How the Nets were built: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving turned Brooklyn’s roster in two years

How the Nets were built: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving turned Brooklyn’s roster in two years

After the 2018-19 season, things were improving for the Nets. Kenny Atkinson turned out to be an excellent coach for the team, and they had far exceeded expectations. Their team, led by D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, had a 42-40 season to advance to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

As Brooklyn was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the 76ers, it was clear they were a rising team. And eventually, their young talent could make them a future contender in the East.

However, instead of following their growth and development-based plan of before, the Nets saw a chance to get aggressive. It started in the 2019 offseason and continued for two years.

Now the Nets are one of the most talented teams in the NBA. And that’s with just two members from their 2018-19 roster still in the fold.

How did they get here so quickly? Here’s a look at the moves that sped up the rebuilding of the Nets and turned them into a three-star juggernaut.

AFTER: Kevin Durant calls ESPN’s Jay Williams for KD story, Giannis

The little moves that started the reconstruction of the Nets

Before we get into the big moves that reshaped the Nets organization, it’s important to look at the small moves that Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks has made to put that rebuilding in motion.

Marks did a great job finding players in the NBA junkyard while the Nets ran out of capital due to the unfortunate Kevin Garnett / Paul Pierce trade that sent the picks who would become Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to the Celtics. Despite the lack of early picks in the first round, Marks was able to fix Billy King’s mistakes and landed several quality plays in the draft and free agency.

Brooklyn’s best shots during this time under Marks were as follows:

  • 2016: Signature of a multi-year contract with Joe Harris.
  • 2016: Signature of Spencer Dinwiddie for a mid-season contract.
  • 2016: Traded Thaddeus Young to the Pacers for a late first-round pick who became Caris LeVert.
  • 2017: Written by Jarrett Allen with the 22nd pick in the NBA Draft and trade of Kyle Kuzma (27th pick) and Brook Lopez to the Lakers for Timofey Mozgov and former No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell.

Harris and Dinwiddie are the only members of the Nets 18-19 roster still on the squad. Harris was originally acquired as a free agent. He was traded from Cavaliers to Magic after the 2016 season and the Magic gave him up. Harris shot a record 47.5% from the field in the 2020-21 season and shot 41.9% or better in four of five years with the Nets.

Meanwhile, Dinwiddie averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game during the 2019-20 season and was expected to be a sixth key man this year before tearing his ACL apart. Prior to joining the Nets, he spent time with the Pistons and the Bulls’ G-League affiliate, so Marks did well to have him on the cheap.

As for the trades, they ended up being essential for Brooklyn, as LeVert, Allen, and Russell all ended up being key parts of their rebuilding as a whole.

2019: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant take their talents to the Nets

The 2019 NBA free agent class has been one of the strongest in league history. There were three great talents available that year: Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. The Nets ended up landing two.

How the Nets got Kyrie Irving

Irving was the easiest piece to obtain for Marks and the Nets. The veteran point guard was an unrestricted free agent and the Nets had the ceiling space to sign him for maximum deal.

At the time, Irving was unhappy with Boston and wanted a change of scenery. He also wanted to be closer to home after his grandfather died in the 2018-19 NBA season. This made Brooklyn the natural choice for the New Jersey native. So, he signed the $ 136.5 million four-year free agency contract, without any signing and trade needed.

How the Nets traded to Kevin Durant

Durant’s situation was a little more complicated. The team could have signed Durant directly, but they chose to pull out and sign and trade to send Russell to the Warriors. The trade earned the Nets an additional first-round, protected top-20 pick.

The terms of the agreement looked like this:

The warriors receive:

  • G D’Angelo Russell
  • G Shabazz Napier
  • F Treveon Graham

The nets receive:

  • F Kevin Durant
  • 2020 first round pick (protected among the top 20)

As it turned out, the Nets didn’t receive that first-round pick as the Warriors hit rock bottom and received the second overall pick that year. But it was still worth it for Marks and Brooklyn to grab another trump card.

Other moves in summer 2019

Durant and Irving were Brooklyn’s main acquisitions, but there were a few others as well.

On draft day, the Nets struck a deal that allowed them to Prince Taurus of the Hawks. They sent Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Allen Crabbe and a first-round pick in 2020 to get Prince and a second-round pick. This gave them a cheap starter and opened up ceiling space for them to use in their efforts to get Irving and Durant.

Irving and Durant have expressed a desire to play with ByAndré JordanSo the Nets signed a four-year deal worth just under $ 40 million with the center of veterans. This secured the commitments of Irving and Durant.

Finally, the Nets also extended the Caris LeVert via a three-year contract worth $ 52 million. He was seen as a key part of the team’s future, but this level of pay also made him an attractive mid-price business candidate.

2020: Upgrade of actors around the team

Brooklyn didn’t do much during the 2019-20 season to improve their roster as they were a bit limited, Durant was not available due to the Achilles tear he suffered with the Warriors and the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged.

But starting in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Nets have made some big moves that have had a positive impact on their team.

Nets land Bruce Brown and Landry Shamet in three-team trade

In the 2020 NBA Draft, held in November, the Nets agreed to a three-team deal with the Pistons and Clippers in an effort to bolster their bench. The deal had a lot of players and choices, but here’s a look at the deal with the assets the Nets ditched in bold.

The nets receive:

  • G / F Bruce Brown
  • G Landry Shame
  • F / C Reggie Perry

The piston receives:

  • F Saadiq Bey
  • G Jaylen Hands
  • G / F Dzanan Moussa
  • G Rodney McGruder
  • Second round pick in 2021

The mowers receive:

  • G Luke Kennard
  • G Jay Scrubb
  • C Justin Patton
  • Four second round picks

Bey appears to be a good player at the NBA level, but Brown has grown into a quality defenseman and key player on the bench for the Nets. Meanwhile, Shamet provided value as a shooter, with Perry serving as a solid rebounder. In short, they’ve filled their roster of players with better options than what they sent in Hands, Scrubb, and Musa.

Nets add Jeff Green in free agency

Brooklyn had little money to spend on free agency, but they made their only acquisition. They gave 34-year-old forward Jeff Green a one-year contract worth just over $ 2.5 million with plans to use him as a long defenseman and small ball center.

Green averaged 11 points per game for the Nets in the ’20 -’21 regular season and hit a career-high 41.2% from beyond the arc.

2021: Exchange for James Harden and landing of Blake Griffin

The Harden move is what put the Nets above. The veteran became unhappy with the Rockets, so Houston was ultimately forced to trade him. In the end, Brooklyn made the best offer and was able to make a deal with four teams to land Harden.

The nets are traded against James Harden

To get Harden, Brooklyn cashed in some of their previous valuable pickups and signings that had value throughout the league. Here are the details of the trade with what the Nets ditched in bold.

The nets receive:

  • James harden
  • Second round pick in 2024

The riders receive:

  • C Jarrett Allen
  • F Prince Taurus

The Pacers receive:

  • G Caris LeVert
  • Second round pick in 2023

The rockets receive:

  • G Victor Oladipo
  • G Dante Exum
  • F Rodions Kurucs
  • Three first-round picks (all unprotected), four first-round picks trades (all unprotected)
  • 2022 Bucks first-round pick (via Cavaliers)

This move gave the Nets three legitimate superstars, and they were able to make it happen because they tapped into some of their assets. Obviously, the first-round picks they gave up were a big part of the Harden deal, but solid starters and actors like LeVert, Allen and Prince helped ease the deal and open up the space. cap needed for this to happen.

After joining the Nets, Harden averaged 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game and helped relieve Durant and Irving as they all injured each other during the season. .

Landing of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market

Due to the strong core and good depth of the Nets, they were able to attract two of the top free market buyout contenders to join their team: Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Griffin came from the Pistons for the minimum and has been a valuable big man for the Nets and has shot 49.2% from the field and 38.3% from the arc since arriving.

Aldridge, sadly, had to retire after facing complications from an irregular heartbeat, but the fact that the Nets were always able to get him back as one of the most coveted players in the business was a good sign for the team.


Marks didn’t have an easy job when he took on the role of general manager of the Nets, but how he and his staff have managed to transform that roster while increasing depth and an explosive attack is impressive.

And when you look at the two lists in relation to each other, it’s astonishing that these changes have taken place over a period of just over two years.

List of nets 2018-19 List of nets 2020-21
G D’Angelo Russell James harden
G Joe Harris G Kyrie Irving
G Spencer Dinwiddie F Kevin Durant
G Caris LeVert G Joe Harris
G / F Allen Crabbe C Jeff Green
C Jarrett Allen G Landry Shame
F DeMarre Carroll G Bruce Brown
F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson C DeAndre Jordan
F Jared Dudley A / C Blake Griffin
F Rodions Kurucs G Spencer Dinwiddie
G / F Treveon Graham C Nicolas Claxton
C Ed Davis G Mike James
G Shabazz Napier G / F Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot
G Théo Pinson G Tyler Johnson
F / C Kenneth Fared F Alizé Johnson
G Mitch Creek G Chris Chiozza
G Tahjere McCall F / C Reggie Perry
F Alan Williams
G / F Džanan Musa

Durant and Irving being ready to sign in Brooklyn, it might have been a bit of luck, but make no mistake: Marks and Co. did a great job of turning this list into a contender.

And it’s not just because of their renowned signings.

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