When last seen, the Nets were … showing some moxie in the bubble, but ultimately getting swept by the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. Caris LeVert had some sensational moments and Jarrett Allen took a big step forward offensively, but what was the league’s eighth-ranked defense prior to the hiatus fell apart with several rotation players missing. The 122.9 points per 100 possessions the Nets allowed Toronto to score in the first round was the third highest mark for a team in any playoff series in the last 10 years (and 22.6 more than the Raptors scored in the conference semifinals).
What’s new? All of the above doesn’t really matter, because Kevin Durant is ready to make his Nets debut, recovered from the Achilles tear he suffered in the 2019 Finals. Kyrie Irving, who played just 20 games last season, is also back to run the point. To make things even more interesting, the Nets hired first time coach Steve Nash to bring it all together, and his staff includes Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire. With Durant and Irving under contract for just two more seasons, higher expectations come with a sense of urgency.
What’s missing: In a shortened season, the Nets don’t have a lot of time to figure out who and how good they are. Because Durant changes everything and because we’ve never seen this group together, it’s difficult to know if or how the Nets might need to retool between now and the trade deadline. All eyes will be on Durant when the season starts, but questions will center on how LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, who both seemingly need the ball in their hands, function around the two stars. Even if they fit well, there will be trade chatter.
POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:
Kyrie Irving | 27.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.4 apg
Had two 50-point games in the 20 he played prior to right shoulder surgery in March.
Caris LeVert | 18.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.4 apg
Has a lot in his off-the-dribble bag, but just 30% on catch-and-shoot 3s over the last two years.
Joe Harris | 14.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
44% from 3-point range (second among players with 500+ attempts) over the last three seasons.
Kevin Durant | 26.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg (2018-19)
His 55.1% in ’18-19 was the best mid-range shooting season (minimum 100 attempts) in 20+ years.
DeAndre Jordan | 8.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 0.9 bpg
Remains an elite rebounder at 32. His 16.4 boards per 36 minutes ranked second in the league.
Jarrett Allen | 11.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg
May not start, but should play more than Jordan. Made some nice, short-roll plays in the bubble.
Spencer Dinwiddie | 20.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.8 apg
One of the best in the league at getting to the basket and to the line off the dribble.
Jeff Green | 9.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 apg
The Nets are his ninth team in the last seven seasons. Could be used as a small-ball center.
Landry Shamet | 9.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.9 apg
Terrific shooter (40% from 3-point range in his two seasons), but doesn’t offer much else.
Brooklyn Nets, last 5 seasons
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The Nets are obviously one of the most difficult teams in the league to forecast. They have one of the three best players in the league, an offensive force that no defender can match up with. But it’s been 18 months since he last played, and he’s coming back from one of the most devastating injuries in sports. If Durant is 90% of his old self, the ceiling is very high and the Nets’ ability to contend for a championship will come down to chemistry and defense. We’ll be able to measure the defensive disposition early, but it may take some time for this team to really hit its stride.
Predicted finish: 46-26.
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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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