The Brooklyn Nets are one of the surprise teams in the Orlando bubble, but it might not do much to alter the franchise’s long-term plans.
The Brooklyn Nets are so much fun right now. Although they might be slightly overshadowed by the highs of the Phoenix Suns and the lows of the New Orleans Pelicans, the Nets are right up there with the best stories from the NBA’s bubble.
Caris LeVert and Joe Harris are playing some of the best basketball of their careers. Jarrett Allen is taking another leap forward in almost every facet of his game, including his passing and court vision. Not to mention, Jacque Vaughn is making a strong case to drop the interim tag and become the full-time head coach.
But the sad part of this is that this might not mean much for the future of the team. The Nets are still Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s team. Add in the fact that a four-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors is likely coming and it’s clear that this feel-good story has an expiration date.
The Good Stuff
Let’s talk about some of the good stuff going on in Orlando because it’s not fair to ignore it. Coming into Orlando, all eyes were on LeVert. With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Spencer Dinwiddie all opting out, LeVert was the clear top dog.
Could he play the part?
LeVert is putting up 22.6 points and 6.3 assists per game in the bubble. Without Irving and Dinwiddie, LeVert has been thrust into a lead playmaking role and he’s exceeding everyone’s expectations. In Sunday’s upset win over the Los Angeles Clippers, LeVert dropped a career-high 13 assists.
Moving onto Harris. The sharpshooter is averaging 20.2 points per game on 61.5% shooting and 57.6% from three-point range. If there was any question about where Harris ranks among the elite shooters in the league, he’s answering all of the doubters.
Big man Allen is taking on his newfound role with complete poise. He’s averaging 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds, but his double-double average is hardly his most impressive stat. With added touches at the elbows, he’s upped his assists per game to 4.2.
But we should be giving credit to all the Nets in the bubble, not just Brooklyn’s current big three. In fact, all we have to do is look to Brooklyn’s shocking upset over the first-place Milwaukee Bucks. LeVert, Harris, and Allen all sat that night.
It was Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scoring 26 points and Chris Chiozza chipping in with a double-double that took down the Bucks. Sure, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton only played sparingly, but that’s beside the point.
The Nets deserve all the credit in the world for the fight they are showing in the bubble.
The Immediate Future
Avoiding Milwaukee in the first round is a big plus for Brooklyn. Despite the fact that a severely shorthanded Nets squad beat Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a seeding game, that’s not going to happen in a seven-game series.
They have a slightly better chance of pulling off the upset against the Toronto Raptors, but let’s be real about it—the defending champions are going to take down these Nets in four games. At most, the Nets will steal a game and go down by way of the “gentleman’s sweep.” Either way, it’s going to be nearly impossible for Brooklyn to advance past the first round.
Despite losing Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors look like a team on a mission. Stifling defense, egalitarian offense, and top-notch coaching are hallmarks of these Raptors, with or without Kawhi. It’s not a favorable matchup for the Nets.
The Long-Term Future
It’s easy to start looking at the guys showing out in Orlando and trying to figure out where they fit as pieces in the puzzle. Is LeVert the third option Durant and Irving need? Can Allen be the rock in the middle of the floor that anchors the defense? Is Jacque Vaughn the right man to lead this team to a championship or multiple?
The truth is, we still don’t know the answers to any of these questions. The six games in the bubble have been super fun to watch and obviously, this squad is exceeding everyone’s expectations.
But again, we don’t know if these games mean anything in Brooklyn’s plans for the future. Everything still revolves around Durant and Irving. Sure, these games could lead to a new plan in Brooklyn, but they might be nothing more than a few weeks of fun basketball for fans to enjoy. And that’s OK.