It’s been a whirlwind season for the Brooklyn Nets.
After all of the offseason drama surrounding Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, both players ended up remaining with the franchise. For a brief time at least.
Offseason drama became in-season drama as the Nets suspended Kyrie for posting a social media link that led users towards antisemitic material and refusing to apologize. Consequently, Irving asked for a trade, and KD would as well.
Brooklyn got back solid pieces from trading Kyrie and Durant, namely Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Johnson, and Mikal Bridges.
However, with the Nets getting swept by the Philadelphia 76ers in the First Round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, it’s time for them to look ahead at the offseason and potential trade targets.
After all, it’s the trade market itself — more than anything — that’s led the Nets to their current position. For better or worse.
3 early Nets trade targets in 2023 NBA offseason
Let’s go ahead and address the Damian Lillard possibility in light of the recent speculation surrounding the Brooklyn Nets having interest in trading for the Portland Trail Blazers franchise cornerstone.
First, for salary purposes, this trade would likely require the Brooklyn Nets to trade Ben Simmons, Cam Thomas, and Joe Harris. Draft compensation would likely include at least one first-round pick, of which the Nets have two in the 2023 NBA Draft.
As far as value is concerned, it would likely be worth it for the Nets. Despite the evolution of forward Mikal Bridges, they lack a proven number one option. The type of player that would have made a lot of difference against the Philadelphia 76ers, as Bridges’ 23.5 points per game and Spencer Dinwiddie’s 16.5 points per game just weren’t enough. For comparison, Lillard averaged 32.2 points per game in the 2022-23 regular season and averaged 34.3 points per game in his last postseason appearance (2021-22).
Furthermore, the Nets should have enough defensive pieces around Dame to help mask his weaknesses on that end.
A go-to scorer, a veteran playmaker and a leader, Lillard would be a great pickup for Brooklyn, especially if it helps them get off of Simmons contract.
Whether or not Simmons can return to form is almost irrelevant if he remains with the franchise because Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn still seems unsure of how to play him. With that said, his trade value will only depreciate over time if he remains in Brooklyn, and the Nets will be playing him a substantial amount of money to be a questionable fit for the roster.
If the Brooklyn Nets have interest in Damian Lillard, there’s definitely a chance they would have an interest in Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, another player who seems destined to finish his career with a franchise other than the one that drafted him.
Though not as elite of a scorer as Lillard, Beal still is a tough competitor and leader that could excel with Mikal Bridges as his running mate.
Averaging 25.5 points and 5.0 assists per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 36.3 percent shooting from 3 since the 2016-17 season, he’s also proven that he can be a go-to scorer. In fact, Beal averaged over 30 points per game between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season, so if they need him to go above and beyond, he can do that as well.
As far as the trade package for Beal is concerned, it’ll be the same as the one that the Nets would have to extend for Dame. Because, while Lillard has been the better player throughout their careers, Beal is three years younger.
If the Brooklyn Nets want to build a team with a tough and gritty identity, then Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton goes a long way towards helping them accomplish that feat.
Trading away Joe Harris, Cam Thomas, and the 21st overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Nets could acquire a high-octane guard in Sexton without surrendering a current player that projects to be in their rotation long-term.
Unlike Harris, Sexton is capable of keeping up with faster guards defensively. Unlike Thomas, whose weaknesses now were Sexton’s prior to the past two seasons, Sexton routinely makes a concerted effort to get his teammates involved and is up to speed when it comes to understanding NBA defenses.
There could end up being a competition between Sexton and Spencer Dinwiddie for the starting gig.
After all, though he averaged 14.3 points per game for the Jazz in the 2022-23 season, Sexton averaged 20.0 points per game as a starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the years previous. Dinwiddie, neither as efficient nor productive as Sexton as a scorer, has never averaged 20 point per game with any of the four franchises he’s played for.
Dinwiddie is a more natural passer than Sexton though and at 6-foot-5, the Nets could opt to start he and Sexton together in the backcourt to give them a more potent offense than they do with Royce O’Neale or Dorian Finney-Smith starting.
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