The Brooklyn Nets are on a 4 game win streak after routing the Oklahoma City Thunder 147-125 on Friday and are 8-2 in their last 10 contests. This recent stretch has locked them into the second seed in the Eastern conference, and the team is still getting used to playing with each other. Is this sort of success sustainable?
After the blockbuster trade that sent former MVP James Harden to Brooklyn, two major concerns arose for the team. The first was depth, as Brooklyn had to shell out a good portion of their roster to make the Harden trade happen. Sixth man of the year candidate Caris Levert and budding young center Jarrett Allen were among those moved in the trade, forcing the Nets to start the Deandre Jordan and crank up their starter minutes. The star trio of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant are all averaging over 35 minutes per game. As long as the three players can stave off injuries they might be OK, but aggravating a previous injury is the last thing Irving and Durant want.
The second concern was the chemistry of the three players, all known to be very ball dominant scorers. Durant has a proven track record from his days on the Golden State Warriors sharing shots with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. The difference there was that both guards excel off the ball thanks to their elite shooting, but sharing the shot selection was still a challenge to overcome. Kyrie and Harden have also shared the court with some elite players, but never before have three MVP caliber players in their prime joined together on a team before.
As it stands right now, the production and efficiency of these three have been nothing short of impressive. Just take a look at these season averages…
Kevin Durant (15 games): 30.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 51.7 FG%, 44.4 3P%, 85.9 FT%
Kyrie Irving (13 games): 27.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 52.7 FG%, 41.9 3P%, 94 FT%
Harden (8 games in BKN): 24.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 11.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 48.4 FG%, 40 3P%, 87.7%
As the singular leader of a team these numbers would be impressive. The fact that these players can share a court with these averages is insane. Harden has entered a playmaker role, making a stronger attempt to find open shots for his teammates than for himself. Durant and Kyrie are passing the ball just as well looking at the assist numbers, and their recent play has put to rest the iso ball memes.
Of course, they benefit from their fellow starters being professional off-ball offensive weapons. Deandre Jordan never dribbles the basketball and Joe Harris is one of the most elite catch and shoot guards in the league. Their skills perfectly compliment their star teammates.
Depth comes back into play, as Harris is the only other active Brooklyn Net scoring double digits per game (14.3). The next closest is Jeff Green at 8.3 per game. The lack of production from the bench is worrisome, but the overall offense is still potent. At the end of January, the Nets were the most prolific scoring team in the NBA to the tune of 121 points per game. The Bucks come in second at 120.1, then the rest of the pack falls behind.
The last concern is perhaps the most important. Despite their deadly offense, the Nets allow opponents to score 116.2 points per game. Only 4 teams in the league allow more points. If the Nets hope to compete for a championship this season, they’re going to have to tighten up their defense, especially if they get matched up with Eastern conference giants such as reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and current MVP front-runner Joel Embiid.
Will this Big 3 experiment work out in the end? Only time will tell. Just brace yourself for next season when they can sign free agents.
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