3 unanswered Nets questions ahead of 2023 NBA training camp

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Brooklyn Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn with guard Ben Simmons (10) against the Phoenix Suns.
Brooklyn Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn with guard Ben Simmons (10) against the Phoenix Suns. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With training camps less than a month away, the basketball season inches ever closer. Yet despite the offseason largely resolved, the Nets still have some open questions.

Here are three they need to consider as the season gets into swing:

Is there a star trade to be made?

The rumors of a Damian Lillard trade peaked this summer, as the two parties were linked via his friendship with Mikal Bridges and his listing the Nets on his unofficial, pre-request destinations list. He now appears dead set on heading to Miami, but isn’t the only star Brooklyn’s hunting.

There were murmurs surrounding Pascal Siakam, and even jokes about going after James Harden for the second time. Without picks to tank or the talent to compete, this kind of big swing is their only short-term path to contention.

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After trading their two stars, Brooklyn went 13-15 with a negative point differential, 19th in the league, and were swept out of the playoffs. Their offseason moves have been nice in clearing cap room and picking up useful young pieces like Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV, but none are needle movers.

Is the star trade Brooklyn has the need and assets for out there? Or will it have to come at the trade deadline or beyond, and this is the roster they’re working with?

Who are the creators on this team?

A key issue for this Nets team has been the offense, which Bridges has done his best to generate, unfortunately with little help. Last year, an aging Spencer Dinwiddie was the team’s secondary playmaker, the dearth of options leading to stagnant possessions, bad looks and inefficiency.

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Someone on this roster needs to step up into more of a creator role to get the ball moving and the system humming. Cameron Johnson started tapping into that part of his game with the increased opportunity, and both he and Bridges will need to evolve there.

Dinwiddie doesn’t have the same juice he did in his first Nets tenure, having dealt with a number of injuries. Smith Jr. will be pivotal here as one of the best paint penetrators in the league last season.

The wild card is Ben Simmons, who recently stated he’d be starting at point guard, a shift back to his roots after spending last season at the forward spot. Will the return ignite his creativity and pace, uplifting himself and the Nets?

What will Simmons look like?

The single biggest X-factor to this team’s short- and long-term success is Simmons, the 27-year-old multiple-time All-Star and all-world defender who’s played close to zero effective minutes of NBA basketball in two seasons. After becoming a Net as the centerpiece of their Harden departure, Simmons once again struggled with injuries and a lack of confidence that increasingly plagued him.

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Simmons averaged career-low box score stats, including attempts from the field and free throw line, where he shot an irredeemable 43.9 percent. If he were anywhere closer to his former ferocious self, Brooklyn’s season would have panned out much differently.

They’re hoping that happens this year, and the hype is building for it. Simmons and many reports around him state he’s in fantastic shape and ready for a breakout season, yet he’s only participating in 2-on-2 action with under a month until camp opens.

The Nets will have to closely determine if Simmons is ready to step up and earn his massive contract, and if not, they’ll have to be ready to build a winning team without him.

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