Brooklyn fans have a lot to be happy about with the Nets signing two absolute studs in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Both guys are coming from playoff teams where they were the best players on their respective teams. However, Kevin Durant is going to miss all the upcoming season with an achilles injury. What this means is that Kyrie Irving is going to have to lead a young group of guys to the promised land similar to what he had to do in Boston. Can a team win with Kyrie Irving as their best player?
The Other Guys
Who’s Replacing Kevin Durant?
For the past few seasons, the Nets have had a nice core of players that have been solid enough for NBA mediocrity. Kevin Durant being out is a tough hit, but he’ll have some good players in his absence. Joe Harris and Taurean Prince will split time at the small forward position. Joe Harris led the NBA in 3pt% last season. He’s one of those guys you love to have in late-game situations because of his consistent shooting. Taurean Prince is a young player coming over from the Hawks who has improved his efficiency each year in the league. Nobody in the world can replace what Kevin Durant does for their team, but the Nets have a good backup plan at their disposal.
The Nets have the luxury of having two players capable of starting for them at the center position. One’s an up-and-coming star while the other is a solidified powerhouse with a great resumé in the league. Jarrett Allen is the 21-year old rim protector hoping to start for the Nets. DeAndre Jordan is the former superstar (now star?) who may end up starting in Brooklyn. Personally, I believe that Allen should start as he is young yet also proven. I could see Jordan starting for the simple fact of clout. He has been in the league longer, proven himself longer and has an in with Kyrie and KD. We’ll see if Kyrie has the power to decide the lineup he wants or if coach Kenny Atkinson will start the best lineup possible.
The Nets didn’t have any picks in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. However, they were still able to select two quality players at picks 31 and 56. Nicolas Claxton went at 31. Claxton is a big man (6’11 220) from the University of Georgia. I expect Claxton to see some action from the bench split between the 4 and 5 positions. He was 10th in the nation in blocks in his final season at UGA, leading me to believe he can find a good spot in the NBA. Then, Brooklyn selected Jaylen Hands (6’3 175) from UCLA with the 56th pick. Hands is a point guard with phenomenal passing vision. He is also great from 3, but his passing ability and craftiness is what could separate him in the NBA and grant him the opportunity to lock down a roster spot.
Spencer Dinwiddie offers a lot more than a super cool name. Dinwiddie has really grown into his role as the 6th man in Brooklyn with improvements each season. I could see him developing into a Lou Williams type of player for the remainder of his career. He provides immediate scoring the instant he comes onto the court. The 2018 Skills Challenge Champion will allow Kyrie to catch his breath and not have to worry about the team shitting themselves when he’s off the court. Dinwiddie is the type of player that is essential to a team succeeding in the playoffs. If the Nets have any hope beyond Kyrie Irving, it’s with Spencer Dinwiddie.
Caris LeVert is bound to do great this upcoming season. Last season, his year was cut short due to injuries. He is going to more than likely be the best offensive starter on the court outside of Kyrie. His shooting improved greatly when he returned from injuries last season. He was the big shot taker in Brooklyn before they had anyone like Kyrie. A full season of LeVert will benefit him and the Nets greatly. A playoff series could depend on him with the likely hood that the opposing team will be doing everything in their power to shut down Kyrie. I have high hopes for LeVert going into this season.
Finally, we get to talk about the elephant in the room. Kyrie Irving is a profound athlete who is without a doubt different than any superstar the league has seen before. Irving has a unique view of the world and things around him and tends to speak in a sophisticated manner. None of that should matter on the court, but it always seems to make its way into effecting the play of the team around Kyrie. Hopefully he doesn’t rub the younger guys the wrong way as he did in Boston. Individually, Irving is going to put up 25-30ppg and do everything in his power for his team to succeed. He’ll take all the last shots and I’m sure will have some amazing buzzer beaters this season. Nobody doubts his talent, but Kyrie needs to decide between doing everything for his team or if he wants to relay some responsibility to the “other guys” I have previously mentioned.
Brooklyn Nets 2019-2020 NBA Season Outcome
Much of what will happen with this Brooklyn Nets team is currently unknown. We need to watch this team play and see how it’ll go having Kyrie at the helm. Looking at talent alone, this team could make a case for a 5-8 seed in the weaker Eastern Conference. Injuries and team chemistry are what dictate the actual result of a team’s season year in and year out. Last season, the Celtics had the talent to make it to the NBA Finals. What they didn’t have was the team chemistry to work together and create a fluid system of offense and defense. As of right now, I predict the Nets will get the 7th seed and get swiftly knocked out of the first round. Next season with Kevin Durant returning, the Brooklyn Nets will be representing the Eastern Conference in the 2020-2021 NBA Finals.
-Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)