For a team that did almost nothing to change its personnel, the Brooklyn Nets sure had themselves a loud, chaotic offseason.
We needn't rehash the stalled contract negotiations and stymied sign-and-trade talks that led to Kyrie Irving daring to be different by exercising his player option. You likely don't need a refresher on the front office's monthslong standoff with a disillusioned Kevin Durant, which eventually ended with Durant backing off his trade demand (and his them-or-me ultimatum) in order to ostensibly recommit to the team he spent the whole offseason trying to ditch.
The upshot is that Brooklyn is bringing back virtually the identical roster and coaching staff that got swept out of the first round this past spring, with an added dose of tension and interpersonal dysfunction to spice things up.
The biggest on-court difference, apart from Irving likely being a more consistent presence following the dropped local vaccine mandate, is that Ben Simmons is actually going to be part of the fray. At least, that's the expectation. That was also the expectation last season when the Sixers sent Simmons to the Nets at the trade deadline after his five-month holdout. But Simmons remained sidelined due to a nagging back injury and desire to manage his mental health.
He's since undergone offseason back surgery, which should put him on track to be physically ready for opening night. Whether he'll be psychologically ready is another matter, and that's one of the most pressing questions in the league right now. If Simmons can work his way back into a good physical and mental place, he has the potential to slot in perfectly next to Durant and Irving who we now know will at least be starting the season in Brooklyn.
At the defensive end, Simmons will make the Nets a far better switching team that puts up significantly more resistance at the point of attack, and he'll help resolve the size and athleticism deficiency on the wing that became so apparent in their doomed first-round series against Boston. In theory, he'll also give them the option to play center-less more often. He's always been much better as a perimeter defender than an interior defender and has never engendered much success as a small-ball five, but having the 6-foot-11 Durant next to him in those alignments could make a big difference.