The result of a perfect Nets 2022-23 season is a championship. No team with three All-Stars in their prime (or close to it) would expect anything less. These Nets are dysfunctional in an almost impressive way, which is why talks of a championship seem premature at the moment.
But completely overlooking the Nets as a championship contender is reactionary at best and disingenuous at worst. If we squint hard enough, we can see a championship parade in Brooklyn’s future.
How can a championship happen? A fast start is crucial to the ship staying afloat in Brooklyn. Winning cures everything and if the Nets start hot out of the gates, the behind-the-scenes backstabbing and jockeying for power could sort itself out. NBA fans and media love palace intrigue, but winning tends to shift the focus back to the court.
A fast start will help the Nets avoid the play-in games. The wear and tear of trying to qualify for the play-in and the play-in game itself impacted the Nets last year. It wasn’t the main issue, but it was an issue nonetheless. Making the playoffs is the first step to their dream season.
The talent is there. Kevin Durant is in the current top-5 best conversation and is showing no signs of slowing down. Durant and Kyrie Irving are volume shooters who do it at an almost insane level of efficiency. Irving’s prolonged absences have defined his tenure as a Net, but when he plays, he’s the best version of himself. It’s a shame that sabbaticals and vaccine mandates have overshadowed the basketball brilliance. But Irving only has himself to blame for that.
And don’t forget about Ben Simmons. There are obvious flaws in his game, but he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, a reliable shot blocker as a small-ball five, and a blur in transition. On paper, he’s the perfect archetype for a complementary third star in Brooklyn.
There are strong role players up and down the roster in Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Nic Claxton, and Royce O’Neal. Outside of the need for a backup big man who can be a physical presence to round out the rotation, there aren’t many holes on this roster.
What could go wrong? If we block out all the noise and look at this roster strictly from a basketball perspective, they have the makings of a championship contender. But that’s not the reality we live in. Despite the current détente between Durant and Nets brass, this team could be a ticking time bomb. Talent doesn’t guarantee success.
The strength of the Eastern Conference is another factor in play here. Even if the Nets keep this roster together through the season, they are going to run into stiff competition in the playoffs. The Celtics aren’t going anywhere after a trip to the NBA Finals. The Sixers should improve with a full season of James Harden. Miami is Miami — which is to say they’ll be in the mix. Last we checked, Giannis Antetokounmpo still plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.
And a handful of teams like the Raptors, Hawks, Cavaliers, Knicks, and Hornets should be better. We haven’t even talked about whatever juggernaut from the Western Conference the Nets would have to face if they make it to an NBA Finals.
Can the Nets win a championship in 2023? Without a doubt. But it takes a lot of squinting to see this best-case scenario playing out.
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