Brooklyn Nets Offseason Report Card

After a failed attempt at building a superteam, the Brooklyn Nets entered this offseason looking to return to a more traditional team-building format. Gone are Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, and in their place Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Nic Claxton take center stage moving forward.

Last year the Nets were able to limp to the 6-seed in the East before getting routed in four games by the Sixers in the first round, sending them into an offseason with far less drama than years past, but also lower expectations coming into the 2023-24 season. After recouping assets in their various trades, the Nets have ample ammunition to make trades if they want to, but it seems they want to give it at least a year with this group before making too many long-term decisions about the roster. Among the biggest questions is whether Ben Simmons can provide anything, as he is the highest paid player on the roster by far and is expected to be healthy and on the court to start next season. His teammates have confidence in him getting back on the court and playing at a high level again, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside the Nets locker room willing to have any level of expectations for Simmons until we see it again.

Still, this offseason has brought at least a bit of normalcy back to Brooklyn after the past few years, albeit the tradeoff for that is no longer being in the contender class in the East. Here we’ll grade out the Nets offseason and their work in the Draft, free agency and contract extensions, and the trade market.

Draft: B+

The Nets made back-to-back picks in the first round of the draft, taking Noah Clowney out of Alabama and Dariq Whitehead out of Duke. Clowney gives them another young big at 6’10 with solid defensive chops and athleticism, while Whitehead is a similarly high-upside swing on a former elite high school prospect who dealt with injuries while at Duke. Our Brad Rowland gave the Nets a B for Clowney and A- for Whitehead, noting the upside for each was the right move for a Nets team in position to take some swings.

This is a solid value for Clowney, especially from an upside perspective. His defensive potential is clear with his length, athleticism, and feel, and Clowney has the potential to shoot and space the floor on offense. If the shooting doesn’t pop, he may be a center with some overlap next to Nic Claxton, but this is the point of the draft where you can simply take the best player available. Clowney is a reasonable bet on that.

While the medical talking point of the draft was Cam Whitmore’s fall, Whitehead’s pre-draft process was marked by medical questions. He was limited during the season and then had another surgical procedure when the season ended. If the medical is clear, though, Whitehead is a former top-five high school prospect in this class, and he is a worthy risk for Brooklyn.

Free Agency/Contract Extensions: B+

Brooklyn’s biggest signing was bringing back Cam Johnson on a 4-year, $108 million deal that locked him in alongside Bridges long-term on the wing. Those two complement each other nicely and Johnson fills the shooting role left behind by Joe Harris, while bringing a more upside in terms of athleticism and defense. While $27 million per year is a lot of money, that’s the going rate for a starting caliber wing that can shoot 40 percent from three. Elsewhere, the Nets added Lonnie Walker IV, Dennis Smith Jr., and Darius Bazley on minimum deals, adding some backcourt depth and taking a swing on upside with two young guards that showed promise last year. Walker played well in Los Angeles prior to his injury before struggling to find a consistent role again after they made their various trades, while Smith Jr. enjoyed a bounce back year in Charlotte that proved he still belongs in the league as a backup point guard. Bazley was a roster casualty of the Suns and represents another former lottery pick reclamation project for Brooklyn on the wing. There was a clear goal to get younger this summer in Brooklyn, and they effectively replaced the departing Seth Curry and Patty Mills with Walker and Smith Jr. to take on bench roles and, hopefully, provide a bit of upside. Overall, it was a nice summer of signings for the Nets, even if they still are without much center depth as they have two undersized options in Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe. They otherwise checked every box and figure to be in the Play-In hunt in the East while still having plenty of opportunities to pounce on a roster upgrade should one come available on the trade market.

Trades: C

The Nets dumped a bunch of salary this offseason by trading Joe Harris to Detroit and Patty Mills to Houston (who has since been rerouted to Atlanta through Oklahoma City like he’s on the worst connecting flight in history). The deals are fine, but they aren’t trades made with any on-court improvement in mind. They cleared just over $26 million off the Nets books for this season, but I’m not Joe Tsai so it doesn’t fire me up to get out of the tax. Harris and Mills were redundancies on the roster, so there’s not a ton of harm in just getting rid of them, but nothing the Nets did on the trade market this summer made them better (even if it didn’t necessarily make them any worse). The most impactful part of either trade was by moving Harris to Detroit, they took away the biggest competition for an offer sheet on Johnson.