This is the question that not just Brooklyn Nets fans are asking themselves this year, but anyone who is interested in basketball. And if the Nets do emerge as the ultimate champions it’s going to be a historic day for the team.
After all, you have to go back to the 2001-2 and 2002-3 seasons when they last won the Eastern Conference – and they’ve never won the title outright. But, as we will see, things are looking very promising at this stage.
The fact that the season has been reduced to 72 games instead of the usual 82 may well work in their favor. That’s because, in previous seasons, they have tended to fade as the time has gone on. But with ten fewer games to play, a strong finish is more likely.
The season so far
In terms of the season so far, it’s been a strong one and at the start of February they have firmly established themselves at second place behind the 76ers in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and third overall with the Milwaukee Bucks marginally ahead of them.
Of course, there’s a long way to go until the season proper ends in March and there are teams from the Western Conference to also be taken into account. Naturally, from that side of the country, we can’t overlook the Los Angeles Lakers odds to winning it all, even though they’ve started to look a little more vulnerable as the season’s gone on. Utah Jazz are also having a great season with an upper 0.7 win percentage.
That said, when you check out the betting odds at a sportsbook, they’re a long way off competing with the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks and Nets and being genuine favorites for the title. But, standing at second favorites at the start of February, it really is starting to look promising for the Brooklyn team.
On the attack
Many commentators have agreed that the big difference for the Nets this season is just how strong their offense has become with a powerhouse line-up consisting of a collection of very starry names indeed.
To see this in action and the results it has brought, you only have to look at the Nets’ points per game average. At 122.3 after 23 games have been played it’s the sort of stat that can see them making it all the way to the finals. Their 147-125 score line against Oklahoma City Thunder on January 29th was one of the best examples so far this season of their awesome scoring power.
Offense always has to be balanced with defense if a team isn’t just going to produce high-scoring losses. So it may be a bit of a concern that they’re not quite as strong in this department. However, the old adage that a team can’t possibly prosper without a strong defense has come into question in recent times. The game has evolved to such an extent that an overpoweringly effective offense that’s capable of scoring virtually at will can easily counteract weaknesses that might let the opposition rack up a competitive score.
The winning trio
Behind the Nets’ success this season are a powerhouse trio who, while they have only recently come together, have gelled from the start.
First up, there’s Kevin Durant. Following his move from the Golden State Warriors in advance of the 2019-20 season his first year turned out to be something of a non-event. He was sidelined for the whole season due to injury so it wasn’t until December 22nd 2020 that he made his first appearance against, ironically, the Warriors. With 22 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals to his name he made an immediate impression and continues to do so. He was also named Player of the Week for January 11th -17th, a title he stands every chance of winning again.
Joining at around the same time as Durant, but from the Celtics in his case, Kyrie Irving was far quicker to make his mark. In his debut against the Minnesota Timberwolves he became the first ever player to score 50 points in a first outing for a team and continued to go from strength to strength until a serious shoulder injury put his playing career on hold. But now he’s back and leading the points scoring more often than not.
KD and Irving formed a pretty formidable offensive partnership already. But the triple whammy came with the arrival of James Harden in January 2021 from the Rockets. Just two days after signing he made history as the first player in the history of the Nets to log a triple double in their debut for the team with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists in a 122-115 win over Orlando Magic, a feat which also won him the Player of the Week award.
Taken all together, this triumvirate are definitely making Steve Nash’s first season as head coach an easier task than it might have been. He’s still very much unproven but the signs are all there that he could turn out to be just as good at being in charge of a team as he was at playing for one.
As to whether he’ll go further and enjoy an achievement he never managed himself in a first season in charge we’ll just have to wait and see. But all the signs are certainly looking positive.