This is the first installment of our preseason ‘Hot Take’ series where each Bright Side writer put his foot down on a take that’s at least a little contrary to popular opinion. First up: Omar, and the Brooklyn Nets.
This NBA offseason has fundamentally changed the landscape of the NBA, especially among the top teams. The Lakers and the Clippers are fighting for Western/LA superiority, the Warriors are trying to rebound after a tough finals loss and the Rockets are all in with Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The East is even messier with Milwaukee and Philadelphia fighting for the top with teams like Boston, Indiana, Toronto and Orlando racing behind them.
There is one team that has gotten a lot of attention for their moves and how they’ve turned their team around and it’s the Brooklyn Nets. The team signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to four-year deals and looks to take over the league once Durant is healthy.
However, I don’t believe we’ll see the Nets win the East with those two.
Durant’s impending free agency was perhaps the biggest story during the NBA season last year. People were convinced he would sign with the New York Knicks or that he’d go to the Clippers or that he’d stay in Golden State. At the end of the day, he and Irving took their talents to Brooklyn, an up and coming team that just made the playoffs last year.
There’s so much to be positive about but there are also reasons to not believe in this team.
The biggest is the Achilles tear Durant suffered in the Finals, perhaps the most devastating injury in basketball. It’s going to take probably a year for Durant to get himself back to 70-80% of what he was and that’s if he doesn’t have any setbacks. Remember, in 2015 Durant suffered a foot injury which basically plagued him the entire season and he had multiple setbacks on it. Kobe Bryant, the year he came back from his Achilles tear, tore his ACL, effectively killing whatever he had left in his tank. Demarcus Cousins two years ago suffered a torn Achilles and he hasn’t been the same since. The one positive for Durant is that he isn’t a big man that’s carrying a lot of weight and can shoot from practically anywhere. However, he’s also seven feet and 31 years old, he doesn’t have fresh legs and his length could make his rehab tougher to deal with.
It’s probably going to take Durant another season beyond this one just to get himself back at 100% and by that time, we have no idea what the league will look like since Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lebron James and others could be free agents. There could be a new superpower in the East or the Nets could regress after such a promising 2018-19 season. Even if there’s no major changes in the East, we have no idea if Durant can return back to his prime at that time given everything that’ll come from that. Prime Durant is perhaps the best player in the East but that’s not including the leaps Giannis take in those years or what the Celtics or 76ers look like. He’s gonna need help regardless of the circumstance.
This leads me to the second star on the team, Kyrie Irving. Irving is one of the best point guards in the league and he’s got some of the best handles ever but he’s also got some problems. We just saw the biggest issue during his time in Boston, he wasn’t able to rally the troops behind him in a way that Lebron James and other greats have done. The team was ravaged with drama and turmoil, failing to live up to their finals potential.
That shouldn’t matter since you’d assume Durant is the leader yet in his opening press conference, Irving went out of his way to proclaim himself as Durant’s protector and to make sure he doesn’t rush out. We know that Irving wanted out of Cleveland because he wanted his own team and we know KD felt like an outsider in Golden State. Now, I highly doubt the two would willingly sign on the same team if they haven’t had a conversation about this. There’s a good chance the two already know how they want to play but what we don’t know is how Durant will come back from his injury. If the team fails to succeed or if Durant can’t be the guy but expect to be the guy, there could be some friction and that could tank any chance for a title.
Another issue we saw in Boston is Irving isn’t good enough to carry a team to the promised land as the only star. We saw him shine with LeBron in Cleveland but the team got bullied by Milwaukee last season after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals without him. By the time Durant is healthy, we can’t expect him to be one of the three best players in the world and we know Irving’s limit is around the top 10 players, good but not good enough to carry a team to the promised land.
A good solution to this problem is to build a deep team around them and while the Nets have some solid players, I don’t know if they got a team ready to beat the top dogs in the NBA. Their lack of experience is a hole they need to get through and they need point guard Spencer Dinwiddle to continue to grow like he did last year (average nearly 17 ppg.)
Now, there’s a massive chance I’m wrong on this take. Brooklyn crawled out of the hellhole they were in and made themselves a playoff contender. They’re run by smart people and for all we know, Durant can come back and look like the top tier superstar he was in Oklahoma and Golden State. Irving might take the lesson of Boston and redeem himself in Brooklyn and the two would form a dangerous duo that rips the East apart for years to come. The team can take the next two years to grow and build off each other and by year three they can finally make a finals run. The Brooklyn Nets were the big winner in the free agency dance, landing two All-stars, one of which is a generational talent. This team should be a title contender for years but a horrific injury should have us concerned over their chances. All I know is that it’s an exciting time to be a Brooklyn Nets fan.