Thus far, the Brooklyn Nets have had amongst the easiest schedules in the NBA. Unfortunately, that is about to change.
Never discredit the resolve of a team, undermine their character and toughness, but context is also important. A key factor in the Brooklyn Nets maintaining face despite plaguing injury problems has been the level of difficulty of opponents they’ve faced. Up to this point, the Nets have had the second-easiest schedule, according to Power Rankings Guru, but that is about to change.
Again, I want to make this clear, what the Nets have done sans Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert (and yes, Kevin Durant) has been nothing short of impressive. This season could’ve gone south, in a hurry. Fans should welcome a 16-16 record heading into the new calendar year—all things considering.
They’ve played far beyond what they are on paper with this shorthanded roster.
These are the hard times.
At the end of the day, I think you have to be okay with a 16-16 record sitting as a 7th seed—all things considering. We know whose in street clothes and will be gearing up soon, the Nets just have to try and stay face until then.
— Nolan Jensen (@N_Jensen95) December 31, 2019
However, you have to note that 12 of their 16 wins have come against opponents with a sub-.500 record. Ultimately, you have to take care of business, but that has definitely helped the situation.
The Nets have gotten away with severe offensive stagnation because the level of competition has rarely been able to take advantage of deficiencies in that regard. They’ve played with a much higher level of intensity defensively, but having a 27th-ranked offense over their past 21 games won’t get it done against the juggernauts in either conference.
Simply put: as constructed, they don’t have the firepower to fend off teams destined to play deep into April/May. Unfortunately, that is exactly the type of competition on the schedule in the first three weeks of January.
With no official timetable for when Irving or LeVert will return, these coming weeks could be hellacious for Kenny Atkinson’s squad.
Their next five contests are all against playoff teams: Mavericks, Raptors, Magic, Thunder, and Heat. They get a pick-me-up game against the Atlanta Hawks to follow, but immediately after that, they have to see the Jazz, Sixers (x2), Lakers, and Bucks.
The Nets get to ring in this new year against some of the NBA’s best. Lucky them. In fact, according to Tankathon, the Nets are faced with the seventh-hardest schedule the remainder of the season. That’s not to say they’re going to fold like a deck of cards. But it doesn’t get much tougher for a depleted roster that is in desperate need of reinforcements.
Thus far, they are 5-8 against teams currently in the playoff picture. Though that is relatively respectable, they can ill afford to play any worse than that currently sitting at 16-16. Again, who knows, maybe LeVert suits up (and I don’t mean wearing a tailored Tom Ford on the sidelines) in the next few games. Or maybe, just maybe, Irving does as well. There are plenty of intangibles here, but I’m looking at who is currently active right now. Hence the slight pessimism.
Atkinson has made a career as a head coach who can get more with less, and elevate his players to newfound heights. If anyone can get them through rough patches, it’s him. He’s more than proved that.
Oh, I should mention, there is a silver lining here. Once they get through these stretch of games, there next seven will be against teams below .500. Yay for NBA schedule makers.