The new-look Nets have arguably the most talented roster in the NBA, but also the most complicated.
The Brooklyn Nets shocked the sports world when they acquired superstar James Harden last week. This blockbuster deal not only gave the Nets arguably the best offensive trio in NBA history, but it also gave them another superstar who seems to bring drama wherever he goes.
So far, Harden and Durant have played extremely well together. Harden had a 32-point triple-double in his Nets debut, and two nights later, both Durant and Harden had 30+ points in an overtime win against the Bucks, dominating the Eastern Conference powerhouse.
The Nets look like a very dangerous team, and they are now the early favorites to come out of the East. With Harden’s contract only going through the 2021-2022 season, the Nets must compete for a title now, and it seems that is exactly what they will be doing. Kyrie Irving has also returned to the lineup and scored 37 points in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite incredible performances from all three of their superstars, there are still many questions that have yet to be answered.
There is no denying that the Nets are not the 2008 Boston Celtics. That group fit better than any other big three in history. Ray Allen’s shooting gave space for Paul Pierce to thrive on midrange shots, while Garnett powered their tough defense, but the Nets new offensive powerhouse doesn’t seem to compliment each others’ games as the Celtics did back then.
Both the ‘08 Celtics and the current Nets have faced criticism regarding reduced scoring loads among the superstars, but unlike that Celtics team, the Nets trio have playing styles that may cause conflict. A good example is this play from Wednesday night’s game in which Kyrie showcased his footwork, while the other four Nets players stood around and watched.
This play was obviously impressive and very dangerous for the rest of the league, but it seems unlikely that two out of the three superstars will be satisfied with standing around on offense while the third creates a 1 on 1 situation.
Kevin Durant will be able to thrive in this system considering how well he did in Golden State alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but Harden and Kyrie have both operated as the primary ball handler, weaving dribbles through high screens throughout their entire careers. Unfortunately there is only one ball, and only one player can initiate the high pick-and-roll.
This is a recipe for disaster. For example, when the Rockets defense faced Durant’s Golden State, they wanted Golden State to attack 1 on 1 mismatches. This would lead to a lack of ball movement and an increase in other players standing in the corners watching the superstars dribble around for 24 seconds. This worsens the tone and drains the energy from both the players and the fans. Now imagine if the players that were forced to stand around were players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving instead of Shaun Livingston or Jordan Bell.
This is why so many coaches have claimed that they would allow the Nets offense to attack the weakest defender. It would punish the switches but would disrupt their overall offensive rhythm.
Others are concerned about how Kyrie will handle being second fiddle to James Harden. There will likely be many moments in which one will have dribble creation on one wing while the other wanders around aimlessly on the other. But in all honesty, Harden will likely be their go-to player for the point guard position. Will this frustrate Irving to the point where he throws up a shot every time he gets the ball? Will that cause Harden to do the same? The answer to those questions rely on whether or not the coaching staff can encourage them enough to sacrifice shots for each other. Earlier in his career Kyrie has expressed his desire to be the #1 option on a contending team, but he may have to sacrifice that in order to succeed with the Nets.
The ‘08 Celtics were able to buy into the idea of sacrificing personal stats in order to win championships. Now it’s time for Durant, Irving, and Harden to do the same, or else the Nets are a ticking time bomb.