The 2021-22 Brooklyn Nets in Review

June 14th, 2022

By Alan Lu

Brooklyn Nets’ superstars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant give each other a high five in an NBA game after Durant scored 53 on the Knicks this past season.
(Photo:
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images, via The Huffington Post)

Last year, the Brooklyn Nets took the eventual 2021 NBA champions, Milwaukee Bucks to 7 games in the second round before losing to them in the decisive game that went into overtime, despite a phenomenal, 48-point showing from Kevin Durant.  Big things were expected from the Nets for the upcoming 2021-22 season, and they appeared to be looming on the horizon.

Not so fast.  When New York passed the vaccine mandate prior to the start of this season, a major obstacle heading into the season suddenly was Kyrie Irving’s hard-line, anti-vaccination stance in which he opposed the idea of taking the shot, even if it would cause him to miss all of the home games.  As a result of his refusing to get vaccinated combined with New York’s vaccine mandate coming to a head, Kyrie Irving ended up missing most of Brooklyn’s home games.  Suddenly, the Brooklyn Nets got off to a tepid start, and they hovered around .500 for most of the season.

They traded one of their disgruntled superstars, James Harden during the middle of the season to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond, as that trade helped to bolster their bench, but the Nets also lost one of their most talented scorers on their roster, and there was no way of knowing if Simmons would be back to play later on this season.  Simmons ended up missing the rest of the year due to a back injury. 

New York later amended their vaccine mandate to allow athletes and entertainers to play regardless of being vaccinated, so Kyrie Irving was allowed to play home games late in the season, so that gave the Nets hope to be a sleeper candidate to come out of the East.  However, the Brooklyn Nets had trouble meshing as a team, and they struggled all year on the defensive end.  They were able to win a play-in tournament game to get into the playoffs as the 7 seed, but they ended up getting swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs to put an emphatic end to their relatively disappointing season.

Key Players:

Kevin Durant had a very good season for the Nets, but his team’s season ended in disappointment as they got swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kevin Durant
2021-22 (BRK): 29.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.4 APG, 52 FG%, 38 3PT%, 91 FT%, 63 TS%, 25.6 PER, 8.4 WS

He had a very good season individually for the Nets, and he excelled as an all-around player for his team.  He did a superb job of shooting and scoring the basketball in the regular season.  Durant is an extremely talented player that has proven that he is still one of the best players in the NBA.

On the other hand, somehow though, the Boston Celtics managed to hold him in check in the playoffs, as Durant made below 40% of his field goals and made only a third of his threes in the 2022 postseason as his team got swept by the Nets.  If anything, that’s not necessarily an indictment on Durant, but instead proved to be a strong indication that the Celtics would inevitably make a deep playoff run to get to the 2022 NBA Finals.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 4 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starter on the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets’ point forward, Ben Simmons missed the entire season this year, but his fashion sense was definitely on point that day.
(Photo:
John Minchillo/Associated Press, via The Guardian)

Ben Simmons
2021-22 (PHI/BRK): N/A

The very talented, but mercurial point forward that decided to sit out the season as he was unwilling to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, especially after Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers’ comments about him and his passivity in their team’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks had greatly offended him.  After citing mental health issues as a reason for not getting back onto the court, Philadelphia decided that it would be in their best interests to trade Ben Simmons.

He was then packaged in a blockbuster trade along with Seth Curry and Andre Drummond for James Harden, and Simmons then was dealt to Brooklyn.  He still didn’t play, as they deemed him not ready, and he also had a lingering back injury that caused him to miss the entire regular season and playoffs.

2022 Season Grade: N/A
Projected 2023 Rating: 3 stars (4 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Starter on the Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets’ superstar point guard, Kyrie Irving won an NBA title with LeBron James on the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, but his mercurial nature has created a stir within the media ever since, and he even showed up as a spectator to his team’s own home game this year.
(Photo:
Sarah Stier/Getty Images, via CNN)

Kyrie Irving
2021-22 (BRK): 27.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 47 FG%, 42 3PT%, 91 FT%, 59 TS%, 21.4 PER, 3.3 WS

The very talented, but mercurial veteran point guard missed most of the regular season due to his unwillingness to get vaccinated, which caused him to miss a lot of home games.  Irving was allowed to play road games about midway through the season, and Brooklyn later made changes to New York’s vaccine mandate to allow athletes and Kyrie to play while unvaccinated late in their season.  He didn’t play in many games overall, but he had some dominant games in the regular season.

Irving did a very good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and making plays in the regular season, but he also struggled defensively, and his lack of willingness to get vaccinated hurt his team in the standings and may have disrupted the likelihood of his team coming together and being cohesive for the playoffs.

2022 Season Grade: D+
Projected 2023 Rating: 3 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starter on the Brooklyn Nets

Bruce Brown
2021-22 (BRK): 9.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 51 FG%, 40 3PT%, 76 FT%, 58 TS%, 15.0 PER, 4.8 WS

He played very well this season, as he showed a much-improved outside shot, and he also defended well when he was on the court for the Brooklyn Nets.

2022 Season Grade: A-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starter on the Brooklyn Nets
Side Note: Bruce Brown will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Seth Curry
2021-22 (BRK): 15.0 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 49 FG%, 42 3PT%, 87 FT%, 62 TS%, 13.7 PER, 4.2 WS

He did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball this season, but he will need to improve his defense moving forward.

2022 Season Grade: A-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Brooklyn Nets

Other Notable Players:

Nic Claxton

He generally excelled as an interior player for the Nets this season and he was a key contributor in the playoffs, but he only played 47 games during the regular season this year.

2022 Season Grade: B-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Brooklyn Nets

Kessler Edwards

He thrived as a shooter and rebounder for his team this year, and he played much more than expected on the Brooklyn Nets.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Brooklyn Nets

Day’Ron Sharpe

He generally excelled as an interior player, and he did a good job of scoring and rebounding in the paint to help the Nets off the bench.

2022 Season Grade: B-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Brooklyn Nets

LaMarcus Aldridge

He excelled as a scorer on offense, and he showcased a very good mid-range shot, but his playing time seemed to go away in the second half of the season, especially as he struggled to rebound or defend this year.

2022 Season Grade: C+
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Aldridge will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Patty Mills

He is an agile, skilled combo guard that provided sharpshooting and scoring prowess to help his team this past season.

2022 Season Grade: B+
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Mills will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Joe Harris

He is a sharpshooting forward that shot the ball very well early in the season,  but he only played 14 games before getting hurt and missing the rest of the year due to an ankle injury.

2022 Season Grade: C
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Brooklyn Nets

Blake Griffin

He didn’t shoot the ball very well during the regular season, but he had some very good moments in the 2022 playoffs, in which he was able to make two threes in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in a first round series against the Boston Celtics this year.

2022 Season Grade: C-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Griffin will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Andre Drummond

He thrived as an interior player this season, but he didn’t shoot the ball very much or get many rebounds as he could have in the playoffs.

2022 Season Grade: B-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Drummond will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Cam Thomas

He didn’t shoot the ball very well, but Thomas provided scoring off the bench this season, but he didn’t play much at all in the playoffs.

2022 Season Grade: D
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe rotation player on the Brooklyn Nets

Goran Dragić

He had a really down year, as he played poorly with the Raptors and Nets, and his shooting percentages were drastically down this season.  He still passed the ball well, and he shot better in the playoffs, but he didn’t have a very good season overall.

2022 Season Grade: D-
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Dragic will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Dave Duke

He didn’t shoot the ball very well for the Nets or in the G-League, but he rebounded the ball well and showed some defensive skills this year.

2022 Season Grade: C
Projected 2023 Rating: 1 star (2 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Duke will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Head Coach:

The Brooklyn Nets’ had a roller coaster of a ride this season that ultimately ended in disappointment, as they were bounced very early in the playoffs this year.
(Photo:
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images, via The Big Lead)

Steve Nash
2021-22 (BRK): 44-38, 0-4 in the 2022 NBA Playoffs

He’s a players’ coach whose laid back demeanor allows their team to handle high-maintenance superstars, and in the past two seasons (including this one), the Nets come in as one of the title favorites for the upcoming year, because they have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and a slew of notable veterans on their roster.

However, the Brooklyn Nets won much fewer games than expected, although he was dealt with a bad hand on some of those occasions in which players would be out due to injuries or due to being unvaccinated, and he had to try to make the most of unfortunate circumstances.  On the other hand, his team got swept in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, which is a bad look, especially considering that they had two of the biggest superstars in the game in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

2022 Season Grade: D
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Head Coach of the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets’ Projected 2022-23 Rotation:
C Nic Claxton
F Ben Simmons
F Kevin Durant
G Bruce Brown
G Kyrie Irving
_________________
G Seth Curry
F Kessler Edwards
C Day’Ron Sharpe
G Patty Mills
F Joe Harris

The Brooklyn Nets’ Picks in the 2022 NBA Draft:
None

The Brooklyn Nets’ Projected 2023 Win-Loss Record:
44-38, 7th in the Eastern Conference

Their Projected Offseason Plan:

The Brooklyn Nets were a mess of a team this season, and despite having a loaded team of superstars in which they also started out with James Harden (they later traded him for Ben Simmons in a midseason trade), it was clear that they had a hard time meshing or dealing with distractions, and the Nets lost a lot more games than expected. 

Despite having an endless amount of talent, the Nets hovered around mediocrity all year long, and they ended up getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.  Kyrie Irving couldn’t get out of his own way, and his unwillingness to get vaccinated caused him to miss a lot of home games this season.  Kevin Durant stopped being able to make shots consistently in the playoffs, and he was seemingly shut down by Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.  The Nets also dealt with injuries, and they also were very bad defensively, as their lack of size and effort on the defensive end made it tough for them to get stops on that side of the ball.

They are projected to be capped out in the offseason, so they will not be able to spend much in free agency.  The Nets will have to wait to see if Kyrie Irving and Patty Mills will accept their player options and opt into their contracts to play for the Nets next season or not, and they will have to make decisions on other players who may be impending free agents.  Also, due to Kyrie Irving’s high maintenance and unpredictable nature, the Nets may have to ponder a way to move him in a sign-and-trade deal in order to find an optimal way of helping Kevin Durant and their team to win an NBA title in the future.

For now though, the easiest decision they could make is to pick up the team option on Kessler Edwards, who turned in a very good season this year, which was especially impressive considering that he was a second round rookie on their team.  By picking up his team option, the Nets would keep Edwards on their roster for next season.  The Nets also currently have no draft picks, as they opted to send the 23rd overall pick to Philadelphia as part of the James Harden trade. 

The Brooklyn Nets will need to beef up their defense, and they will have to find a way to get their team to play focused, cohesive team basketball for a full season next year. As for the Nets’ team next year, they will need to improve their defense and make upgrades to their bench, and they will have to find ways to get their players to be fully healthy and to play more next season.

I went to No Trade Clause and Basketball-Reference for research purposes.  Thanks for reading.

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