If Kyrie Irving, who has requested a trade, is transferred to a different team in exchange for draft picks and veterans with expiring contracts, it would indicate that the Nets have made a decision to start fresh. This would likely lead to the next step being a trade of the injured superstar Kevin Durant, in exchange for more draft picks and assets to initiate the rebuilding process.
In our hypothetical scenario, the specific players that the Nets would acquire in a trade or multiple trades is unknown. However, while we await the actions of the Nets management, it is worth considering the promising young talent already present on the team.
Ben Simmons has yet to fully recover his previously displayed court skills, following his conflict with the 76ers nearly two years ago. He did not participate in last season’s games, initially due to mental health concerns and later due to reported back problems. These back issues have persisted into this season, affecting his performance. Notably, his 5.9 field goal attempts per game represent a significant decrease from his career average, being nearly half of it.
However, in a scenario where Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are no longer with the Nets, who would have no expectations due to a rebuilding process, it is possible that Simmons may regain his form. In the 40 regular season games he played for the 76ers in 2021, Simmons recorded an average of 14.9 points per game, with 10.4 field goal attempts, 6.7 rebounds per game, 6.5 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game, and 0.5 blocks per game. During one of these games, with Joel Embiid out, Simmons scored 42 points with 26 field goal attempts. This level of performance from Simmons has not been seen in recent years, but it is within the realm of possibility in a hypothetical scenario.
Another young starter with significant potential is Nic Claxton. He has recently begun to show this potential, with a stretch of eight games in January where he recorded an average of 20.1 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game, 3.1 blocks per game, and 2.1 assists per game, in 34.5 minutes per game. During this period, he recorded seven double-doubles and five games with 20 or more points. At 23 years old, Claxton is a strong contender for the Defensive Player of the Year award and has the potential to grow regardless of future moves by the Nets.
The third player with promising potential on the roster is Cam Thomas. Despite being in his second season, he has yet to receive an opportunity to play substantial minutes at the NBA level. However, he has consistently performed exceptionally well in the NBA summer league for two consecutive summers, demonstrating a strong scoring ability that should transfer to the NBA. In his last two games, Thomas recorded an average of 20.0 points per game in 23.5 minutes per game, with four games where he scored 15 or more points in his last seven games. On December 10th, he set a career high with 33 points in 29 minutes. If Thomas were to suddenly be given a starting role with a prominent place in the lineup, he could make a significant impact after the All-Star break.
Ben Simmons is currently on the roster of 81.3% of ESPN leagues, meaning he is a free agent in approximately one in every five leagues. The cost to acquire him in a trade is currently low. If you have a strong team that is seeking depth with potential or if your team is struggling and you hope to take advantage of a possible success, Simmons may be worth acquiring if you can do so at a reasonable cost.
Nic Claxton is currently on the roster of 86.8% of ESPN leagues, and has been performing well recently, making him a good trade target. It would be advisable to acquire him as part of a package deal in order to reduce risk and avoid driving up the cost of acquiring him in a trade.
Cam Thomas is only rostered in a small number of leagues, therefore it may be worth picking him up now and monitoring his performance. The author recently added him to one of their own rosters.