With the NBA returning at the end of the July, all 22 teams who will be going down to Orlando are preparing for the playoffs. The league has been in a hiatus since March 11th, and this layoff has given players the opportunity to recover from injuries.
Two NBA superstars that have been injured for a longer period of time are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant has been injured since Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and Irving has been out since having shoulder surgery on March 3.
Both players have come out and said they will not be playing when the league returns next month. Durant told Marcus Spears of the Undefeated that, “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all.”
Before the two injuries in the playoffs last season, Durant was playing at a MVP level. He has been an elite scorer for his entire career averaging at least 20 points per game in each of his 12 seasons.
Similarly, ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out that Kyrie Irving could possibly join his teammates in Orlando as an inactive player.
The Brooklyn Nets are currently 30-34 and seventh in the Eastern Conference. Without Durant and Irving, it is unlikely that the team will get out of the first round of the playoffs.
With that being said, it is interesting to look at scenarios where both players were able to return for the playoffs. Both Durant and Irving are former champions and would have given the Nets a great chance to go deep into the playoffs.
If the current seedings in the conference stood after the eight regular season games, the seven seeded Nets would have faced the reigning champion Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors have been one of the best teams in the league even after superstar Kawai Leonard departed in the off-season. Still, I believe the return of Durant and Irving would have given the Nets a fantastic opportunity to advance.
Durant would be able to score at will against the Raptors wings, and Irving would be able to play just as well as All-Star Kyle Lowry. The Nets would have more depth coming off the bench with the return of their two stars. It would have been a difficult task, but the Brooklyn squad would have been up to the challenge.
If the Nets were able to get past the Raptors, they would have faced the winner of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers series. The Nets have taken two of three against Boston this season and neither Brooklyn superstar played in any of those games. With the being said, I think the Nets with Durant and Irving could get past the Celtics in a seven game series.
Even though the Nets have lost three out of four against the 76ers, each of the losses were by 11 points or less. It should also be noted that Irving only appeared in one of their games against the 76ers. In a situation where the Nets would have their two best players, a series with the 76ers would give the Nets a great chance to advance.
The tallest task for the Nets would have been the Milwaukee Bucks, who lead the league with a 53-12 record. Containing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo would be difficult for the Nets, but Durant and Irving would be able to hold their own in that series.
If the Nets were going to make a deep run in the conference, each round would have been very tight even with Durant and Irving. In the absence of their two best players, the Nets have plenty of other talent that can cause problems for their opponents.
Guard Spencer Dinwiddie is averaging a career high 20.6 points per game, while Guard/Forward Caris LeVert is averaging a career high 17.7 points per game including a career high 51 points against the Boston Celtics in early March.
Guard Joe Harris is one of the best shooters in the league averaging 13.9 points per game and shooting above 40% from three the past three seasons. Big men DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen are two of the best defensive centers in the league giving the team a big presence in the middle of the paint. There is no denying that the support cast for Durant and Irving would be good enough to be a title contender.
Something that goes very unnoticed about this roster is the playoff experience they have. Most of their key players were on the roster last season, and the Nets were able to gain experience against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Even though the Nets lost the series in five games, the team showed a lot of fight against their divisional foe. The team even went into Philadelphia and won game 1 showing the players had the ability to win in a tough environment.
The supporting cast for a championship team is extremely important, and the Nets have the role players that could help Durant and Irving win a title in Brooklyn.
For both Durant and Irving, it was clear that it would be a risk for either player to return in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Neither will be participating in Orlando, but it is certainly possible that Brooklyn could have made a deep run if the pair were able to suit up on the court.
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