A franchise-changing offseason for the Brooklyn Nets gives them a brand new look in 2019-20, and with those changes comes heightened expectations.
Just maybe not necessarily for this upcoming season.
With Kevin Durant set to miss most, if not all, of this league year due to the torn Achilles he suffered in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, it’ll fall on the shoulders of Kyrie Irving to begin the process of turning the Nets from darling overachievers to legit contenders.
Of course, he had his problems trying be a leader for another young team, the Boston Celtics, last season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles that all-important role with Brooklyn.
Regardless, this season will be more about treading water for the Nets, waiting for the return of Durant in 2020-21, at which point Brooklyn will have legitimate championship expectations.
STAYING: Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Caris LeVert, Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson.
ADDED: Devin Cannady (Princeton), Wilson Chandler (LA Clippers), Nic Claxton (Georgia), Kevin Durant (Golden State), Henry Ellenson (New York), Kyrie Irving (Boston), DeAndre Jordan (New York), CJ Massinburg (Buffalo), David Nwaba (Cleveland), Taurean Prince (Atlanta), Garrett Temple (LA Clippers), Lance Thomas (New York) and CJ Williams (Minnesota).
GONE: DeMarre Carroll (San Antonio), Allen Crabbe (Atlanta), Ed Davis (Utah), Jared Dudley (LA Lakers), Treveon Graham (Minnesota), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Toronto), Shabazz Napier (Minnesota), D’Angelo Russell (Golden State) and Alan Williams (Shaanxi).
STRENGTHS: Even with the injury to Durant, they have a very well-balanced starting five and overall roster, with talent – both experienced and more upside-oriented – littered throughout it … A projected starting lineup of Irving, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince and DeAndre Jordan should be quite potent … They have two guys who can break down defenses at any moment in Irving and LeVert … A knockdown shooter at the 2-guard spot in Harris (league-leading 47.4 percent from three last season) … And two dirty-work options in the frontcourt in Prince and Jordan … Overall, the team should be one of the better shooting teams in the league … Irving and his backup Spencer Dinwiddie will be one of the league’s best 1-2 punches at point guard … Being able to bring Jarrett Allen off the bench will be a huge luxury, considering his pick-and-roll talent and rim-protecting prowess … Finally, with Kenny Atkinson at the helm, who has proven to be one of the NBA’s better coaches over the last three seasons, they even have an elite head coach leading them.
WEAKNESSES: They’ll be without a Top 3 player for, more than likely, the entirety of the season … Irving struggled to be a leader and was a problem in the locker room for what was a young Boston team … The Nets are pretty young too, so how are we positive that won’t happen again? … They have some talent at the 4-spot in the form of Prince and Rodions Kurucs, but both of those guys are more 3/4 floor-spacing types than anything else, so that could hurt Brooklyn on the defensive glass … Without Durant, they’re a bit light on the wing outside of LeVert … David Nwaba is just a defender for the most part and Dzanan Musa is unproven … They only return five true rotation players, so that big turnover to the roster could make it difficult for them to assimilate, at least early in the season.
PREDICTION: 3rd in the Atlantic Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference.