Nets general manager Sean Marks looks on during training camp...

Nets general manager Sean Marks looks on during training camp at the Nets HSS Training Center on Oct. 3, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The trade deadline will always keep players, teams and fans on their toes wondering what could happen at any moment. Spencer Dinwiddie knows it all too well.

He’s one of four current starters who joined the Nets last year before the deadline. With the Nets struggling since mid-December, it’s no surprise they’ve been mentioned as potential buyers or sellers ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“Everybody knows that we're a team that's going be involved in a lot of just chatter and speculation but we can't do anything,” Dinwiddie told Newsday this month. “We go out there and try and do our job every day and try to get a win for the fans in Brooklyn.

“Whatever happens at the end of the day is what happens.”

It’s not surprising that trade chatter is affecting the Nets, among other issues. Entering Saturday’s game against the Rockets, the Nets have lost 17 of their last 21 games and are a half-game outside the play-in tournament. They’re also 29-42 since Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson debuted after last season’s trade.

In short, what’s here isn’t enough. The Nets figure to be key players between now and the deadline and they need quite a bit of help.

What makes it trickier is the Nets’ lack of draft capital. The Nets have first round picks in 2025 and 2027 from the Kevin Durant trade, but none this year or in 2026 because of the James Harden trade. The Nets also don’t have a second round pick this year, as the Rockets own it via the Sekou Doumbouya trade in 2021.

The main thing the Nets need is another wing scorer to take the burden off Bridges. Bridges is averaging career-highs in scoring (21.7 points ahead of Saturday’s game) and rebounding (5.1), but he's shooting his worst field goal (45.5%) and three-point percentage (36%) since his rookie season.

Perhaps it’s the toll of leading the NBA in minutes and miles traveled the last two seasons. Add last summer with Team USA and the highest usage rate of his career and Bridges has struggled despite the leaps he’s taking as a main scoring option/clutch-time performer.

Cam Thomas has been great in his third season (averaging 20.5 points), but the Nets need another dependable scorer with size.

It’s no surprise they’ve been linked to someone like Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, a great scorer and defender like Bridges. Yet per multiple reports, the Hawks want multiple first round picks for Murray and the Lakers are also among the suitors for him.

Murray also starts a four-year, $114 million extension next season and is owed $24.8 million in 2024-25. If the Nets add that contract, that gives them four players making at least $20 million next season with Bridges, Johnson and Ben Simmons, who is owed $40.3 million in the final year of his deal.

Maybe that’s a gamble the Nets could take knowing Simmons’ future is up in the air. However, as previously stated, the Nets don’t have much draft capital to spare and for Murray, the Hawks reportedly aren’t budging on their price.

It’s also why a player like Lakers guard and former Net D’Angelo Russell is a tricky proposition, too. Russell has a player option for $18.6 million next season, the last year of his contract. He’d give more insurance at point guard but it could create an awkward pairing with Simmons.

The Nets also could seek more depth at power forward. Dorian Finney-Smith was on pace to shoot 40% from threes earlier this season but he’s fallen back to 37.8% after struggling the past month.

Finney-Smith is also one of three Nets who have been discussed in reports as trade bait with Dinwiddie and Royce O’Neale. The Nets reportedly fielded offers for Finney-Smith and O’Neale around last year’s draft and HoopsHype reported that the Nets are seeking two first-round picks for Finney-Smith, who has two years left on his contract.

“We all got social media so you’re going to hear it. It ain’t real,” Finney-Smith said of trade talks. “It’s a whole bunch of chit chatter until something officially happens. I’m a Brooklyn Net and I want to win. That’s all that matters.”

Whatever the Nets do at the deadline, it also affects a critical offseason. Seven players are on expiring contracts, including Dinwddie, O’Neale and Nic Claxton.

The Nets are currently $8 million below the luxury tax. With those contracts coming off the books, they’ll have at least $40.7 million in salary available this offseason. Presumably, that’ll help in attempting to re-sign Claxton but a trade could complicate that.

Claxton’s contract could be at least $20 million a year. How will that work if the Nets trade for another high salary player like Murray or Russell? Claxton won’t and shouldn’t take a discount but the Nets have to decide how important he is to their future.

The same goes with extending Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe. Thomas is averaging 20.5 points but the Nets have to figure out his role as either a starter or scoring sixth man.

That’ll affect how extension talks go because Thomas’ scoring means his price is going up. Again, if the Nets add someone with a high salary, that affects what they offer Thomas or it sets up a trickier situation in 2025 if Thomas’ value keeps rising with another high scoring season.

Those are issues affecting what the Nets do at the deadline. Whether they acquire another scorer or draft picks, there’s enough evidence to suggest the Nets need a lot more to crack the top six of the Eastern Conference now, or next season.

What they do before Feb. 8 isn’t just about short-term help, although that would be great. It’s helping to figure out an uncertain future with the team building around Bridges and deciding how this next era plays out.

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