Will Brooklyn’s Big Three Bring Home a Championship This Season?
On January 14, the NBA exploded with the news that the Nets acquired former Rocket James Harden in a blockbuster four-team deal. The full trade was as follows:
- Nets receive: James Harden (via Rockets)
- Rockets receive: Victor Oladipo (via Pacers), Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, four future FRPs and four pick swaps (all via Brooklyn)
- Pacers receive: Caris LeVert (via Brooklyn), two future SRP (via Houston & Brooklyn), financial considerations (via Brooklyn)*
- Cavaliers receive: Jarrett Allen & Taurean Prince (via Brooklyn)
*Brooklyn added an additional second-round pick and cash considerations after it was revealed Caris LeVert would be out indefinitely with a mass on his kidney
The Nets now have a starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan, a formidable five in an Eastern Conference that also includes Giannis and Middleton with the Bucks and Jimmy Butler with a young Heat squad.
The Nets are now in the conversation to make — and potentially win — the NBA Finals this year. However, they also have several issues they need to address, both on the court and off of it.
Their Subpar Bench
This trade saw Brooklyn unload their roster and move several key pieces, namely Allen and LeVert. Losing Dinwiddie to a partially torn ACL doesn’t help either.
While the Nets are remarkably talented on offense, their defense has suffered, particularly when it comes to their bench. Allen was Brooklyn’s backup center who averaged 0.6 SPG and 1.6 BPG. As DeAndre Jordan moves into a full-time starter, Steve Nash now turns to Reggie Perry, the rookie forward-center from Mississippi State who has put up 3.7 PPG and 2.7 RPG in six games, and Nicolas Claxton, the second-year player who hasn’t played this season due to knee tendinopathy.
The Nets also have a bunch of young guys looking to step into bigger roles. Aside from Perry, they will be relying on Chris Chiozza, Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot, and Bruce Brown to help carry the load. The inexperience and meager defense of the Nets bench is a concern that should catch the eyes of their coaching staff and management.
The Harden trade wasn’t the only drama around the league that week. Kyrie Irving has been in the news a lot this season, most recently missing games for “personal reasons” and being caught violating Health and Safety Protocols by attending an indoor party without a mask.
Irving’s role has changed drastically over the course of his storied NBA career. After six seasons playing second fiddle to LeBron, he had decided he wanted his own team, which led him to be “the guy” on a young, hungry Celtics team that also didn’t pan out. He’s now on a superteam with two other gifted players hungry for a championship, which also comes with a decreased role. Metaphorically, he’s gone from being Batman’s Robin to Alfred alongside Batman and Robin. It’s unclear how Kyrie feels about now being the third option next to KD and Harden, and pairing this with his recent activity, it’ll surely make for a very interesting locker room dynamic ahead.
These two gaping holes may be a factor in whether or not the Nets make the Finals.
Can They Win a Title This Season?
Even though the Nets are the favorites to come out of the East, they’ll likely be facing the defending NBA Champions, the Lakers, who have been red hot on defense lately with an 8–2 record in their last ten games. LA also beats the Nets in depth, having multiple players capable of stepping up when LeBron or AD is out. Their team chemistry has been on fire as well, and will only go up as the season goes on. The big problems with the Nets have already been outlined, and given the sudden shift in pieces, it could be difficult to get into a rhythm, especially with the events over the past two weeks.
Assuming Brooklyn’s bench issues and the drama with Kyrie subside, I can see them taking the Lakers to seven games in the Finals. However, if this all blows up in Sean Marks’s face, the Lakers will be hoisting their 18th championship trophy at season’s end, and Brooklyn will have no one but itself to blame.