Last season brought and inspired a lot of hope in Brooklyn. For the first time since 2014-15 season, the Nets were competitive and reached the playoffs.
They only won one game against Philadelphia in the first round, but there was hope that the Nets were finally getting things back together after three-straight seasons in the basement of the NBA. It’s felt like forever since Brooklyn earned the NBA spotlight, and after getting two of the top free agents in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this summer, the Nets are back in the spotlight.
The question is, will it all work?
The Nets really hope so.
Brooklyn’s first big-three combo was a complete bust that not only failed on the court, but sunk the team for the years to come. The Nets lost an immediate future by trading away draft picks to Boston for the chance to win now and dug their grave almost as immediately as they relocated from New Jersey.
But under a fiery and hard-nosed head coach like Kenny Atkinson – a former assistant who was given time to develop the Nets’ younger players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen – not only is the arrival of the Nets new big three going to work, the Nets could thrive in 2019 and beyond, creating a new mecca of basketball in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with their new, younger big three.
Okay, maybe “mecca” is a stretch.
Irving and Durant will be two of the best players the Nets franchise, at least the Brooklyn Nets iteration, will ever have. With DeAndre Jordan heading to Brooklyn, along with a minor but solid signing of Garrett Temple, to replace Ed Davis and DeMarre Carroll, the Nets could finally be the force in the Eastern Conference they’ve aimed to be since 2012. Then the Nets traded for the Hawks’ Taurean Prince.
Nets general manager Sean Marks deserves a ton of credit for his ability to build this roster. Although they were $2 million short of being able to offer both Durant and Irving max deals, there were reports that both stars would take less so they can bring in Jordan as well. The trio of friends was successfully assembled.
But can it all fit and play well on the court? Keep in mind, Durant likely won’t suit up for Brooklyn until 2020 as he rehabs from the torn Achilles he gave to the Warriors during the Finals. The immediate focus shifts to how well Irving can lead and the impact Jordan will have on the court.
Irving is the immediate starter at point guard and is an immediate upgrade from Russell. He’s one of the best ball-handlers in the game and can hit the big-time shots when needed (see Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals). He plays similar to how Russell did – running the pick-and-roll while lighting it up from beyond the arc – but just does it better. The challenge is getting him to pass the ball and not play the hero night in and night out.
The backcourt should have no issues with a rotation that includes Irving, LeVert, Dinwiddie, and Harris, who beat Steph Curry in the three-point contest this past year. Dinwiddie would likely start at the two alongside Irving, as Atkinson could mix and match who to pair with whom.The frontcourt, however, is Brooklyn’s current issue.
Prince could get the nod at the four while Durant is out for the year. Although he struggled with the Hawks last year, at just 25 years old he’s still someone with potential and could rebound after a down year. At his best, Prince can shoot from beyond the arc, run the court and defend. He just needs to prove he can do it consistently at a high level.
Allen is the future of the Nets, especially after a spectacular sophomore season. But with Jordan coming in with his four-year, $40 million deal, Jordan gets the nod at center. Jordan’s value goes beyond just what he could provide Brooklyn on the court. Allen could use a veteran mentor like Jordan to continue to grow at the position, and the Nets have the rookie Claxton in rotation.
The Nets, pre-KD, are a puzzle that could turn out well, especially in terms of depth, or a mess where nothing works whatsoever. Regardless of what happens this season, it’ll change in 2020 as the team gets its true build around Durant, Irving, and Jordan.
Just three years ago, the Brooklyn Nets were an afterthought. A doormat. Seen as an automatic win for other NBA teams.
But patience paid off in Brooklyn and now the Nets are being rewarded for it.
Brooklyn is back on the map.
Nets’ Potential Starting Five (depth in parentheses):
PG: Kyrie Irving (Spencer Dinwiddie, Jaylen Hands)
SG: Spencer Dinwiddie (Joe Harris, Dzanan Musa, Jaylen Hands)
SF: Caris LeVert (Garrett Temple)
PF: Taurean Prince (Rodions Kurucs, Nic Claxton)
C: DeAndre Jordan (Jarrett Allen, Nic Claxton)