After a 23-10 start, the Nets went just 6-10 in January. Kevin Durant remains sidelined with a sprained MCL, while Joe Harris’ extended absence continues to have a compounding effect on Brooklyn’s offense. Kyrie Irving’s part-time status looms over the team, as do recent rumblings of James Harden’s alleged openness to leaving the Nets in free agency this summer.
Unless they elect to trade Irving, the Nets lack the financial flexibility to make a splashy trade. Still, it’s pretty apparent that Brooklyn must seek upgrades ahead of the trade deadline. Here are three moves for the Nets to consider.
Add depth in the middle by acquiring Robin Lopez
The Orlando Magic are certain sellers before the NBA trade deadline. While Gary Harris and Terrence Ross are the team’s most likely trade candidates, veteran center Robin Lopez could also head elsewhere.
Lopez is on a one-year, $5 million deal. He provides toughness and rebounding inside, hounding the offensive glass and giving his team extra opportunities. The 33-year-old has been surprisingly efficient for the Magic this season, averaging 16.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. Lopez has also displayed intriguing growth as a facilitator. He’s averaging a career-high 3.7 assists per 36 minutes.
The Nets might have concerns about Lopez’s defense and his lack of athleticism. Teams would likely target him and James Harden in pick-and-roll, which could provide challenges for Brooklyn.
Still, Lopez provides the intangibles and post scoring that might appeal to the Nets. The Magic could probably field better offers for the veteran center, but Brooklyn likely has a shot if it includes Bruce Brown, who has been more limited in his do-everything, undersized 4-man role this season.
Grab another floor-spacer in Kenrich Williams
The Oklahoma City are another team destined to trade away assets before the NBA trade deadline. Among them is versatile forward Kenrich Williams.
Williams is averaging 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds on 36.8% shooting from beyond the arc. He’s a capable floor-spacer who can help out on the glass. The 27-year-old’s switchability also benefit a Thunder defense that surprisingly ranks 12th in the NBA.
Bleacher Report‘s Jake Fischer previously reported that the Thunder want a first-round pick for Williams. Brooklyn does not have any firsts until 2028, at which point that selection could look extremely valuable. Is it worth the risk for the Nets to deal one of their final remaining first-rounders?
The answer to that question is probably yes. Brooklyn wants to win a title this season. If the front office feels that Williams can help the team achieve that goal, then it’s worth the investment, particularly given Williams is under contract through next season and likely has more value at the forward spot than Blake Griffin or James Johnson.
The Thunder will likely do plenty of moving and shaking ahead of the deadline. Maybe the Nets can entice OKC general manager Sam Presti by sending the Thunder Paul Millsap — whom OKC would buy out — and that 2028 first-rounder, likely with some protections.
Aim high to land Jakob Poeltl
Unlike the Magic and Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs are in a rather weird spot. The Spurs have the assets to obtain future value, but some of those assets could just as easily contribute to a winner in the very near future.
Jakob Poeltl is in that category.
The 26-year-old center is at a weird age for a team not quite ready to contend in the Western Conference. But he’s also rapidly developing into one of the most intriguing bigs in basketball.
In his last seven games, Poeltl is averaging 19.0 points on a whopping 70.7% shooting while also averaging 10.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.9 blocks. He has an average plus-minus of 7.1 during that stretch.
Poeltl has become a more adept rim-roller who also flashes for catches in the restricted area and can keep opponents off balance with a surprisingly effective floater touch. He’s not scared of taking the ball off the dribble and looking for baseline cutters on dribble-handoff looks, either.
Brooklyn could use Poeltl’s rim protection and playmaking at the center spot. The question is likely whether they feel he’s a sizable enough upgrade from Nic Claxton.
If the Spurs decide to trade Poeltl, he’s likely the most costly player the Nets could feasibly attain before the NBA trade deadline. Brooklyn could package all of Claxton, Brown, and Millsap to San Antonio, though they’d almost certainly have to include the 2028 first-rounder.
Even then, that package might not be enough for the Spurs. San Antonio could also make a play for a star like John Collins, rather than look to subtract too much.
Still, it’s probably worth a shot for the Nets to aim high and see if they can make a deal.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.