a career year as is Joe Harris, who is sixth in the league in 3-point shooting. Jarrett Allen has been one of the league’s best centers on defense. And this rebound is coming without arguably the team’s best player, Caris LeVert, who is recovering from a frightening foot injury a month ago. Suddenly they’re two games out of sixth in the East and sources report they are hinting in talks with teams they could be a buyer at the trade deadline. That’s not something that has been heard in years.”
Brooklyn has played more clutch minutes than any other team in the NBA, which means that they are often playing close games. While this resulted in tough losses, it felt inevitable some of those would go their way for victories. It’s unusual timing because this is the first year they have owned the rights to their own draft pick since 2013.
As they have crept up the standings, the winning has been paired with to a growing sense of optimism surrounding the franchise. Signaling that they’d want more pieces, as Windhorst reported, is particularly fascinating.
With the extension recently signed by Dinwiddie, the Nets would likely be forced to renounce the rights to Russell this offseason. It’s not because he’s not playing well – in fact, he has been light’s out – but his $21.1 million cap hold would be too cumbersome if they planned to sign a free agent to a max contract with their room.
Kristian Winfield noticed that several scouts have been checking the pulse of this situation for their front offices (via SB Nation):
“Five scouts were in town on the night Russell played one of his best games of the season: two representatives from the Cavaliers, and one each from Sacramento, Minnesota, and Charlotte. A sixth from Denver was supposed to show, but did not sit in their seat … Brooklyn sent their head scout to Phoenix for a game earlier in December, Bright Side of the Sun’s Evan Sidery told me. He also told me Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon traveled to Los Angeles for the Suns’ game against the Clippers, then followed them to San Antonio the next day for their game against the Spurs.”
The Suns may need a backcourt partner for Devin Booker but it feels counterintuitive to field Russell in that role. Both players are ball-dominant scorers who lack defensive intensity. It would be an echo chamber watching these two next to each other.
Booker may be better served next to a defensive-minded player like rookie guard De’Anthony Melton, who does not require many touches on offense and can instead yield to the former Kentucky guard. The two have a positive net rating when both are on the court and make sense as a pairing for at least this season.
Still, there are several other potential suitors for a former No. 2 overall pick like Russell. While the New Orleans Pelicans come to mind to provide help when either Anthony Davis or Jrue Holiday is not on the court, they would be unlikely to offer anything in return convincing enough to sweeten the pot for Brooklyn.
Perhaps the Orlando Magic, still looking for a starting-caliber guard, would be willing to provide draft compensation as well as an expiring contract (e.g. Terrence Ross) for Russell. This would give the Nets more depth for a run at the playoffs with a win-now player while also freeing up enough cap space to improve their team during the summer free agency period.
Or, the Nets could flip one of their other assets including Kenneth Faried or DeMarre Carroll for a younger player. Both players have value because they are on expiring contracts that come off the books soon, though that’d be something that Brooklyn values, too. No matter their move, however, it’s an interesting time to follow the Nets.
DunkWire, Brooklyn Nets, D'Angelo Russell, De'Anthony Melton, Devin Booker, Kenneth Faried, New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Terrence Ross, Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns