The Brooklyn Nets are in a good place. Obviously. Currently, they’re tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for being Dat Beast in the east. The Nets have won 14 of their last 15 after a string of Ls, including an embarrassing 122-111 loss to the Detroit Pistons, which really woke the team up and brought them together, particularly on focusing on defense.
“They Need To Play Defense!”
Duh. For the first 26 games of the season, up to that Detroit loss, the Nets gave up 118.4 points per game to opposing offenses. Afterward, in the next 15 games, they’ve locked down a bit more and have only given up 109.9. For the whole season, the Nets are ranked 26th, allowing 115.3 points per game. If we used that 109.9 points allowed number, among the team defensive stats leaders, they’d be seventh overall.
We need to remember, new players, new coaching staff, new defense… it was going to take some time to figure out. In fact, they’re still figuring it out. But, the switching defense is beginning to flow as players are learning the nuances and communication needed. While the defense will need to adjust once Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin come back from injury, and any other new player they bring in, the philosophy is taking root and the execution is beginning to blossom.
Speaking of bringing in a new player…
“They Need To Get Andre Drummond/A Wing Defender/Fax Machine!”
Do they? Currently constructed, I’d say the Nets have the right formula going on right now. They have the Scary Hours trio of Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. They have the primary shooters/space creators in Joe Harris and Landry Shamet, both of whom you shouldn’t sleep on their takes to the cup. They have the rolling bigs in DeAndre Jordan and Nic Claxton. They have their glue guy and leader in Uncle Jeff Green, and possibly Griffin as well. They have the energy guys off the bench in Tyler Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. And you have whatever the hell you want to call Bruce Brown.
Don’t get me wrong, Nets fans have been like the typical nerd in John Hughes movies that are now all of a sudden getting the girl, so I’m not kicking Drummond out of my team, but do we really need him? I understand, acquiring talent should be the game we continue to play, but some people make it sound like Drummond is the key to a chip.
Guess who our best “new” player will be and an actual key to a chip – KD the Slim Reaper. Durant hasn’t played since 2/13 due to a hamstring injury, and the Nets are taking their time in bringing him back. Fortunately, Brooklyn has that luxury, but make no mistake, Durant will be their best addition.
As far as a wing defender being needed to improve their (already improving) defense… should I mention again, the Nets play a switching defense, not a man-to-man defense, so having a specific wing defender role player is actually moot. You know who the wing defender is? Whoever happens to be defending on the wing.
The fax machine is one of those, “if you know, you know” kind of things. Shout out to Kyle Korver!
“They Need To Win Now Because They Traded Away Their Future!”
Okay, to some degree, I’ll concede here. Specifically, that they need to win now, but for me, it’s more so people can just shut the hell up because if the Nets don’t win, the Haterade will be flowing all over the interwebs. Not that I can’t take it, it’s just unoriginal and non-productive.
You want to discuss why the Nets might lose to the Sixers or Milwaukee Bucks, or how whoever comes out of the west planned their defense perfectly to win, or why Steve Nash’s decision impacted the game coming out of a timeout in the fourth quarter, I’m here for that. But, if you’re coming out with the intelligence of a grade schooler saying, “The Nets suck,” well, you can keep on passing me by.
As far as all of the draft picks Brooklyn gave up ownership to the Houston Rockets, let’s take a look:
The Rockets have the right to swap first round picks in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027. Houston outright owns the Nets’ first round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026.
Right off the bat, this year’s pick swap is done. The Rockets, we can safely say, won’t finish better than the Nets, am I right? So, the Nets can check off one of seven draft picks owed off the list. How about the following years?
Currently, Kyrie (28 years old), Harden (31), and Durant (32) are signed for next season, and have player options for the 2022-23 season. For argument’s sake, let’s say all three pick up their options because it’d be difficult for Kyrie ($36.6 million), Harden ($47.4 million), and Durant ($42.8 million) to turn down that money. Theoretically. If everyone is healthy, surrendering the 2022 pick should be a pick in the high 20s. Okay, not too bad. In 2023, that pick swap won’t happen because I think the Rockets will still be in rebuild mode or just getting out of rebuild mode with a solid core. So, that’s three picks owed total out of seven that didn’t turn out too bad for the Nets.
There have been talks about extending all three players as soon as this offseason. At the end of their player option years after the 2022-23 season, Kyrie, Harden, and Durant will be 30, 33, and 34, respectively. At the very least, Kyrie will still be in his prime. Harden should be coming out of it and start to trend downward, but still be very effective. KD may want to quit hooping considering all of his business ventures, but maybe he gives it another go with Kai and Beard. Let’s say he does, then the 2024 draft pick will once again be low. After this season, only three more owed picks left.
And, this is the safe point to me. If the Nets can get passed the 2024 season as still being an excellent team, then the pick swaps in 2025 and 2027, as well as the 2026 totally surrendered pick doesn’t hurt as much. Again, theoretically. Remember, despite the potential pick swapping in the aforementioned two years, the Nets will still have a first round pick. It’s only in 2024 where they give something up with nothing in hand. When it’s broken down like this, maybe you can see it ain’t so bad in Brooklyn’s future.
So, despite society’s hunger for needing things now and wanting it short and sweet, acting on a sense of urgency lacks vision. And, thus far, Nets GM Sean Marks’ long view, his vision, has led the team to being title contenders. So, we all need to do like Marks at his press conferences and chill. Hopefully for Brooklyn, sometime soon, that chill will come with champagne.