With Mikal Bridges traded to Knicks, Nets are back at square one (2024)

Twenty-four hours before the NBA Draft on Wednesday, the Nets had a quiet buzz about their free-agent plans with no picks in the two-day extravaganza. That all changed late Tuesday night with a bombshell trade.

Mikal Bridges is headed to the Knicks, a league source confirmed to Newsday, and the Nets are receiving Bojan Bogdanovic and a slew of picks to head into a deeper rebuild that began in earnest a year ago when they traded Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Bridges became the face of the new-look Nets when he arrived in February 2023 from the Suns in the Durant trade. In 109 games with the Nets, he averaged 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists as he stepped into a leading role on a team for the first time in his career.

The Nets appeared determined to hold on to him as they reportedly turned down multiple offers to trade him. The Athletic reported in March the Nets rejected a deadline deal involving the Rockets, sending multiple picks and third-year guard Jalen Green.

However, the Knicks’ offer proved the one the Nets couldn’t refuse. It’s the first trade between the teams since 1983 and Bridges will reunite with former Villanova teammates Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart.

“This is crazy lol,” Bridges posted on X after the deal was reported.

The Nets, who missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018, received first-round picks in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031, a protected 2025 first-round pick from the Bucks and a 2028 unprotected pick swap.

Adding to the frenzy was a separate deal the Nets made with the Rockets on Tuesday. The Nets sent four picks for the Rockets’ 2026 first-round pick — which the Rockets got when the Nets traded for James Harden — and a 2025 first-round pick swap.

The Rockets received first-round picks in 2025 and 2027 that the Nets acquired via the Suns, the Nets’ own 2029 first-round pick and a 2029 pick swap.

The Nets now have four first-round picks for 2025. In total, they have 16 first-round picks between 2025-31.

What it means is the Nets are officially starting over. With Bridges gone, they lack a proven star to build around and now face more questions heading into the offseason.

Will Nic Claxton, an unrestricted free agent, re-sign with a team that’s starting over from scratch? Claxton has played his entire career in Brooklyn but now has to weigh his decision even closer.

The Nets were already a young team with five players 23 years or younger. Now those young players such as Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe will have to take a step forward, as will Cam Johnson, who had an up-and-down first full season with the Nets due to injuries.

Thomas, an upcoming free agent in 2025, will likely have a bigger role after averaging 22.5 points last season.

More importantly, trading Bridges means the Nets are fully on board looking toward the 2025 offseason. Depending on whether or not they re-sign Claxton, they could have around $60-$80 million in cap space available, as Ben Simmons and Dennis Schroder will both be free agents.

The 2025 draft is also regarded as a deeper draft than this year. Now the Nets are armed with picks to either select a promising young player or two or entice a team with a superstar talent to make a deal.

But in the short term, it means the Nets could be in for a long 2024 season unless more moves are made. It creates a tougher situation for first-year coach Jordi Fernandez, who inherits a team high on player development but low on star power.

Bridges was a reliable player who never missed a game yet couldn’t elevate a Nets team that lacked shot creation when Ben Simmons was limited to 15 games with his back injury. The Nets went 15-37 to end the season following a loss to the Bucks in December when they rested multiple starters

On the heels of trading Durant and Irving in 2023, the Nets are back to square one looking for a new identity. Time will tell what’s next after the Nets surprised the NBA world by trading last season’s leading scorer to the team across town.

“We can take a variety of different pathways,” general manager Sean Marks said in April on his plan for the team. “We have to be prudent, patient, systematic with who we go after, when we go after them, and just make sure we do it the right way.”

By Evan Barnes

evan.barnes@newsday.com

evan_b

Evan Barnes covers the Nets for Newsday. He previously covered Memphis football and the Memphis Grizzlies and also covered prep sports in Los Angeles.

With Mikal Bridges traded to Knicks, Nets are back at square one (2024)
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