Who Will Fill in for Kevin Durant as He Recovers?
Kevin Durant stunned the basketball world when he chose to sign with the Nets, but it’s unlikely he suits up for them this season. After rupturing his Achilles in the finals, he faces a long road back to recovery and will almost certainly miss the regular season. The Nets should still plan on competing this year, and that means getting a suitable forward to replace Durant. Two suitable options already on their team would be Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs. Prince had a solid year with the Hawks prior to getting traded, averaging 13.5 points while shooting 39 percent from deep. Kurucs had a promising rookie season last year and at just 21 years of age, likely will continue to improve and develop this season. The Nets even without Kevin Durant do have solid forward depth, so they should be able to adequately hold down the fort this year.
Who Will be There Starting Center?
Another notable move that the Nets made this free agency was the signing of center Deandre Jordan. Jordan, a close friend of Durant, was able to sign because Irving and Durant took less than the max to be able to pay him enough to come. This creates a bit of a dilemma for the Nets at the center position however, as they seemingly already had a young quality center in Jarrett Allen. Jordan is clearly the more established of the two, so the Nets may feel inclined to start him for the veteran experience he brings. But that would ignore the events of last season, where Allen had a bit of a breakout and arguably outplayed Jordan for most of the season. At just 21 years of age, Allen will only continue to get better, while Jordan seems to be past his prime. Both Jordan and Allen are capable of starting, but Allen seems to possess more upside at this point in their respective careers.
Can this Starting Lineup Compete in the East this Year?
Assuming Durant can return mostly healthy, the Nets should be a contender and force to be reckoned with for years to come. But strictly speaking of this season, things get a little murkier. As mentioned before, Durant will miss most if not all of the season, so the Nets may not be that elite in the regular season. They should still comfortably make the playoffs, but with this current roster without Durant, it’s hard to see them matching up to the other East powerhouses like the Bucks or Sixers. It’s possible that if Durant’s recovery process goes smoother than expected, he could return sometime in the playoffs. But even if he can do that, he’d likely need a couple games to shake off an almost year long rust. Unlike the regular season, they wouldn't be able to wait for him to do so in the playoffs. Given the current situation, the Nets will probably need to wait another year to become true contenders.