Sean Marks has been going big-game hunting for some time now, searching for a third star to join forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. The Nets have explored blockbuster deals for the likes of Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday and Victor Oladipo.
But now a superior name has surfaced: James Harden.
And sources have confirmed that “The Beard” is intrigued by the idea of forming a new Big Three with Durant and Irving at Barclays Center, as earlier reported by ESPN.
The Nets could offer the Rockets a trade package that includes the likes of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince, plus multiple first-round picks, which really should be protected as much as the rules allow, just in case.
If anyone understands that, it’s Brooklyn fans. It’s also Marks, who inherited basically an empty cupboard after the Nets got fleeced by Boston. But Marks expedited a rebuild that could’ve easily taken a decade, and instead turned the team around in a presidential term. His track record – while not always perfect – pretty much speaks for itself.
“Sean’s got the stones to pull this off,” was how one agent put it.
KD is reportedly on board — as he and Harden have talked about it during offseason workouts — but it’s believed that Irving may not be as enthralled with the idea. On paper, the trio is replete with skill and talent, perhaps unstoppable scoring wise. But for it to work, everyone has to buy in. It’s a highly intriguing yet highly combustible scenario.
KD-endorsed, rookie hire Steve Nash and the rest of his coaching staff would certainly have their work cut out for them, a combination of ego, load and ball management. There is only one ball, after all, and these three guys have all dominated it during their careers – especially Harden.
Would Harden be the main ball-handler and facilitator, or would Irving have a problem with that? Perhaps, if there is some hesitation, Durant could help Irving warm to the idea. (There has been some speculation on Twitter about a Harden for Irving swap — or perhaps the Nets moving Irving down the line — but that’s all it is at this point).
As pointed out by NetsDaily, in Harden and Durant, the Nets would have seven of the NBA’s 11 scoring champions – an insane amount of offensive firepower.
Harden hasn’t won a championship in his career, but he’s done just about everything else. He’s durable, having played at least 72 games in nine of his first 11 seasons in the league. He has a longstanding relationship with Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, his coach in Houston. And he could be appealing to Brooklyn owner Joe Tsai given his massive fandom in China. (Tsai, by the way, should double the annual salaries of Marks and Nash to $8-10 million per year, if it happens).
There has been a lot of chatter about whether the Rockets can get a better offer for Harden, but in the player empowerment era, No. 13 can dictate a lot of his situation. The 31-year-old guard has a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23, and can become a free agent afterward. (Kendrick Perkins, who initially reported the Harden-Nets connection, mentioned the Sixers as another possibility for Harden).
It would be up to Marks to fill out the roster with strong complementary, defense-first type role players that don’t need shots. DeAndre Jordan and Joe Harris, assuming he re-signs as anticipated, is a start, but there needs to be more. A heavy recruitment of Serge Ibaka would certainly be a start. Perhaps trying to get a guy like PJ Tucker included in the Houston blockbuster is another idea.
Even still, there are no guarantees.
While KD, has, by all accounts, looked great in offseason workouts, he still has to prove he can be his dominant self in games. Irving, who has his own injury history to consider, has shown himself to be a volatile personality. And Nash, for all his success and countless accolades as a player, has never dealt with adversity as a coach before. Plus, no offense to Houston, but Harden hasn’t ever played in a market like New York before (even though it may be a lot easier with no fans and Zoom interviews).
Regardless, all of it would make the Brooklyn Nets far-and-away the most interesting team in the NBA.
“(Expletive) yeah,” another agent responded when asked if he’d like to see it.
No one could’ve seen this coming when Sean Marks took over a team that had no picks and no hope.
But given what Marks has been able to accomplish, it feels like it would be a shock if it doesn’t happen.
What seems far less certain: whether it would actually work.