By John Raslowsky, PSO Asst. Director of Basketball Scouting
Jul 13, 2019

After over a year of speculation, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have officially teamed up in the Big Apple. However, the two maligned superstars joined the team that plays in the Brooklyn borough, not Manhattan. While Kevin Durant will likely miss the entire 2019-20 season due to a torn achilles, Kyrie Irving will bring his magnificent handles and spectacular finishing moves to the franchise he grew up rooting for this season. The two All-Star signings signifies a changing of the guard in New York with the Nets future looking as bright as ever. Let’s take a look at what this mega-deal means for Irving, Durant, Brooklyn, and others impacted by the move. 

  • Durant will be the first scoring champion (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014) to ever play for the Nets
  • Irving and Durant won a gold medal together at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janero 
  • Irving was raised in northern New Jersey and grew up a Nets fan 
  • Durant (30) is tied for the oldest player on the Nets current roster
  • Durant won finals MVP after beating Irving and the Cavaliers in 2017
  • Kyrie Irving is the only player ever to hit a go-ahead 3pt with under a minute in Game 7 of the NBA Finals that ended up being the deciding points 
  • Irving and Durant’s contracts will take up over 57% of the Nets cap room in 2019-20
  • Durant’s awards include: 9x All-NBA, 10x All-Star, 2014 MVP
  • Kyrie Irving is a 6x NBA All-Star and won All Star Game MVP in 2014
  • Irving was named ROY in 2011 after being selected #1 overall by Cleveland

It was known throughout the league that the Nets would be a big player in free agency this summer. They went into the summer with a young core of role players and enough cap space for two max contracts. The combination of Irving and Durant makes them an instant championship threat once Durant returns from his injury. These transactions also complete the Nets rebuild from the devastating Boston trade from 2013. With these new additions, the Nets are now a force to be reckoned with throughout the league.

Summary: Irving gives the Nets an elite PG with championship experience. Once Durant returns from injury the Nets will add one of the greatest scorers of all-time to a well balanced team.

Kyrie will take the place of D’Angelo Russell who had a breakout season with the Nets. As long as Durant is out, Kyrie will be the main scoring option for Brooklyn, but will have plenty of help from a returning cast featuring Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and more. This group along with newcomer De’Andre Jordan should be able to make a solid playoff run if they can all stay healthy.

Once Durant makes his highly anticipated return, expectations and excitement will rise in Brooklyn. They will be an immediate title contender and Irving will have someone to help shoulder the offensive load. This will free up Irving and give him more options as a creator. Although things did not work out in Boston as planned, Irving has the opportunity to change his narrative with a talented group around him in Brooklyn.

Future Outlook: Perennial All-Star Guard for legit playoff/title contender

Durant is not expected to play during the 2019-2020 season, and Nets fans should be completely okay with that. Even if Durant never returns to 100%, the Nets still get a player who can score the ball as good as anyone to ever do it. Durant’s ability to play alongside other superstars and still have a major impact has been his calling card throughout his career, and he will have Irving to help him out in Brooklyn.

When Durant returns to the lineup, Brooklyn will have one of the most versatile lineups in the league. Multiple shooting threats will give Durant room to play isolation or pick and pop from anywhere. Durant is also joining a team that can be a premier defensive unit as well.

Future Outlook: Sitting out 2019-20, likely return in 2020-21, start getting back to being KD in 2021

The signings of Durant and Irving will take up 57% of the Nets cap room. The Nets currently have 13 players under contract so they will not be going too much further over the cap limit, but will have to pay the luxury tax this season. This season is also the final year the Nets will pay Deron Williams’ contract over 5 million dollars in dead money.

*Financial data via spotrac.com

Sean Marks: In just 3 years, the Nets GM has completed one of the best rebuilding projects in recent NBA history. This Nets team was built with under the radar players, because the Nets had given all of their own draft picks to the Celtics. Marks finessed other front offices for their late 1st rounds picks to get players like Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Spencer Dinwiddie who were all drafted outside the lottery. The improvement of D’Angelo Russell elevated the Nets into a playoff team this past year and made them a prime destination for two premier free agents. Marks finished the job of turning around the most hopeless franchise in the NBA, and with these signings, he is now the front runner for executive of the year.

James Dolan: Although the Knicks were not involved with these transactions, they are getting plenty of heat due to the Nets quick rebuild. Dolan is already unpopular in New York and if reports saying New York was not willing to offer KD a max contract is true, it’ll just be another issue Knicks fans will bring up. After clearing up space for 2 max players, Dolan failed to sign any big name free agents this offseason. The Knicks got quality free agents in their own right, but are nowhere near contending for a championship, like they could be if they landed KD & Kyrie.

Golden State Warriors: Although losing Durant makes the consecutive 5x Western Conference champs much more beatable, they will still be championship contenders with Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green under contract (not to mention acquiring D’Angelo Russell via sign-and-trade). Durant’s move to the East opens up the Western Conference for a new champion to emerge with the Rockets, Lakers, Nuggets, and Jazz all being front-runners for Golden State’s throne. UPDATE: Clippers also a legit threat with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Boston Celtics: Despite adding Kemba Walker, the Celtics face an uphill battle next season without Irving and Al Horford. Unless Jayson Tatum develops into a superstar-caliber player this season, it will be difficult for them to compete with teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia that have multiple All-Stars. Irving’s time in Boston did not go as planned and it will forever be a blemish in his otherwise stellar career. The Celtics need to focus on keeping their young core together and adding the right pieces alongside them.

Here are some of the highlights and other notable reactions:

 

– Trae Young weighs in


– Kuzma feels bad for the Knicks 

 

– Dinwiddie going at his haters and crosstown rival

 

– Russel Wilson has some fun with the Nets

 

– Donovan Mitchell in disbelief about Knicks

These two signings move Brooklyn from a first round playoff team to a championship contender. It will be interesting to see how this next season goes without Durant, but it is obvious these moves were made with the 2020 season and beyond in mind. The worst case scenario is Durant does not return to full form and Irving deals with own injury problems or has issues with teammates again. The best-case scenario is Brooklyn wins its first Larry O’Brien trophy and begins to cement the case as the team that runs New York. Either way, there is no team that has more hype around them after free agency than Brooklyn, and that is a victory in itself considering where the Nets were 3 years ago. 

Grade: A

These signings take Brooklyn basketball to a level it’s never been before. The Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett era generated excitement, but these moves bring real hope and potential to an organization for the first time in 15 years.

Bottom Line: The Nets are now a championship contender and have become a destination for free agents looking to play in the Big Apple.

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