LAS VEGAS — While nearly the entire NBA is waiting on pins and needles for the Brooklyn Nets to decide on just what they are going to do with their disgruntled duo of stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they came to terms with far less glamorous names.
The Nets reportedly have agreed to one-year contracts with T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner, both talented pieces, but also arriving with question marks after both missed the entire 2021-22 season with injuries. Warren played just four games in the last two seasons combined. But the bigger question is just what the deals mean.
Are they simply roster fillers for a team readying for big trades? Or are they pieces that signal a significant rebuild with a chance to make good for these players on a team where opportunities could be abundant?
Nothing will be clear until the Nets find suitable deals for Durant and Irving — and maybe Ben Simmons — dismantling the team with championship aspirations that they had built and now are taking bids for the pieces before all three had even played a single game together.
For now, it is simply pieces being added to a mix to be named later. But with executives from every team assembling this week in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, there is hope that face-to-face meetings could push the decisions along.
Warren averaged 19.8 points for Indiana in the 2019-20 season, connecting on 40.3% from three-point range. But his real jump came when the NBA reconvened the COVID-halted season and he scored 53 points in the first game in the bubble. He averaged 31 points in six games.
But he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and then after rehabilitating, fractured it again and missed all of last season. The 6-8 forward could either provide a low-risk, high-reward backup to Durant if the Nets can’t find a suitable deal and if Warren is healthy and back to form. Or if the Nets do deal Durant and don’t bring back a player to take his place, Warren could have an opportunity to prove himself once again in a major role.
Sumner, a 26-year-old combo guard out of Xavier, started 24 games for Indiana in the 2020-21 season. But he missed all of last season with a torn Achilles.
The Nets roster build remains in limbo, though. Durant reportedly provided the Nets with a wish list of preferred destinations that include Phoenix and Miami, but both of those teams present difficult workarounds with restrictions on the ability to contractually move some of the players who would make sense in a deal. Toronto has been reported as a team with interest and the pieces to make a deal work.
While Durant would be a welcome addition to any team in the NBA with his skills as well as a four-year contract, Irving is a harder player to satisfy with his desire to leave. He opted into the $36.9 million player option for the upcoming season so he is committed to only one year wherever he goes, but executives from other teams have expressed little desire to add the very talented point guard to their roster and deal with the off-court headaches that have been a part of every stop in his career.
Reports have the Nets and Los Angeles Lakers engaged in talks that would send Irving to the Lakers, where he could reunite with LeBron James, a player he won a championship alongside in Cleveland, in exchange for a package centered around Russell Westbrook and his expiring $47 million contract. The two sides reportedly have been negotiating on what pieces would move in the deal besides the two primary options with the Nets hoping to add Joe Harris and his two years and $38 million into the trade while the Lakers have asked for Seth Curry and his far more reasonable and expiring contract.