NBA Trade Deadline: 3 Moves the Brooklyn Nets Need to Consider to Survive Kevin Durant’s Injury

With a 114–107 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on MLK Day, the Brooklyn Nets are 0–1 since Kevin Durant sprained his left knee. The injury will keep the former MVP sidelined past the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. Should Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks consider a move to help the Nets survive Durant’s absence?

The club is already $35.3 million over the luxury tax line. While Brooklyn isn’t paying the repeater penalty in 2021–22, it is already looking at a $110.4 million luxury tax bill. That doesn’t necessarily preclude the Nets from making a deal. However, it does make it a pricey consideration.

Here are three options Marks could consider before the deadline:

1. The Brooklyn Nets add a homecourt point guard

The Brooklyn Nets could look to add Toronto Raptors guard Goran Dragić, who hasn't played since Oct. 25 and left the Raptors in late November.
The Brooklyn Nets could look to add Toronto Raptors guard Goran Dragić, who hasn’t played since Oct. 25 and left the Raptors in late November. | Cole Burston/Getty Images

Thanks to Kyrie Irving’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine reluctance, the Brooklyn Nets have two rotations instead of one. Irving starts at point guard when the team is on the road. Patty Mills gets the starts at Barclays Center.

Mills came to the Nets to back up the superstar backcourt duo of Irving and James Harden. But Joe Harris’ ankle injury forced coach Steve Nash’s hand. Mills has started 25 of his 42 appearances this season.

However, he’s much more effective as a spot-up shooter with the second unit. In 439 minutes off the bench, Mills shoots 48.9% from 3-point range. Given that P.J. Tucker of the Miami Heat leads the NBA with a 47.4% mark, the 33-year-old Australian is a bench weapon.

As a starter, Mills makes 39.1%. That’s still better than league average, but it’s not elite.

The issue is finding a fit that doesn’t break the budget. Brooklyn has an $11.5 million exception from the Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade, so it could theoretically keep the roster intact while adding a player making less than that.

The best option for a trade target is Goran Dragić, the erstwhile Toronto Raptor who left the team in late November and last played on Oct. 25. But his $19.4 million cap number blows through the roof of the exception.

Delon Wright of the Atlanta Hawks is more of a backup than a starter, but his $8.5 million salary on an expiring contract works financially. Tyus Jones of the Memphis Grizzlies ($8.4 million) is in the same mold as Wright, and Memphis likely won’t want to tinker with its rotation.

The most experienced starter out there making less than $11.5 million is Dennis Schröder of the Boston Celtics. His mid-level exception deal is $5.9 million.

2. The Nets look for scoring punch

With Durant sidelined, the Brooklyn Nets could add some offensive punch. Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic fits that description. However, there are two potential snags with a possible Ross trade.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Magic want draft capital for Ross. Brooklyn has little to offer, thanks to the Harden trade in January 2021. Per RealGM, the Nets don’t have an uncommitted pick until Miami’s top-37 protected pick in 2025.

The Nets’ first-round picks are out of play through 2027. It’s not likely a 2026 second-round selection moves the needle much in Orlando.

The other complication with Ross is his $12.5 million cap hit. The top-heavy salary cap sheet limits Brooklyn’s flexibility (see Lakers, Los Angeles for more details).

3. The Brooklyn Nets ride it out and wait for the buyout market

Of the three scenarios presented, this is by far the most likely. The downside is that it won’t help the team within Durant’s injury timeframe.

But that is when a player like Dragić becomes the most accessible. If the Raptors buy out the former All-Star’s contract, the Brooklyn Nets can swoop in and grab the Slovenian lefty for the prorated veteran’s minimum for the rest of the season.

Irving made it clear after the loss in Cleveland that his vaccination status won’t change. Adding Dragić gives Nash another point guard option, at least once the 35-year-old gets back into playing shape after the long layoff.

The Brooklyn Nets have navigated Irving’s complex situation, a coronavirus outbreak in December, injuries to Harris and Nic Claxton, and now are faced with Durant’s absence. As is often the case, sometimes the best move is not to make one.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than 520 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through January 10, 2022. … COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”

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