What’s next for Nets after Kyrie Irving trade? Why Brooklyn’s blockbuster might mean more moves

In a way, it is fitting that the two players that the Brooklyn Nets received in Sunday’s blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade are a 3-and-D guy who went undrafted and a playmaker who was selected in the second round. The latter, Spencer Dinwiddie, is one of the Nets’ success stories from before they were a superteam — they called him up from the G League in 2016, and he helped recruit Irving in 2019. Last May, a couple of weeks after Brooklyn was swept by the Boston Celtics, team president Sean Marks said the team had to go back to “doing some of the things that got us here in the first place.”

If the Nets make no more moves before Thursday’s trade deadline, then they have willingly sacrificed star power and scoring for lineup flexibility and a sense of stability. Dorian Finney-Smith is an ideal supporting character for a Kevin Durant-led team. Dinwiddie is not the pantheon-level one-on-one scorer that Irving is, but Brooklyn knows better than anybody what he can do when the floor is spaced and the ball is in his hands. Finney-Smith is signed through 2025, with a player option the following season, and Dinwiddie is signed through 2023-24. 

It is notable, though, that the Nets did not wait until deadline day to complete this trade, like they did when James Harden wanted out last year. By moving Irving earlier, they can use the picks they got from the Dallas Mavericks in other deals. If they do not make the trade official right away, they could even flip Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith together in exchange for another star, as The Athletic’s John Hollinger pointed out.

Right now, it looks like Brooklyn has improved its switch-heavy defense and added to its increasingly impressive collection of two-way wings, while forcing Durant to take on more of the scoring load and putting more pressure on Ben Simmons to stay healthy and return to form. The wisdom of this trade-off is debatable, but today’s debates might be moot in four days. The Nets, who have never wavered about being in win-now mode throughout all sorts of drama and dysfunction, have time to add firepower to the roster. And they have the tools. 

Thanks to this deal with Dallas, Marks can offer up to four first-round picks in potential trade packages: the lesser of Brooklyn’s and Houston’s 2027 picks, a top-eight protected 2028 Philadelphia pick, the Nets’ 2029 pick and the Mavericks’ unprotected 2029 pick. On top of that, Brooklyn has seven second-round picks available to trade. (It could also trade its 2028 first-round pick, as long as it keeps the 2027 pick and one of the two 2029 picks.) If the franchise is still focused on this season, then it should be talking to teams like Toronto, Utah and Chicago about immediate upgrades. SNY’s Ian Begley already reported that, while they were negotiating with Irving suitors, the Nets checked in with the Raptors about a follow-up trade.

In theory, everything is on the table for Brooklyn. It could trade Durant, dump Simmons and start completely over. The plan, though, is to use the Mavs picks and the 2023 Sixers pick to improve the team, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski

Maybe this means that Joe Harris ($18.6 million salary this season, $19.9 million next season) won’t properly reunite with Dinwiddie. Maybe it means that Seth Curry ($8.5 million) and/or Patty Mills ($6.5 million this season, $6.8 million next) will be on the move. The 44-point eruption from Cam Thomas on Saturday could not have hurt the 21-year-old’s trade value. This is not to say that the Irving trade was just a set-up for the next one, which will bring Zach LaVine or Fred VanVleet or some other former All-Star to town. But by 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, it could look that way. 

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