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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Brooklyn Nets Turn To Buyout Market After Standing Pat At Trade Deadline

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The Brooklyn Nets already made the biggest splash of the season, acquiring James Harden in a Jan. 14 blockbuster deal. And eventually, they’re going to get Kevin Durant back from a hamstring injury. So the Nets standing pat for a second consecutive trade deadline wasn’t exactly the end of the world. 

The expectation heading into Thursday was that Spencer Dinwiddie would get moved elsewhere, but that didn’t happen. Dinwiddie (ACL rehab) is expected to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021-22 once he declines his $12.3 million player option for next season. His future still seems elsewhere, though perhaps Brooklyn will be able to facilitate a sign-and-trade. 

Fortunately for the Nets, Kyle Lowry also didn’t move. Despite heavy interest from the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, Lowry wasn’t dealt on his 35th birthday. The Toronto Raptors simply couldn’t get the young impact players they coveted from those teams — including Tyler Herro or Talen Horton-Tucker — in a package for their most beloved player in franchise history. So Lowry, an impending UFA himself, stayed put. Toronto has no plans to tank.  

The Heat did basically steal Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets,  and they’re also the frontrunners to grab LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market. Still, Lowry was their top target. The Boston Celtics also got better, adding floor-spacer Evan Fournier. But the bottom line is that Brooklyn’s Big Three won’t be seeing a trio featuring Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Lowry or Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Lowry. It doesn’t mean Brooklyn will have an easy time getting out of the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia, Miami and Milwaukee (with newcomer PJ Tucker) are all very formidable foes. But the Nets still seem like the on-paper favorites. 

Brooklyn could still add a big man or a defensive wing, but it will have to be in the buyout market. 

The Nets will have stiff competition for Andre Drummond in the Lakers (the perceived favorites, who would start him at center) and the New York Knicks (who can offer upwards of $15 million per season on a multi-year pact). Sharpshooter JJ Redick was also a possibility, but he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks; Dallas was also among those teams interested in Oladipo. 

Other eventual possibilities — should they receive buyouts — could include Avery Bradley (Houston), Khem Birch (Orlando), Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota), Moe Harkless (Sacramento) and Hassan Whiteside (Sacramento). Otto Porter (Orlando) would be an interesting name — especially after the Nets gave him a max contract as a restricted free agent in 2016 — but Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reported that the tentative plan is for the 6-foot-8 forward to remain with the Magic. 

The deal for Harden has allowed Brooklyn to overcome the absences of Durant (who hasn’t played since Feb. 12, and will miss at least 18 games) and Irving (who missed two weeks earlier in the season for personal reasons, and is now out on reported paternity leave). As for Houston, well, the Rockets should’ve gotten Ben Simmons or kept Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. Oladipo’s stay was short-lived, and they got no assets for him. Baffling. Houston basically has to hope for the Nets to implode down the line — because it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen anytime soon. 

In the meantime, Brooklyn fans will dream of a rotation that includes a healthy Big Three — whenever that finally happens. Durant, Harden and Irving joining Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Jeff Green, emerging second-year pro Nic Claxton, Tyler Johnson and Landry Shamet is pretty solid. And there could be more to come.

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