Early in this 2020-2021 NBA season, there have been some unexpected breakout teams and players, but in my opinion there is one team that has exceeded all expectations and elevated themselves above the rest of the Eastern Conference. That team is the Brooklyn Nets.
I’ll be the first person to admit it; I was pretty skeptical of how the Brooklyn Nets would turn out. I thought there were too many unanswered questions. For example: Can Kevin Durant be 90-95% of himself after the Achilles injury? Can Kyrie learn to embrace a team atmosphere and stay quiet for an entire season? How will first year head coach Steve Nash handle all these personalities, and get the best out of his two superstars? Well, all you had to do was watch their opening game versus the Warriors and you pretty much got the answer to all those questions.
In the first game of the season versus the Warriors, Kevin Durant immediately came sprinting out of the gates with a quick 10 points in the first 5 minutes of the game. Durant looked comfortable on the floor, hitting jump shots, and getting to the basket at will. It’s quite remarkable considering how tough Achilles injuries can be with players of his size. Durant and Kyrie combined for 48 points as they routed the Warriors 125-99.
It should have been more obvious. Any team with two generational talents like Kyrie and Durant is going to be a title contender and win a bunch of regular season games. My biggest caveat with the Nets was just wanting to see it. Now that the team has played three regular season games, and blown out two good teams in the Warriors and the Celtics, I think it’s safe to say that the Nets will finish as a top three seed in the East. Like I mentioned earlier, if Durant and Kyrie can stay healthy, and produce at the level they are right now, there’s no saying how good this team can be. Where it really gets scary is their bench unit, and how well the rest of the team fits in with the two stars. Deandre Jordan and Jarrett Allen are both quality big men who provide rebounding and defense, with the occasional easy dunk or alley oop. Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert are two of the more underrated guards that we have in our league, and having a scorer like Levert leading your bench unit is a luxury that most of the teams in the NBA do not have.
Unfortunately, the Brooklyn Nets announced Monday that Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. This is definitely a huge blow to the team, but I don’t think it will matter much in the postseason if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are both producing. It might lower their outlook on the regular season, but I think there are enough quality guys like Joe Harris and Landry Shamet to help fill in the offense that Dinwiddie provided for them. The point being, the Nets are extremely deep and have multiple guys who could easily give them 20 on any given night. Like I mentioned earlier, having that type of luxury includes them in a group of only a few elite teams.
As of right now, the only two teams that I think are on the same level in terms of star power and bench talent are the Lakers and Clippers. I think teams like the Bucks, Mavericks, Celtics, Nuggets, and 76ers are all one piece away from being in that upper tier, but for now, the list ends with Nets, Lakers, and Clippers. All in all, I’m admitting that I was wrong on the Brooklyn Nets and their potential. Maybe there’s a Kyrie controversy looming or an unfortunate Durant injury, but as of right now, it’s hard to see a world where the Nets aren’t in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the way that the Bucks and Celtics have looked so far this season, they could be looking at a Finals matchup versus the Lakers or Clippers. Putting a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the Finals with something to prove could be bad news for the rest of the league. If both can stay healthy with no off court drama, the Brooklyn Nets will be a powerhouse this year and for many years to come.