The New Kings of New York


The city of New York has been building to this summer for quite some time.  For over a year, there were rumblings that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted to play together in New York.  Many people projected that to be with the Knicks.  But clearly, front office intelligence matters.  Steve Mills is better than anyone the Knicks have employed in his position for quite some time.  But this is Sean Marks’ world now, and the Knicks are just living in it.

Just before free agency began Sunday night, reports came out that changed the landscape of the league.  Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan were in fact teaming up together with the Brooklyn Nets.  These moves do not come without risks obviously, but after just a few minutes of free agency, Brooklyn (and not the Knicks) turned the league on its head.

The Risk

All three of the players the Nets are bringing in have some sort of red flags associated with them.  Kevin Durant, who was looked at just months ago as the best player in the league, is currently rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles tendon.  If there is any type of player who can overcome this devastating injury it is Durant, whose style of play and work ethic will be his greatest asset.  That does not mean there is no risk in this.  The rehab process will be rigorous, but 75% of Kevin Durant is still a home-run signing.

DeAndre Jordan was not the same player last year as he had been during his halcyon days with the Lob City era.  Signing someone of his age with a possible motor issue to a four-year, $40 million deal is a red flag in and of itself.  But there is a reason that during the recruiting process Kevin Durant has called him first over his career.  There is a reason both Durant and Irving were willing to take less than the max to have Jordan on the roster at this number.  Locker room guys are very important, especially with the team losing veterans like Jared Dudley.  Boston, Irving’s former team, showed just last year that chemistry may be as important as talent at the top, and Jordan brings that in spades.

Speaking of the possible chemistry problem, a lot has been made about Irving’s time in Boston.  Irving has also had his own injury problems over his career, but his talent is undeniable.  If he can mesh with this young squad better than his previous group, this is the kind of team that could run the East for the next half decade.

The Opportunity Cost

Finally, the sign-and-trade cost the Brooklyn Nets some of their roster depth.  Bench buffers Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier were sent to Golden State and later flipped to Minnesota.  The real cost, however, is D’Angelo Russell.  He is a 23-year-old All-Star that has completely rehabilitated his career in Brooklyn.  Russell has earned the max deal that the Warriors will be paying him (for now).  He is also four years younger than Irving without the injury history.   That being said, the talent gap is sizable and the risk is well worth it for a team swinging for the fences in an open East.

The Upside

The Nets have been waiting for this as they have meticulously built this roster.  Taurean Prince is an intriguing young wing overflowing with potential and has a relationship with Durant.  Spencer Dinwiddie flashed as a guard off the bench and is locked up long term.  Theo Pinson and Rodions Kurucs showed flashes of being solid rotational pieces.  Joe Harris is a quality outside shooter who will thrive with the extra space adding stars will provide.

Garrett Temple was signed later in the evening and he too is a quality bench guard and a veteran presence that will help with all the potential egos.  The two major young players on the Nets to look at now that Russell is gone are Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert.  Allen will have a solid mentor in Jordan, has shown the ability to stay on the court in the playoffs, and possesses all the potential in the world to be a solid center on both ends of the floor.

Prior to his season-altering injury, LeVert was on track to be an all-star last season.  He was a little slow to find his groove again late in the year, but the playoffs were another story.  He showed the ability to be a 20 PPG scorer in the post season. Surrounding him with elite teammates will only give him more chances playing off them to thrive.

New York State of Mind

The Knicks have long been the standard bearer in the Big Apple despite years of losing.  The Nets did their best to change that this weekend.  Sean Marks has made countless intelligent moves since taking over the front office.  He may have built a contender with two all-stars and plenty of young talent.  With the Raptors hoping to retain Kawhi Leonard and Milwaukee losing Malcolm Brogdon, the top of the East is in flux.  While Durant will probably not be back next season, the Nets can take a major step forward in year one. Then, they will build toward a possible title run the following season.   Empire state of mind indeed.

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About Corey Rausch

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