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Brooklyn Nets

Offseason Grades: Are the Brooklyn Nets primed to take over the Eastern Conference?

#Nets grades
(NBA.com Illustrations)

Following a sixth-placed finish in the Eastern Conference and their first playoff berth since 2014-15, the Brooklyn Nets took a big leap last season.

With General Manager Sean Marks' patient and savvy rebuild, the Nets created a strong culture and developed their young players, creating an atmosphere which became increasingly attractive for free agents.

Once June 30 arrived, soon followed the signatures of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, one of the biggest free-agent hauls in NBA history, vaulting Brooklyn into the NBA's elite

OFFSEASON GRADES: Clippers | Lakers | Raptors | Sixers | Warriors

With a new star duo, alongside the addition of experienced veterans DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince, Brooklyn overhauled their roster with eight players from last year's squad moving on.

Have they built a championship contender? Let's take a look back at how their offseason has gone.

A maqruee free agency

In a blockbuster free agency of NBA player musical chairs, the Nets landed two of the top targets available in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

In the new era of 'NBA Jam' duos in the league, the Nets boast arguably the most talented offensive combination with the pair giving you elite playmaking, 3-point shooting and the ability to score from mid-range and at the rim at will, creating a nightmare matchup for defences.

In acquiring Durant and Irving, the Nets parted ways with All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell, who was sent to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade for Durant, inking a lucrative four-year, $117 million deal.

Losing the leader of their renaissance in Russell was a necessary move, both financially and fit-wise, giving the keys to Irving to run the team.

While his two-year stint in Boston didn't live up to the hype with the 27-year-old having his ups and downs leading the Celtics locker room, Irving gets a fresh start close to home with the New Jersey native now starring for the team he grew up watching as a kid.

For the first time in his eight-year professional career, he's chosen where he wants to play and is now surrounded by the Nets' strong organisational culture. Irving has created his basketball Nirvana alongside close pals DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant, playing right in his backyard.

Durant is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season as he recovers from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, with the Nets not giving an official timeline for his potential return as both parties take a cautious approach to bringing him back at 100%.

Whether he returns late in the season or not at all, this summer was not about next season as the Nets are playing the long game, looking to build a contender for the next few years.

Lastly, bringing in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving gives the Nets something they have been chasing - star power.

Despite being a playoff team, last season the Nets were last out of 30 teams in the league in average attendance, but with an All-NBA pairing headlining the newest act, expect there to be few empty seats in the Barclays Center moving forward.

Adding depth and experience

The Nets roster will look a whole lot different on opening night, with D'Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis, Jared Dudley, Allen Crabbe, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham all moving on.

While Durant and Irving stole the headlines in free agency, Marks and the Nets' front office did a solid job filling out the roster with experienced veteran players, signing DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler and David Nwaba. In a move to help free up cap space to sign Irving and Durant, the Nets also sent Allen Crabbe to the Atlanta Hawks along with two-first round picks and a second-round pick in exchange for Taurean Prince.

Signing DeAndre Jordan to a four-year, $40 million deal gives the Nets an experienced rim protector and lob threat, who can pass down plenty of knowledge to 21-year-old centre Jarrett Allen, with the pair competing for minutes at the five.

While they are light at the power forward position, the Nets have bolstered their bench with a hoard of 3-and-D players who will be able to space the floor in Temple, Chandler, Nwaba and Prince.

Last season Brooklyn ranked 14th in the NBA for three-point percentage, knocking down 35.3 percent of their attempts from deep.

Player 2018-19 3P%
Taurean Prince 39%
Wilson Chandler 37.3%
Garrett Temple 34.1%
David Nwaba 32%

Outlook

Despite coming off of a 42-win season, FiveThirtyEight placed the Nets in the middle of the pack in their "Way-Too-Early" 2019-20 NBA season predictions with a 38-44 record, almost making them underrated heading into next season.

Switching Russell for Irving alone gives them an upgrade at point guard, with Irving taking over the role as the Nets closer.

The big question mark will be how Irving meshes with the Nets' other playmaking perimeter players in Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Irving is at his best with the ball in his hands, but has shown how productive he can be off the ball, shooting 44.8% from the field and 45.4 percent from the 3-point line on catch-and-shoot jumpers last season.

With the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks considerable favourites in the Eastern Conference, the Nets will compete with the likes of the Celtics, Pacers, Raptors, Magic, Heat and Pistons in what is expected to be a tight race for playoff positioning.

It's hard to look too far ahead for the Nets, who will make the leap from a good playoff team to an immediate championship contender once Durant returns.

Until then, it's Kyrie Irving's time to shine.

Grade: A+

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