The Brooklyn Nets took a major step backward when they traded Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, but that doesn't mean they've given up on the season. They are actively trying to improve the team ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, and according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, they took one small step in that direction on Tuesday by making a minor trade: Kessler Edwards and cash to the Sacramento Kings.
In itself, the move isn't especially significant. Edwards, a promising rookie last season, played only 79 minutes for Brooklyn this season. But by trading him, the Nets did two important things. First, they saved around $8 million in salary and luxury taxes for the year. That won't impact the on-court product itself, but it might make ownership a bit more willing to take on money in other deals. Second, and likely more importantly, the Nets created an extra roster spot.
How exactly they'll use that spot is unclear, but the decision to create it suggests that the Nets believe more moves are coming. Brooklyn has been arguably the most aggressive buyout team in the NBA over the past two years, signing Goran Dragic, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge in that span. The Nets could simply wait until after the deadline to sign the best available free agent. More likely, they're trying to take advantage of that roster spot on the trade market. Roster spots are rare in the middle of the season. The ability to take on an extra player has undeniable value to teams trying to move salary or clear spots for their own blockbusters.
The Nets have been linked to a number of top trade candidates since dealing Irving. Most notably, they have reportedly been in talks for all three of Toronto's core veterans: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet. The idea would be to land one of them as a supporting piece around Kevin Durant and try to continue contending without Irving.
The opposite perspective here would be that an extra roster spot would help the Nets absorb multiple players if they decide to trade Durant. For now, that does not appear to be the plan. While Durant and the Nets are having ongoing conversations about the direction of the franchise, they do not plan to trade him before the deadline, according to Wojnarowski. No matter what the Nets decide, it's clear that their deadline isn't going to be quiet. They're gearing up for some sort of significant move. For now, all we can do is wait to find out what kind of move it will be.