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The Nets Big 3 is dead ... and so are the Nets

How the Nets took a Big 3 dream and turned it into a decade-long nightmare.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Crack open that 40 and pour one out, because the Nets’ big-three dream is officially dead. Okay, well, it died last year when James Harden wanted out and Brooklyn had to accept Ben Simmons in a horrific deal that never panned out — but the death knell really came overnight when Kevin Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns less than a week after Kyrie Irving was dealt to Dallas.

This was a legendary failure. A two-plus year experiment which resulted in two first round playoff losses, and a third where the Nets made it to the conference semis before getting dispatched. It’s not just a factor of Brooklyn’s inability to win a championship, but everything they gave up to reach this ineptitude, and what they walked away with as a result.

You’re really not prepared to see what they gave up and got in totality — because I wasn’t.

What it took to get Kevin Durant

D’Angelo Russell, Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham in a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State which also got the Nets a protected 2020 1st round draft pick.

Durant signs a 4-year, $194,219,320 deal.

What it took to get Kyrie Irving

The Nets didn’t need to trade anything for Irving, singing him in free agency to a 4-year, $132,490,600 deal.

What it took to get James Harden

This was unquestionably the most convoluted and expensive part of the Nets assembling their big three. It was a multi-team deal, so here we go.

Nets send Jarrett Allen and Taurean Green to Cleveland. Caris LaVert, Rodions Kurucs, three 1st round picks (2022, 2024, 2026), and four 1st round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027) to the Rockets.

Brooklyn gets James Harden and a 2020 2nd round pick.

So let’s look back on everything they gave up to reach this point...

  • D’Angelo Russell, who’s been a solid starter
  • Shabazz Napier, a mid-level role player
  • Jarrett Allen, who turned into an All-Star last year in Cleveland
  • Caris LaVert, who has been a valuable role player
  • Taurean Prince, who has been a mid-level role player
  • Tari Eason (from the 2022 draft) who is a developing rookie
  • Two more 1st round picks to come
  • Three more potential pick swaps

Now we get to the trades that sent away the big three

Kevin Durant was recovering from injury during the 2019-20 season, but the Nets managed to have moderate success. However, it was Harden who wanted off the ride first in 2021-22.

The James Harden trade

In February of 2022 the Nets traded James Harden and Paul Millsap to the 76ers for:

  • Ben Simmons
  • Seth Curry
  • Andre Drummond
  • 2022 1st round pick (deferred to 2023)
  • 2027 1st round pick (Top 8 protected)

The Kyrie Irving trade

Last week Irving demanded a trade before the deadline and was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks along with Markieff Morris. The Nets got in return:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie
  • Dorian-Finney Smith
  • 2029 1st round pick (unprotected)
  • 2027 and 2029 2nd round pick

The Kevin Durant trade

With the big three now decimated, Durant wanted out. In the early hours of February 9th he was traded to the Phoenix Suns along with T.J. Warren for:

  • Mikal Bridges
  • Cam Johnson
  • Jae Crowder
  • Four 1st round picks
  • 2028 pick swap

The dust now settled, here’s everything that went in to assembling and breaking apart the big three

I know this is exhausting, but here we go.

In totality the Nets gave up:

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Shabazz Napier
  • Jarrett Allen
  • Caris LaVert
  • Taurean Prince
  • Three 1st round picks
  • Four 1st round pick swaps

And ended up with ...

  • Ben Simmons
  • Seth Curry
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Spencer Dinwiddie
  • Dorian Finney-Smith
  • Cam Johnson
  • Jae Crowder
  • Five 1st round picks
  • A 2028 pick swap
  • Two 2nd round picks

You might look at this and think it’s really not that bad, but this total deal is pretty dicey. Brooklyn didn’t end up with a single All-Star, despite trading away three of the best players in the NBA. Yes, technically you could say Ben Simmons is, but at this point it doesn’t look like he’ll ever return to form.

To be fair, Brooklyn did do a good job to re-acquire draft capital, but they still have to give up picks to come — and with how much this team will likely struggle, they’ll be giving away lottery picks in exchange for picks in the 20s. The team got back a lot of good role players, but that’s it. Unless this team is able to sign a star free agent they will be irrelevant for the rest of the decade.

This experiment went wrong for so many reasons. It was a transparently foolish attempt to sell the teams soul to win a championship with three players and bad depth, and it blew up as soon as any of the stars were injured or missed games. Three teams got drastically better at Brooklyn’s expense, and they got a lot worse.

The situation now isn’t completely dire — but it’s definitely ugly. Hopefully this failed chapter will team the team to stop chasing a championship with desperate moves, and instead build a complete team while hoping their picks can blossom into stars.

Whether or not the organization is patient enough to execute on this remains to be seen.