Can the Nets make a playoff run without KD?
Kevin Durant hit the deck and was helped off the floor in game five of the 2019 NBA Finals. The entire Brooklyn Nets fanbase collectively gasped, or they would have if they had known Durant would be signing a 4-year, $164 million contract in the upcoming summer.
Just as the Knicks lost out on almost every big-name free agent this summer, the Nets cashed in, big time. They signed, debatably, the best player in the NBA, as well as NBA champion and 6-time All-Star Kyrie Irving. They also signed DeAndre Jordan to bring in a veteran presence come playoff time. The question remains, though, do the Nets have what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs without their marquee free-agent?
To say the Nets are without stars while Durant is injured would be folly. After two disappointing, injury-riddled years in Boston, people tend to forget how good Irving was. In his first season with the team he averaged 24 points per game along with 5 assists. He followed the season after with 23 and 6 in the season after. The All-star point guard can still lead a team and is poised to do so without Durant for the 2019-2020 season.
Another player with potential star power that will need to contribute big time is Michigan product, Caris LeVert. Last season, LeVert was in position for a breakout year, averaging 18 points per game. However, a brutal ankle injury caused him to miss over half the season. If LeVert can return to that level of play, Irvng will have a much lighter load.
Young core plus veteran presence
After the disaster that was the 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics, the Nets picks have been few and far between. Drafting good role players like Jarrett Allen, Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs and Nicolas Claxton has made the trade sting a little less. However, most of their young core has been assembled through trades. Players such as Taurean Prince, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie will all need to contribute for the Nets to be successful.
Moreover, the young players won’t be going through this alone. In addition the the veteran presence in the locker room, Irving will be leading the way. Irving aside from already winning a Championship by hitting one of the biggest shots in NBA history, he has voiced his desire to be “the guy” on a team. He got the chance in Boston, but it didn’t work out as well. Here’s his second chance. With a host of veteran talent that includes the likes of Jordan, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler, Irving will be taking the reign of this young core.
Brooklyn has one of the best bench units in the NBA, competing with the young Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers. Last year, the Nets’ bench ranked second in efficiency and points right behind the Clippers. If the bench unit can stay healthy, this team will succeed.
The East isn’t dominated by Irving’s former teammate, LeBron James. However, the looming presence of international superstar and 2018-2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo makes things more complicated. The Milwaukee Buck’s dominated the East last year, with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Indiana Pacer right behind them. The threats haven’t subsided and won’t take it easy just because Durant is sidelined. Thus, the Nets will need to depend on Iriving’s leadership, their rising stars, and whether or not they can stay healthy.