The Brooklyn Nets went all in over the course of two seasons, and were viewed as “unbeatable,” but the star-studded roster has now come to an end.
After moving their best players Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets are back at square one and the roster looks dramatically different. Is the Nets big three the biggest failure in NBA history?
How the Nets big three started
Entering the 2019 NBA free agency, the Nets were an upcoming team in the league. They were coming off of a first-round exit against the Philadelphia 76ers, and were ready to go big in free agency.
Brooklyn signed Kyrie Irving to a four-year, $136.5 million deal, and pulled off a huge sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors. The Nets received Kevin Durant and a 2020 first-round pick in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, Shabazz Napier, and Treveon Graham.
The Nets finished the season at a 35-37 record, which was expected given that Durant was still recovering from the Achilles tear he suffered in the NBA finals. They remained quiet in the off-season, not making any major signings.
The 2021 season is where the big three era started. At the time James Harden wanted out of Houston because they were entering a rebuild which he did not want to be a part of. Brooklyn was the team showing the most interest and pulled off a blockbuster four-team deal.
- G James Harden
- 2024 second-round pick
- C Jarrett Allen
- F Taurean Prince
- G Caris LeVert
- 2023 second-round pick
- G Victor Oladipo
- G Dante Exum
- F Rodions Kurucs
- Three first-round picks, four first-round pick swaps
- Bucks 2022 first-round pick (via Cavaliers)
The Nets now had Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. The team made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in 7 games.
The downfall of the Brooklyn Nets
2021 is when the Nets started to downhill. Kyrie Irving sat out most of the 2021 season due to his vaccination status, and James Harden was not happy with his situation. As the trade deadline approached, a potential trade for Harden started gaining momentum.
The Nets struck a deal with the 76ers for Harden.
The Harden Trade
- Ben Simmons
- Seth Curry
- Andre Drummond
- 2022 first-round pick (unprotected)
- 2027 first-round pick (protected)
- James Harden
- Paul Millsap
After Harden’s departure, the Nets finished the 2021-2022 season as the seventh seed. They played the Boston Celtics in the first round and were swept.
Durant and Kyrie Drama
Many started questioning the future of the Nets, and if they could still compete for a championship. The 2022 offseason is when everything really unfolded. Kevin Durant requested a trade from the team, and the Nets were going down fast.
Durant ended up remaining with the Nets and not being traded, but it was only a matter of time. The 2022-2023 season began with Durant and Irving still on the Nets roster, but their production was limited. Kevin Durant suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee, causing him to miss at least a month.
Brooklyn still managed to win without Durant, but just over a week before the 2023 NBA trade deadline, Kyrie Irving expressed his frustration in Brooklyn. Irving demanded a trade from the team and was moved within two days of his request. The Dallas Mavericks needed to add a piece alongside Luka Doncic, and Kyrie Irving was the perfect fit.
The Brooklyn Nets traded Kyrie Irving and Markieff Morris to the Dallas Mavericks in return for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected 2029 first-round selection, and 2027 and 2029 second-rounders.
The question now was what will happen with Kevin Durant? There were reports that the Nets would try and find other assets to pair with Durant, and others said that Durant was likely to be traded.
Late on the night of Wednesday, February 8, the Phoenix Suns finalized a blockbuster trade. Per Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns acquired Kevin Durant and TJ Warren in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first-round picks, and a 2028 pick swap.
Where does Brooklyn go now?
The Nets have completely transformed their roster over the course of a week, and will now look to keep a playoff spot. Cam Thomas is a name to watch, as he’s scored 40 points in each of his last three games.
They will look to build around Ben Simmons and now will give Cam Thomas his opportunity to be the number one scoring option.
The Brooklyn Nets are the biggest failed superteam in NBA history, and no other team comes close. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving played a total of 16 games together and were nowhere near what everyone thought they could be.
I would give the Nets a B+ trade deadline grade. They were able to acquire young and valuable assets in return, along with much-needed draft capital. I’m very excited to see if Cam Thomas can continue to be the top guy, and how he fits with his new teammates.