Can the Brooklyn Nets overcome their lack of continuity with sheer talent when the playoffs start? That’s the magic question.
The Brooklyn Nets are battling the Philadelphia 76ers for first place and home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference, but these two teams are winning in different ways.
Outside of an injury that took Joel Embiid out for a few weeks, the Sixers have had Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris healthy for most of the season. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s big three of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden have only played in seven games together.
The Nets are betting big on their overwhelming talent beating out the continuity that other contenders are building.
Here is a breakdown of Brooklyn's record since the James Harden trade. The Nets have only had Harden-Durant-Irving in seven of 48 games pic.twitter.com/dEXGGuokOB
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) April 26, 2021
Head coach Steve Nash is going to have to create his playoff rotations on the fly. If everyone is healthy, he will have the luxury of always having a superstar on the court, but Nash might have to continue tweaking his lineups for much of the postseason.
The continuity questions apply to the entire roster, not just the big three. The Nets have had 27 different players suit up in a game this season, the most in franchise history. That list includes former All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who retired due to a heart condition after playing just five games for Brooklyn.
Midseason additions like Blake Griffin and Alize Johnson are still figuring out where they fit on this roster. There are even murmurs that Spencer Dinwiddie may be back in time for a deep run into June after undergoing ACL surgery earlier this year.
In short, the playoff Nets are going to look like a much different team than fans have seen all season long—assuming they can get healthy by that point.
The 2021 Nets Aren’t the 2020 Clippers
The 2019-20 Clippers are a team many are pointing to as a cautionary tale for the Nets. The Clippers were a title contender after adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the offseason, but they fell in the Western Conference Semifinals to the upstart Nuggets.
The biggest reason for the Clippers’ demise was their lack of continuity. They chose to give ample rest to Leonard and George during the regular season in the hopes of keeping them healthy for a playoff run. They were healthy, but they didn’t have the chemistry for a deep run.
The Nets have had less time to build that chemistry. Harden is out with an injury and might not be back until the playoffs. Durant has missed significant time due to multiple injuries. Not to mention, Irving has taken multiple personal leaves from the team.
Obviously, the Nets are vulnerable due to this lack of continuity, but these two teams are not a one-to-one comparison.
For starters, the Nets have way more talent than the Clippers. Durant and Leonard are even, but Harden is clearly a step above George and there was no third star who could hold a candle to Kyrie this year. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are nice players, but neither comes close to what Irving brings to the court.
Brooklyn’s path to a championship won’t be without its challenges. There will be a few bumps in the road that will cause fans and media to count them out.
But with all that said, it’s difficult to see any team in the NBA slowing down Durant, Harden, and Irving enough to win four times in seven games. Don’t let the lack of continuity overshadow the fact that the Nets have the most talented team in the league.