The Brooklyn Nets had a dramatic offseason, making a clear jump from a long-term rebuilding project to a bid for contention.
Ever since the famously disastrous trade in which the Nets gave up years of then-future draft picks in exchange for aging Boston Celtics stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the organization has been looking to rejoin the ranks of the competitive. In the last two seasons, it has done so, wielding a combination of internal draft picks and mid-level acquisitions to become a solid team with a promising future. This summer, though, the Nets demonstrated that they’re out of patience, using their significant salary-cap space to sign superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, as well as veteran big man DeAndre Jordan.
While Jordan may be well past his prime at this point, the duo of Irving and Durant is, from a pure talent perspective, a core worthy of an NBA Championship contender. Durant, for his part, stands to miss the entire 2019-20 season as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered during the NBA Finals. So it will be a season before the Nets can unleash the full power of their new core.
Irving, however, despite a very rocky tenure in Boston, remains one of the most skilled guards in the NBA, and should help the Nets make a marginal – and potentially significant – leap this coming season. His own new teammate and backup guard Spencer Dinwiddie (who has been terrific for Brooklyn) recently stated that Irving could challenge for the MVP award.
As for what the addition of Irving and Jordan without Durant (yet) means for the Nets this upcoming season, it’s actually difficult to say. We haven’t gotten quite close enough to the season to be seeing experts’ predictions or up-to-date betting odds just yet.
However, we can say with near certainty that U.S. gambling sites’ listings will at least have the Nets positioned with strong odds to make the playoffs. And it’s possible that we’ll see them with some of the better odds in the Eastern Conference to reach the Finals.
The argument can be made that only two or three teams are definitively ahead of the Nets, on paper. And the addition of Irving, in particular, is difficult to gauge, given that his immense talent and clear dissatisfaction more or less canceled each other out in Boston. An average Irving may not make the Nets that much better; an engaged and motivated version of the All-Star guard could propel the team to the conference’s top tier.
The main reason for optimism in the case of the 2019-20 Nets, though, isn’t the acquisitions so much as the fact that there was virtually no personnel cost in bringing Irving, Durant, and Jordan to Brooklyn. As mentioned, the Nets had already started to be a competitive team thanks to their own internal rebuilding efforts. And they kept the core of those efforts – Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, and Dinwiddie – in place, while also swinging a trade for versatile, young-ish veteran Taurean Prince.
Not many teams able to bring in stars of Irving’s and Durant’s caliber are also able to retain such strong cores – which is perhaps why LeVert (who was recently taken care of with his own contract extension) has been talking about chasing a title this year.
That may be a little ambitious. But as stated, we expect to see the Nets with strong playoff odds, decent Finals prospects, and the potential to take off if Kyrie Irving is as good as advertised. This could be a season in which the Nets rise to the top tier of the Eastern Conference. And if that happens, and Durant makes a full recovery (admittedly difficult with his particular injury), the stage could be set for the 2020-21 Nets to be legitimate championship contenders.