When the Brooklyn Nets first assembled their superteam, some folks were skeptical. But this group of stars was made to exceed expectations.
The amount of scoring that head coach Steve Nash has on his roster is an embarrassment of riches. They are led by the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving – which is enough to strike fear in the eyes of any team throughout history. These three players have enough talent to make fans rethink the way that basketball is played.
Perhaps what’s most wild is that Brooklyn can be one of the most dynamic offensives in the league even if it has to deal with injuries to one of the three primary options they have on the squad. But are they well-rounded enough to take the Eastern Conference from the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks?
Below, check out our preview for the 2021-22 Nets campaign.
Returning: James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin and Nicolas Claxton
Additions: Patrick Mills (San Antonio), Jevon Carter (Phoenix), Sekou Doumbouya (Detroit), Paul Millsap (Denver), LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson (New Orleans), Cam Thomas (LSU), Day’Ron Sharpe (North Carolina), DeAndre Bembry (Toronto), Devontae Cacok (LA Lakers), David Duke (Providence) and Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine).
Departures: Spencer Dinwiddie (Washington), DeAndre Jordan (LA Lakers), Jeff Green (Denver), Landry Shamet (Phoenix), Timothe Luwawu (Atlanta), Alize Johnson (Chicago), Mike James (Monaco), Chris Chiozza (Golden State) and Reggie Perry (Toronto)
* No one with more star power… If it were still 2013, the Los Angeles Lakers would give the Brooklyn Nets a run for their money. Although Los Angeles is loaded with big names, Brooklyn’s top players (Durant, Harden and Irving) are at the peak of their powers. Even their complementary role players (Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap) also have a combined seventeen All-Star appearances. When they match up with their opponents, the names on the back of their jerseys will be just as intimidating as what’s on the front.
* Unparalleled offensive firepower… It’s no secret that the Nets will be able to score the ball. They have MVP award winners on their roster in Durant and Harden and both are candidates to win again next season. But even though Durant and Harden played just eight games with Irving last season, Brooklyn’s offensive rating (118.3) was still the best in league history. What’s even more fun: Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris made more than half of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers and he actually finished with the third-most points scored off the catch in the league, per NBA.com.
* Improved depth… As if the Nets didn’t have enough in their favor last year, they were able to make some significant upgrades around the edges this offseason. Last season, their backcourt depth took a hit when Spencer Dinwiddie was out with injury. But with Patty Mills in the fold, they’ll suddenly have some stellar shot creation in the second unit. They’ve also added a solid veteran in Millsap. He is someone who can hit jumpers in a way that former Brooklyn big DeAndre Jordan never could. Mills and Millsap are a formidable duo in the second unit for the Nets.
* So much talent they can afford to sit guys, get rest and still win… The most interesting element of Brooklyn’s roster is that Nash won’t need to play his guys down to the bone in the way Tom Thibodeau will for the crosstown rival New York Knicks. Durant, Harden and Irving are all juggernauts in and of themselves and can carry the offensive load on their own. Because this is a team that is built for the playoffs, the regular season can be more about some simple experimentation. Perhaps they occasionally give the keys to rookie scoring sensation Cam Thomas, who recently led the NBA’s summer league tournament in points per game.
* They are super battle-tested and have championship experience… Let’s take a quick scan down the roster for the Nets. Durant is a two-time champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP. Irving is a champion. Mills is a champion. These guys have been to war and they’ve shown they have what it takes to take their team to the next level. Sometimes, knowing that you have what it takes to get over that elusive mountaintop is part of the psychological battle necessary to win titles. Brooklyn already has several players on their squad who have that part down.
* Injury questions… Brooklyn heads into this season with as much hype as a team can have. But they’re not flawless. What fun would that be, anyway? They’re the second-oldest team in the league, according to RealGM, and they weren’t exactly the picture of health this last year. Brooklyn was without all of its stars at various points of the season, which obviously had a major impact on the success they could have as a team. How will their stars fare in their return to the court?
* How much is left in the tank for frontcourt reserves? … While they have some impressive depth in the frontcourt with Aldridge and Millsap, there are serious question marks surrounding these players. Most pressing, last season, Aldridge is coming off a brief medical retirement due to heart-related health concerns. He enters this season at 36 years old. Meanwhile, Millsap will turn 37 years old and has already logged a ton of minutes during his basketball career. Are they going to be able to hold up for the postseason?
* The Kyrie Irving wild card… Look, at this point, everyone has an opinion about Irving. It’s simply not worth rehashing some of the tired conversations that have surrounded his name over the past few years. We do know that both on and off the floor, Irving is unpredictable. Whether it’s been due to injuries or personal reasons, the flashy guard has missed some time. When he is on the court and locked in, there are few more exciting players in basketball. But merited or not, there is some level of uncertainty attached to his name.
* The Brooklyn Nets still have some fine-tuning left to do at the end of their roster. They currently have 16 players on standard contracts and must get down to 15 before the start of the regular season. The final spot seems like it’ll be between Sekou Doumbouya and DeAndre’ Bembry, the latter of which is on a non-guaranteed contract. Brooklyn can waive Bembry and incur a $750,000 dead cap hit, or they could probably trade Doumbouya for draft compensation and get off his $3.6 million salary. They also have another two-way slot to fill which will likely be decided on during training camp.
* James Harden and Kyrie Irving are eligible for extensions and Sean Marks has confirmed that negotiations are ongoing. Harden can extend for up to a maximum of three years, $161 million, and Irving can extend for up to a maximum of four years projected at $187 million. Securing commitments from both players after signing Kevin Durant to a maximum extension would cap off a very strong offseason by the Nets front office. Nicolas Claxton is also eligible for an extension throughout the season.
* Despite being very deep in almost every position, the Nets can still be an aggressive team in the trade market. Their appetite to spend, as well as their on-court performance with the current roster, will decide if they want to make a significant trade or not. They have two trade exceptions each worth $11.45 million and $6.3 which can be used to acquire a handful of role players. Given that they already have a full roster costing $290 million, Brooklyn could hold onto their trade exceptions past the trade deadline. The Nets will be limited with the amount of salary they can bring back in a trade otherwise since they have such little tradeable salary after their four highest-paid players. The Nets might be better off avoiding the trade market and pursuing veterans in the buyout market, which is a good bet given their track record last season.
1st in the Atlantic Division, 1st in the Eastern Conference