Brooklyn Nets Holiday Wishlist: Come Back, Kyrie

The Brooklyn Nets knew that the 2019-20 season would be one of transition. The Nets made a major splash in acquiring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant over the summer but, with the knowledge that Durant would not be available to play, Brooklyn’s expectations, at least in the short term, should have been relatively modest. To this point, the Nets are living up to them and it would be a surprise if Kenny Atkinson’s team didn’t make the playoffs. Still, there is plenty to evaluate with a team that isn’t lighting the world on fire on the floor.

In this edition of our Holiday Wishlist series, we’ll break down what the Nets will be searching for during the holiday season, including questions with the current roster and what might be in store for the future.

#1: Kyrie Irving on the floor

Irving was expected to carry a major load for the Nets this season and, through 11 games, the All-NBA guard averaged 28.5 points per game. With that said, Irving hasn’t been on the floor since mid-November with a relatively mysterious shoulder injury and, during his absence, the Nets have been better than they were when he was playing. It is too early (and the sample size is too small) to take anything major from Brooklyn’s uptick without Irving but, as the future looms, the Nets need to know what they have on their roster. Irving and Durant are the biggest pieces, and Brooklyn could use some evaluation time with their lead guard.

#2: A stopper on the wing

The Nets have intriguing offense pieces, ranging from Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert on the high end to Joe Harris and Taurean Prince in supporting roles. Brooklyn doesn’t have a legitimate stopper from a defensive standpoint, though, and that won’t change when Durant returns. Prince had a strong defensive reputation entering the NBA as a lottery pick from Baylor but, apart from a few flashes, he is an offensive specialist that won’t bring much in the way of defense at either forward spot. Garrett Temple has been quite helpful for the Nets but he’s not a long-term fixture and the Nets have to be looking beyond this season.

#3: Answers with Caris LeVert and the rest of the supporting cast

Through the same prism as the team’s search for defensive help on the wing, the Nets have to figure everything out with Irving and Durant in mind. Dinwiddie has been incredible in a lead role offensively, but does he fit perfectly with Irving and Durant? What about LeVert? The former Michigan wing has intriguing offensive potential, but his jumper has come and gone at times and LeVert’s defense leaves plenty to be desired. Barring a trade, Brooklyn’s center duo of Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan seems to be set, but there are a ton of question marks for 2020 and beyond. The Nets should make the playoffs this season either way but, with present-day upside appearing modest, the future has to be the priority.