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How far can Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving take the Nets?
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Steve Aschburner: Based on their fragile egos and injury histories, I’m inclined to say this Brooklyn initiative won’t survive the Eastern Conference semifinals. Neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving are natural leaders, and the chafing that traditionally would go in between the media in a major market and their touchy personalities could chip away at the team’s basketball goals. But Zoom sessions can’t be nearly as annoying as crushing, in-person scrums. And the East is competitive enough that it’s hard to count out any of six or seven possible survivors. Don’t see the Nets winning a title anytime soon, but I can’t muster much of a case for them being incapable of reaching The Finals.
Shaun Powell: The ceiling for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is definitely the NBA Finals because the East lacks a superteam — actually, the Lakers are the only superteam in the NBA — and the feeling is those stars can coexist. However, if the support help in Brooklyn falters or struggles to connect with those two, then the Nets are just another top-five East team.
John Schuhmann: A healthy and engaged Kevin Durant could be the best player in the league, and not just because of his offense. Over the last 10 seasons, there have been 12 instances of a player averaging at least 25 points with a true shooting percentage of 63% or better, and Durant accounts for six. But the Nets’ first preseason game was as much a reminder of how much of a force he can be defensively. So the ceiling is obviously high, and the Nets have a lot of solid players around their two stars. If it all comes together, a championship isn’t out of the question.
Sekou Smith: Call me crazy, but I think the Nets could make The Finals with KD and Kyrie. We’re talking about two of the league’s most talented players with championships already under their belts. Durant’s a two-time Finals MVP. And Kyrie hit the biggest shot in Cavaliers history as he helped them fight back from 3-1 down to shock the 73-win Warriors in 2016. I’m not suggesting the Nets have everything in place for this team to scale those heights this season. But they certainly can if a bunch of things fall their way and KD and Kyrie are healthy and leading the way.
Michael C. Wright: As good as those two are, the Nets are probably the sixth seed in the East. But the fun part of that is Durant and Irving are talented enough to take Brooklyn all the way to the conference finals. That’s not exactly a hot take. Both dazzled in the preseason opener, and I’m really not buying into concerns about whether the partnership can work throughout the season because of the solid coaching staff and front office in Brooklyn.