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In a NBA that’s largely transitioned from a three-star to a two-star ecosystem, the Brooklyn Nets may be looking to reverse course and add another premier talent.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Brooklyn may be on the hunt for a third star this offseason.
“I believe they have telegraphed they intend to use some of their young talent to acquire a third star along with Kyrie and Durant,” Windhorst said on the Hoop Collective Podcast.
With few stars set to become free agents in 2020, the Nets will be forced to trade for one instead, using players like Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince as the bait.
Having each won a title with Big Threes in the past, which stars would fit best with Durant and Irving in their championship quest in Brooklyn?
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Brooklyn Receives: PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge, G Derrick White
San Antonio Receives: PG Spencer Dinwiddie, C Jarrett Allen, F Taurean Prince
At 27-36 and four games outside of the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs are headed toward an inevitable rebuild. DeMar DeRozan can become a free agent this offseason, and veterans such as Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills have only one year left on their respective contracts.
The Spurs need to be proactive and get something for Aldridge while he’s still playing at a high level.
Aldridge would give Brooklyn a big with plenty of playoff experience and the ability to play both power forward and center. The seven-time All-Star is averaging 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 blocks this season, and he has finally become a reliable outside shooter, making 1.2 of his 3.0 attempts (38.9 percent) per game.
The Nets could roll with a lineup of Irving, White, LeVert, Durant and Aldridge or use White as a sixth man with DeAndre Jordan in the starting lineup. Losing Allen, Dinwiddie and Prince would hurt, but Brooklyn would retain LeVert while keeping all of its draft picks as well.
San Antonio rarely uses White and Dejounte Murray together, and White’s looming date with restricted free agency in 2021 could serve as motivation to move him now.
The Spurs would collect three proven players all 26 or younger to pair with their young core of Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson, letting the long-coming rebuild begin.
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Brooklyn Receives: SG Buddy Hield
Sacramento Receives: C Jarrett Allen, F Taurean Prince, SG Theo Pinson, 2020 first-round pick (via Philadelphia 76ers)
While Hield isn’t a superstar, he’s one of the NBA’s best outside shooters and has averaged 20.3 points per game over the past two seasons.
Durant can play the alpha role, and Irving already proved he can be a No. 2 on a championship team. Hield would give the Nets a terrific third option who could lead the team in scoring on any given night.
Hield is a career 41.1 percent shooter from deep and is under contract for the next four years at a reasonable $23.5 million per season. The Nets would be banking on him developing into a star, especially with the amount of wide-open looks he should get playing alongside Irving and Durant.
The Kings have played better with Hield in a sixth-man role this season and will have to give Bogdan Bogdanovic a hefty contract to retain him in restricted free agency. They could use this as an opportunity to shed some salary while adding a terrific rim-running center in Allen, a starting-caliber forward in Prince and a first-round pick in this year’s draft (via the Sixers).
Trading for Hield wouldn’t necessarily force Brooklyn to gut its roster, either. DeAndre Jordan could hold down the center position with Allen gone, and keeping LeVert would be huge for the Nets’ future.
While Hield isn’t the biggest star the Nets could trade for, he fits in perfectly between Durant and Irving and would help Brooklyn keep more overall talent on the roster.
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Brooklyn Receives: SG CJ McCollum
Portland Receives: G/F Caris LeVert, F Taurean Prince, 2020 first-round pick (via Philadelphia 76ers)
After reaching the Western Conference Finals last season, a disappointing 29-37 start to this year could have Portland reconsidering the long-term ceiling of the Damian Lillard-McCollum pairing.
Breaking up the Trail Blazers backcourt won’t come without a hefty price, as McCollum is one the NBA’s best shooting guards and is under contract through the 2023-24 season.
To get him, the Nets would almost certainly have to part with LeVert, who would fit in nicely as the new starting shooting guard or small forward alongside Lillard in Portland. The Blazers have a big need for a defensive-minded, floor-spacing power forward like Prince, and getting a first-rounder in 2020 would help them restock their talent pool.
McCollum would give Brooklyn a terrific scorer and ball-handler in the backcourt next to Irving. The 28-year-old is averaging 22.5 points, 4.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 38.0 percent from three this season.
McCollum keeps getting better when the spotlight grows brighter, too. Over his last three trips to the playoffs, he’s averaging 24.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 41.2 percent from deep.
Durant and Irving have three championship rings between them, and Brooklyn adding a proven postseason performer like McCollum would get them even closer to yet another title.
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Brooklyn Receives: SG Bradley Beal
Washington Receives: G/F Caris LeVert, PG Spencer Dinwiddie, C Jarrett Allen, 2020 first-round pick (via Philadelphia 76ers), 2022 first-round pick (top-three protected)
The two-year, $71.8 million extension Bradley Beal signed in October prevented him from being traded for six months, but that restriction expires after this season.
Beal would have been the hottest name on this year’s trade market had he been eligible. The 26-year-old is averaging a career-high 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 45.5 percent overall. Playing on a 24-40 Washington Wizards team likely prevented him from receiving an All-Star nod, but that wouldn’t be a factor if he got traded to Brooklyn.
The Nets would have to gut their roster for someone of Beal’s age, ability and contract. He won’t hit unrestricted free agency again until 2022 at the earliest, or 2023 if he picks up his $37.3 million player option for the 2022-23 season.
LeVert would give the Wizards a 25-year-old wing who’s averaging 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 38.1 percent from three this season. Having Dinwiddie would allow Washington to bring back John Wall from his Achilles injury slowly, or the two could start alongside one another in the backcourt.
Allen would form a terrific one-two punch at center with Thomas Bryant and won’t become a restricted free agent until 2021.
A pair of first-round picks would help the Wizards kick-start an on-the-fly rebuild with Wall, Dinwiddie, LeVert, Rui Hachimura and Allen.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn would be adding the NBA’s second-leading scorer this season, someone who’s a threat from all areas of the court and can play on or off the ball. His presence would only help give Durant and Irving the spacing they need to operate.
Beal has also been one of the NBA’s most durable players, having played all 82 games in 2017-18 and 2018-19. With Durant coming back from an Achilles injury and Irving lasting only 20 games this season before undergoing shoulder surgery, Beal’s availability matters.
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Brooklyn Receives: C Joel Embiid
Philadelphia Receives: C Jarrett Allen, G/F Caris LeVert, PG Spencer Dinwiddie, 2020 first-round pick (via Philadelphia 76ers), 2022 first-round pick (top-three protected)
If the Sixers suffer another first- or second-round postseason exit, the whispers about splitting up Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will only grow louder.
If that happens, Philly has a tough choice to make. Embiid is arguably the best all-around center in the league, a massive presence on both ends of the ball. Simmons is more uniquely talented, as the 6’10” point guard is elite defensively and is among the best passers in the NBA.
With Simmons three years younger and further from his ceiling, the Nets should pursue Embiid, the better of the two right now.
While center isn’t a need for Brooklyn with both Allen and DeAndre Jordan on the roster, Embiid is by far the superior option. He’s averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks in only 30.2 minutes this year, the lowest amount of playing time since his rookie season. Getting away from a crowded frontcourt with Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Mike Scott would help elevate his game. Spacing around Irving and Durant shouldn’t be an issue, either, as Embiid is shooting a respectable 34.8 percent from deep on 3.7 attempts.
For the Sixers, this move would be about putting shooters around Simmons while letting him have complete control of the offense. Philadelphia could roll out a starting lineup of Simmons, Josh Richardson, LeVert, Harris and Allen with a strong bench of Dinwiddie, Horford, Matisse Thybulle, Scott and Furkan Korkmaz.
A trio of Irving, Durant and Embiid would be among the best in the NBA at their respective positions, which would perhaps make the Nets the front-runners to come out of the East.