Anybody who watched the Nets play this past season knows power forward was an issue, and their free-agent interest in not only Kevin Durant but also Tobias Harris and Kristaps Porzingis shows they know it, too.
But that doesn’t mean Rodions Kurucs isn’t investing some sweat equity this offseason to earn every minute he can next season. From working out while in Europe this month to playing in Las Vegas Summer League next month, the Latvian forward is determined to stay in the mix.
“I’m planning to play Summer League,” Kurucs, 21, told The Post.
“My focus this summer is just working on my game, my all-around game, my handle, my shot, defense, rebounding, physicality for sure. Everything, basically, because I will need them next season.”
Kurucs turned out to be a second-round steal, picked 40th overall but taking advantage of the Nets’ instability at the position and playing well enough to make the Rising Stars Challenge.
“Rodi was thrust into it through a set of circumstances, through injuries and so forth,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said. “But I think we all see the eagerness for Rodi to play and compete. He’s almost a baby deer out there where he doesn’t know quite what he’s getting into, but he embraced that role.”
Kurucs averaged 8.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 20.5 minutes. And his importance was understated but undeniable. The Nets were just 6-13 without him, but 36-27 when he played — and 28-18 when he started.
“I would say more like a cheetah than a baby deer,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Rodi stepping up and being a starter for us, I don’t think any of us imagined that. Sean has done a helluva job in the draft.”
The Nets cycled through five different starters at power forward last season, including DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Treveon Graham. But most figure to be gone by next season, so there is opportunity for the lanky 6-foot-9, 210-pound Kurucs.
But he’ll have to seize it. The Nets traded for Taurean Prince, a promising young 6-foot-8, 220-pounder who largely has started at small forward for the Hawks, but dabbled as a stretch-four as well.
The Nets clearly have been eyeing power forwards on the free-agent market. A Durant-Kyrie Irving pairing is their dream scenario this summer — despite Durant’s ruptured Achilles tendon, which is expected to cost him all of next season.
There is mutual interest between the Nets and Harris, though it’s unclear how much they would be willing to pay the Long Island native. The 76ers can offer Harris a five-year, $188 million deal to keep him, and the Nets can’t go past four years and $141 million — and might not want to go that high.
Porzingis is a restricted free agent, and there was mutual interest between the former Knick and Brooklyn before he was traded to Dallas. If the Nets miss out on Durant, they could easily pivot to either Harris or Porzingis.
“We have space for two max deals, right?” Kurucs asked The Post rhetorically. “So, they will definitely add some star, and for sure will make the team bigger and better.”
Kurucs was working out over the summer with recently departed Nets assistant Pablo Prigioni and with the team’s stash picks, Isaia Cordinier of France and Aleksandr Vezenkov of Bulgaria. He also took part in Basketball Without Borders in his native Latvia, alongside Porzingis. Was there any recruiting done?
“I like to work with the kids, like to help the kids give them some advice from what I’ve been through,” Kurucs said. “It’s always better to come to Latvia. To see this kind of NBA organization, this kind of camp to help the kids, it’s great.”