The Brooklyn Nets seem to be figuring out whatever they need to be figuring out. While there is a long way to go, and the defense needs to tighten up, they seem to be coming into more of a form. I’m on record saying I don’t believe in this team winning a title on the Midweek Midrange. While I am not completely backing out of that, I am starting to believe a little bit more.
The Last Shot
Who is going to take the last shot when it matters? This is the question being thrown around since the Harden trade. While I think it should be Kevin Durant and think it likely will, I am starting to think more that it doesn’t even matter. When a team has to decide between Kevin Durant, James Harden, or Kyrie Irving to take the last shot being an issue, I don’t think we are asking the right questions.
The Real Issue
The issue at hand is not offensive, and it’s not who should be taking the last shot. Who is going to stop the other team from scoring points? The Nets defense is bad, like, horrible. According to ESPN.com, the Nets are giving up 118 points per game. That’s bad enough to make them 28th in the category. It also has them just a single point and some change in front the Kings and then just a couple of points behind the Bulls and Wolves. The biggest difference in those teams? Well, if you haven’t been watching, four of those named teams are going to miss the playoffs. The other one is considered a title favorite.
This issue needs to be addressed by Nets General Manager Sean Marks. I do not think that Andre Drummond will be in Brooklyn if it is not after a buyout. That contract doesn’t make sense to trade for. They have no more picks to give, and Jarrett Allen’s departure looks to be hitting them worse every day. While they could go out and find someone to defend, they could also just try harder on that end of the court.
The Saving Grace
While they are 28th in points allowed, according to ESPN.com, they are first in points scored with 122. Could this be enough to win the East? Honestly, I have literally no idea, and the more I think about it, the more my brain hurts. It’s like watching “The Sopranos” and trying to figure out if Tony is a bad guy or not. The rough thing here is that when some teams have rough shooting nights, they can at least rely on defense to get them a win. If Brooklyn is off shooting, it’s going to get ugly. As a matter of fact, it has gotten ugly before.
Why Be Confident?
While I loved the idea of James Harden coming to Brooklyn, Jarrett Allen was the Nets best defender and will be a stud in the league one day. Without him, I wasn’t confident in how the Nets would be able to keep the other team from scoring. I wasn’t wrong. They have had trouble there. I wasn’t accounting for what Harden would bring, however. James Harden talked about being unselfish, but I never thought he would be this unselfish. He is currently leading the NBA in assists with 11. That makes him the only player in the NBA right now, averaging double-digit assists, and he’s doing while sitting at 15th in the league for points per game. He has also put together five triple-doubles in 16 games with the Nets.
The Hope for the Nets
While they need defense badly, if this is the Harden that Brooklyn is getting and KD can stay out of covid protocol for more than a game, and Kyrie can keep playing at the level he’s been at, it’s their conference to lose. Joe Harris is averaging 15 points per game while shooting 50 percent from behind the three-point line and would likely be much higher than that if not on this team with three superstars. Bruce Brown is diving all over the floor and seems to be the only Net locked in on defense, and Jeff Green is just out there being “Uncle Jeff” and being a leader and helping where he can.
This team has the pieces, and the annoying part is that they can play defense and just don’t. Steve Nash is a rookie head coach, and he’s still finding his way. He has been calling them out for defense and has been fighting more on the sidelines for calls. If the Lakers are healthy, they are the team to beat. If the Nets can play defense, they are the team to beat. I’m just hoping that they lock in on it when it matters in the playoffs. Their window is now, and it’s not for long.