Let’s take a look at the 2021-22 Brooklyn Nets with a deep dive into a talented backcourt that features James Harden and maybe Kyrie Irving.
The Brooklyn Nets are as strong as any NBA team in the backcourt. They have bonafide star power in the starting lineup and beefed up the depth via free agency and the draft. This could be the best part of Brooklyn’s roster if everything breaks right.
James Harden is one of the best point guards in the NBA and he looked more than comfortable in that role during his half-season in Brooklyn.
Following the acquisition of Harden, Kyrie Irving declared his new teammate the point guard as Kyrie seamlessly fit into his role as an off-ball guard. Obviously, Irving’s availability plays a large part in how this unit shakes out, but more on that in a minute.
In the modern NBA, it’s hard to pigeonhole players into specific positions. In our Nets preview series, we break down the team into four different parts: guards, wings, bigs, and the front office/coaching staff.
Here is the first installment of the 2021-22 Brooklyn Nets preview, let’s take a look at the guards.
Bell Cow: James Harden
There is no doubt about it, James Harden is the bell cow of this backcourt. He is the point guard and thus, he will have the ball in his hands more than any Net this year — even Kevin Durant.
Harden was the point guard during his time with the Houston Rockets, but he was forced to look for his shot more than he has to in Brooklyn. With guys like Irving and Durant flanking him, Harden looks to facilitate first and foremost.
Expect the Nets to lean heavily on Harden this season. Nets coach Steve Nash loved to stagger his minutes so he was leading the bench unit. Even with the addition of Patty Mills, we don’t expect that to change.
X-Factor: Kyrie Irving
Is there anyone in the NBA who is a bigger X-factor than Kyrie Irving right now? His vaccination status is putting his ability to play home games in jeopardy. If Irving refuses the COVID-19 vaccination, the Nets are vulnerable in the Eastern Conference.
However, if Irving decides to get vaxxed and can play a (relatively) drama-free season, the Nets are going to be unstoppable.
For all the criticism that folks lob at Irving, there is no denying his talent on the court. He is one of the most gifted offensive players in NBA history playing alongside two guys who are even better on that end of the floor. Irving’s availability is the biggest X-factor for the Nets in 2021-22.
Super Sub: Patty Mills
Even if Irving is barred from playing in home games due to his vaccination status, Patty Mills is best suited to come off the bench. Brooklyn’s lack of depth was a killer in the playoffs as they fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games.
Mills is a malleable backcourt partner for whoever he is running alongside. If he’s on the court with Harden, the Aussie can assume an off-ball role where he is constantly running off of screens. Three-guard lineups with Harden, Irving, and Mills are a legitimate possibility given Mills’ off-ball prowess.
On the flip side, Mills is perfectly capable of running an offense as the lead ballhandler. This Boomer is one of the savvy veterans Brooklyn added in the offseason to bolster the team’s depth.
Take What’s Yours: Cam Thomas
Patience might be the first word that comes to mind when you think about Brooklyn’s rookies. Cam Thomas is buried behind three veteran guards on the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean this LSU product is going to be relegated to the bench all year.
Nash preached patience when it comes to the rookies during a recent press conference.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you get there,” Nash said. “That’s what I definitely have preached to some of our rookies already. You’ve got to play the long game, and whether you crack the rotation or not, whether you don’t play a minute or spend some time in the G League, it’s important to think long-term and not give away days. If you have that mentality and attitude, this will be a very productive year for you whether you play or don’t play.”
While this sentiment is something that all NBA rookies should heed, there is no need for Thomas to put any limits on himself. His Nets career started with a bang as he won Las Vegas Summer League co-MVP. Thomas has high hopes for himself despite Nash’s warning.
Cam Thomas is not backing down from the uphill battle to find minutes on the loaded Nets roster: “I’m here to compete and find a role for myself, too. I’m not gonna just lay down.” #Nets
— Kristian Winfield #NFTAllStar (@Krisplashed) September 27, 2021
At some point in the season, there is going to be an opportunity for Thomas. It might not be right away, but a chance to crack the rotation will be there eventually.
Break Glass in Case of Emergency: Jevon Carter
Jevon Carter is an experienced, defensive-minded guard who should be behind glass in case of emergency. If Carter is playing big minutes for the Nets in 2021-22, something went horribly wrong.
With that said, he’s a strong guy to have sitting at the end of the bench just in case. If the Nets decide to give a veteran rest, playing Carter in spot minutes won’t hurt. He can defend and Brooklyn won’t need to rely on him to score much.
Check back into ESNY on Thursday for our Nets preview series when we break down the wings.