Despite all the constant talk about the Nets chasing a third star, that may not be what they need. A wing defender could be where the salary cap-strapped Nets will get the most bang for the buck, and listening to Steve Nash talk, it sounds like he agrees.
When asked by The Post about his expected style, defense was the first thing out of his mouth.
“Obviously, I think one of the most important things is to start on the defensive end,” Nash said, “be strong in defensive transition and in the half court.”
Nash would know. The Hall of Famer is one of the most innovative offensive players in history, but defense is the reason he doesn’t have a ring.
After becoming a starter in his third season, Nash spent the next 15 years leading Suns, Mavericks and Lakers offenses that finished above league average. But they were worse than average on the other end in 11 of 15 seasons.
Nash may never have been a head coach before, or even an assistant, but looking at the roster with scorers Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it’s easy to see where the Nets’ limited offseason resources like the mid-level exception may need to be spent.
“Offensively won’t be our problem, the No. 1 thing for us is building a really solid defense,” Nash said on “Inside the NBA.”
There has been a persistent narrative that Brooklyn needs a third star, and it was amplified after Irving said in January, “It’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces.” Most presumed that piece to be a star like Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo or Blake Griffin. But maybe it’s a glove like Andre Roberson.
Durant and Irving provide plenty of offense, and owner Joe Tsai is facing a huge luxury-tax bill without adding a star. It would be more efficient — and likely — to use the MLE on a defender to guard two-through-four, like Roberson or his ilk.
The exception starts at $6 million, and can be stretched out to three years and $18 million. There are defenders to be had in that range.
Roberson seems the most logical. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Thunder wing was all-defensive second-team in 2016-17, and was a defensive player of the year candidate the next season before rupturing his left patella tendon on Jan. 27, 2018.
Now back on the court, he’s not only a stellar defender and unrestricted free agent, but his sister Arielle is Spencer Dinwiddie’s longtime girlfriend. Dinwiddie and Arielle have a son, and the Nets adding Roberson would be bringing in family.
“Yeah, I think him being healthy, he’s gonna be a phenomenal addition to a contender,” Dinwiddie told The Post. “And obviously him being extended family will be dope to share that journey, and those high-level aspirations with him.”
The Nets would be a perfect contender fit.
After a long road back, Roberson returned in the Orlando bubble. And he showed even if he’s lost a half-step, he still has playoff experience, defensive instincts and a 6-11 wingspan. Brooklyn can use that, especially if it comes on a one-year deal around $4 million or $5 million.
There are others likely available for the mid-level, which is what ex-Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks — now with ESPN — projects Memphis restricted free agent guard De’Anthony Melton will get. At 22, he had the best net rating of any Grizzlies regular, largely based on his on-ball defense.
Queens native Maurice Harkless was solid defensively with the Blazers and Clippers, before being dealt to the dysfunctional Knicks. Denver’s Torrey Craig might command more than the MLE. Harry Giles, 22, is a power forward, but the Nets liked the 2017 first-rounder and he’s unrestricted after the Kings declined their team option.
Author : Brian Lewis