Nets guard Ben Simmons, wearing street clothes, looks on during...

Nets guard Ben Simmons, wearing street clothes, looks on during a timeout against the Nuggets in the first half of an NBA game at Barclays Center on March 19. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets closed the book on their superteam era with a 45-37 record and a second consecutive first-round sweep.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both are gone, and now the Nets have to decide what the next era will be. General manager Sean Marks preached patience and poise, but can the Nets stand pat, or will they take some risks to try and return to championship contender status?

It’s part of another critical offseason, so here are five key questions the team must address.

What to do with Ben Simmons and will he get healthy?

Marks noted that for now, Simmons won’t need another surgery for a back injury that sidelined him after 42 games. But will he be 100% by Sept. 1 as Marks said?

There’s always the hope that Simmons rediscovers his peak form as a facilitator/defender. He hasn’t been that player since the 2020-21 season. But the Nets can only wait and see, because Simmons is owed $78.2 million the next two seasons. It’s hard to find a suitable trade partner, so hope is all they have that Simmons can recover and have an on-court impact.

Will the Nets sign Cam Johnson to an extension?

Cam Johnson is the Nets’ biggest priority among their free agents. He showed signs that he’s ready a bigger role in his first extended stint as a starter, averaging 16.6 points since his arrival and upping that to 18.5 points in the playoffs.

Since Johnson’s a restricted free agent, the Nets can match any team’s offer. But Johnson spoke highly of the organization at exit interviews and is very close to Mikal Bridges. He’s due for a significant raise, so will the Nets pay up — perhaps around $20 million a year — for a key piece?

Can Mikal Bridges take his game to another level?

Bridges blossomed with the Nets and looked the part of a future All-Star candidate. He was comfortable being the No. 1 scoring option but also struggled and looked fatigued when the 76ers keyed on him during the playoffs. 

So what will Bridges do in a full season with those expectations? He said during his exit interviews that he’ll put in more work this offseason to improve his conditioning. But can the Nets ride him as a lead option for 82 games, or will they try to find a co-lead option via trade or free agency?

What will the Nets do in the NBA draft?

After no draft picks last year, the Nets have the 21st and 22nd pick in June’s draft, along with the 51st pick. This has been touted as a deep draft class, so the Nets have two good chances to add a promising young player.

On the other hand, should they try to package those picks for a trade? The Nets don’t have any picks in 2024, so should they keep mortgaging their future or add another piece to develop? 

Either way, the Nets have solid options. The draft will be the first sign if their plan means keeping young talent or using them as trade bait.

Trust the new core or chase a big free agent?

Through 27 games, there were things to like about this Nets group besides Bridges and Johnson. Nic Claxton improved as a full-time starter in his fourth season. But the Nets also went 12-15 during that stretch and lacked both rebounding and shot creation.

So how much faith should be in this group for a full season? Do the Nets keep Spencer Dinwiddie, who struggled in the playoffs and is a free agent next summer? Royce O’Neale’s $9.5 million salary becomes guaranteed on July 10. Did Claxton show enough to trust him next season when he's due for a new contract the following summer?

The Nets have six players on expiring contracts for 2023-24, so it's tempting to run things back or be aggressive in trade talks. There's not enough evidence this core is a playoff contender, but there's potential they'll be, at worst, a solid team led by Bridges. Is that enough to ride with, or will Marks study the free agent landscape and find bigger names to upgrade this roster?

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