The Brooklyn Nets did enough before the NBA suspended play to earn an invite to the Florida restart bubble. With a 30-34 record, however, it's hard to consider them legitimate title contenders.
It should be a different story next season, as the Nets are expected to have a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as the centerpieces of their roster. With those two leading the way, Brooklyn should immediately challenge teams like the Milwaukee Bucks to be the best in the Eastern Conference.
What's less certain is who will be coaching the Nets next season. Kenny Atkinson was fired in March, and Jacque Vaughn coached just two games before play was suspended. However, Brooklyn did go 2-0 in those games, and Vaughn has a legitimate shot at parlaying that into a long-term gig.
"Though the Nets' goal in 2020-21 is to compete for a championship, two NBA sources insist Vaughn has a decent chance at returning to the helm after taking over for the fired Kenny Atkinson, now a candidate to coach the Knicks," Marc Berman of the New York Post wrote. "Vaughn did not have 'interim' formally placed in his title like the Knicks' Mike Miller did."
Brooklyn's foray into the bubble will serve as an audition for Vaughn, though perhaps not an entirely fair one. The squad Vaughn will have is not the same one he could be coaching next season, as players like DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie are also out.
At least the Nets will get a good handle on just how well Vaughn handles adversity.
According to Berman, Vaughn is being seriously considered for the permanent job because he and general manager Sean Marks have a history together dating back 10 years. How well they work together during this trying stretch of basketball could determine whether Vaughn is back next season.
Kevin Love Won't be a Salary Dump
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love is slated to earn more than $31 million in each of the next two seasons. Given the fact that he will turn 32 in September and is part of a rebuilding Cavs roster, it wouldn't be a total shock to see Cleveland dump him and his salary off to another team.
According to Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor, however, this isn't a route that the Cavaliers are looking to take:
"The Cavs will not do a salary dump for Love. They want some combination of draft picks and young, ascending players for Love. Now, in order to get that kind of haul, which many around the league continue to scoff at, the Cavs would likely need to take back a bloated salary. In that kind of package, the draft pick would be considered the Cavs' sweetener in exchange for the other team's bad, lengthier salary."
The Cavaliers invested heavily in Love, and as Fedor mentioned, they would like to get something of value back in return for that investment. Given Love's age and salary, that isn't likely to happen. Therefore, Love has more value as a veteran presence and a mentor than he would have on the trade market.
With young players like Darius Garland and Collin Sexton headlining the roster, it makes sense for Cleveland to keep a veteran leader in the fold.
Atkinson Interviewed Again for Knicks' Job; Thibodeau Remains Favorite
There's at least a chance that Atkinson will be back in a head coaching job by next season. According to Berman, Atkinson recently had at least his second interview with the New York Knicks:
As Berman pointed out, the Knicks have been thorough with their head coaching search, one that has included the likes of Mike Brown, Jason Kidd and Mike Woodson. However, Tom Thibodeau is widely viewed as the front-runner.
"Thibodeau has long been considered the favorite as a former CAA client, and folks around the league have expressed skepticism that this is really an open search, rather than just an intel gathering exercise," Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote.
Thibodeau himself is being thorough in his part of the interview process with team president Leon Rose, formerly an agent for CAA. According to Berman, Thibodeau has been "poring over" Knicks game film as he awaits New York's decision.
According to Berman, that decision could come as early as next week.