When Ben Simmons joined Brooklyn Nets as part of the James Harden trade deal earlier in the year, it came with an assurance claim from Australian teammate Patty Mills.
Mills said, “There’s hungriness to him that I see, like a fierce hungriness that he’s been waiting to be let out of the cage almost and pounce at this opportunity, to be able to compete for a championship.”
“He’s going to be a massive piece of that [championship] puzzle.”
And he might still help his team win the title this season. But at the moment, it is unclear when Simmons will be mentally ready to return to the court again.
That is hardly what the Nets need heading into an off-season already teeming with trade questions, headlined by Kyrie Irving’s contract elongation.
In the last few campaigns, the Brooklyn Nets have been more of a hypothetical contender for the NBA Championship than a genuine contender, stacked with talented superstars that made up the team as they were continuously listed in FlashPicks for the week most of the seasons.
Former NBA player JJ Redick said, “This entire season is a bit of a cautionary tale about imbalanced roster construction in trying to fit superstars together.”
“The Lakers and Nets, the two pre-season favorites to win a championship, both severely underachieved this year.”
Meanwhile, NBA analyst Sarah Kustok, added that the “disappointment” of this campaign will leave the Brooklyn Nets with a need to re-strategize.
So, does that mean that the Nets part ways with its superstars, be it Simmons, Kyrie Irving, or Kevin Durant? Not exactly, although Kustok warned Brooklyn Nets to need to go into this off-season with a crystal clear intention of taking the right decisions.
She said on ‘The Athletic NBA Show’, “There were so many moving parts with line-ups… that when you think about the identity of how this team is going to play, it was this is going to be a scoring team and a great offense because you have Kevin Durant.”
“But Kevin Durant gets hurt and all of a sudden things started to drop. Going into this year, it’s not just going to be about who is going to be the leader of this team, that is a factor, but it is how exactly does the personnel look around it? How do you want to play? What do you want your identity to be?”
Well, trade decisions will be centered around the superstar trio of Irving, Durant, and Simmons, although there are also a number of free agency decisions for the team to make.
Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype severely doubts Irving will find a suitor. “There are teams around the league that, quite frankly, would be scared to acquire him because they don’t know what they would get from him.”
“He wants to be in Brooklyn and play for this franchise. Irving grew up a Nets fan. The writing is on the wall. He and Durant came here together, and they want to continue that going forward.”
But even if Superstar Irving does decide to remain at the club, which looks like the likeliest move at the moment, it does not mean an end to the current drama surrounding the status of his vaccination.
David Aldridge of The Athletic called for the Nets to have an “honest talk” with Irving over the off-season about his status, urging Durant to also be involved.
Aldridge said, “I don’t think anybody is still litigating about whether he should have got vaccinated, that’s his decision.”
“But you have to be honest about the ramifications. Are they willing to have that honest conversation with Kyrie? Is KD willing to have that honest conversation with his friend, to say: ‘Look, I respect you as a man and player, but you weren’t here enough for us this year and that showed up in the playoffs. We need to know you are going to be here going forward.
“I just wonder if they’re going to have those real conversations.”