It took the Brooklyn Nets years to recover from their disastrous trade with the Boston Celtics in 2013. It was tough, as they traded away several unprotected first-round picks for what turned out to be a short rental of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who were also both approaching their late-30s at the time of the deal. Both were gone within 1.5 seasons.
As a New York-based team, however, the Nets can’t afford to be too gun shy in making acquisitions, so off they went again in 2019. Following a surprising, playoff-worthy 2018-19 campaign, the team freed cap space and cashed in on the ensuing free agency, snagging former league MVP Kevin Durant and superstar point guard Kyrie Irving. The risk is there given the former’s achilles injury, which caused him to miss the last 18 months, and the latter’s run-in with coaches, but obviously, you’d be crazy to pass on such talents. Then, just this off-season, they brought in neophytes in the staff: first-time head coach Steve Nash and first-time assistant coach Amar’e Stoudemire.
The East is stronger than ever, as you know, so despite all that beaming firepower, not a lot are quite ready to crown the Nets just yet… or maybe should be ready? We’ll see soon enough.
Let’s now look at three bold predictions for the upcoming season.
They will lead the league in points
Leading the league in scoring under an offensively sound, fast-paced, three-point-heavy era is no easy feat, but the Nets certainly have all the makings of a team that can. The talent on offense is simply scattered top to bottom – heck, there are guys on the bench that can be starters on other squads.
Along with Durant and Irving, who are easily among the best scorers in their respective positions, is a whole rotation of guys that can create buckets. Spencer Dinwiddie, a natural a facilitator, is coming off a season where he averaged 20.6 PPG, Joe Harris is a former three-point champion that recorded 183 and 172 treys in his last two seasons, Caris LeVert is a scorer inside and out, and Taurean Prince is a ‘3 and D’ guy that’s proven to be reliable.
Further, there’s the guidance of former run-and-gun players Nash and Stoudemire, which, by the way is also being backed by offensive guru Mike D’Antoni, who’s also one of the assistants.
They will win the East
This is a big one and it’s not a knock on the collection of highly-talented squads in the Eastern Conference. The Nets simply look like a unit that’s primed to make a playoff push.
Durant and Irving are both former NBA champions with a long playoff resume, with KD also having a pair of Finals MVPs. Between them are 10 conference finals series, seven trips to the NBA finals, and four league championships.
Like the point made in the previous reason, there’s more beyond the stars’ postseason accolades. Keep in mind that Dinwiddie, LeVert, Harris, and Jarrett Allen were all key pieces in Brooklyn’s 2019 playoff team. Think about that: two champion superstars have a supporting cast that has previously worked its way into the postseason without a bona fide, multiple-time All-Star.
Kevin Durant will be a top MVP candidate
While it’s tough to claim that Durant will be the league MVP by season’s end, since an achilles tear is a very serious injury, it’s pretty reasonable to believe that he can still be a top player. At the very least, he still has two years left of becoming a high-volume scorer. Also, judging how comfortable he moved in workouts and practices, and considering how he is a certified all-time talent when healthy, it seems that he’s marching towards becoming a perennial MVP candidate again.
The MVP race has always been about a marathon between the best players on the best teams, and if the Nets do well enough in climbing the East ladder, even just as a top 3 seed, their worthy representative for the hardwood will be Durant.