No organization in the National Basketball Association creates more disappointment with high expectations than the Brooklyn Nets. However, they are turning the tide after finally finding some consistency.
Generally one of the top teams for NBA picks and parlays, the Nets have often left bettors disappointed because of the talent they have that never seems to come together. That notably happened when they acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a massive trade with the Boston Celtics in 2013.
However, Garnett was 37 years old, and Pierce was 35. The price to close the Celtics’ dynasty was three first-round picks and a pick swap that depleted the future of the Nets’ organization for a failed run at success. That seemingly was the beginning of a dysfunctional period when the Nets could not get out of their own way.
The Nets finished the 2013-14 season at 44-38 as the sixth-best team in the Eastern Conference, not quite the result needed after a blockbuster trade like that.
To a similar degree, they have revisited that in recent years. It felt like the franchise was able to reset once it got beyond losing its draft picks, which eventually led to the strong core the Celtics now boast.
Retooling With Stars
The Nets turned to a different grouping of superstars. Though while the league was going away from building around three superstars, with most teams opting for two and spending on complementary players, the Nets chose to go with the former option.
As such, they built a core that centered on Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. But the trio did not get along. There was turmoil among the stars that eventually led to Harden’s trade. But prior to that, there were many trials in-between.
Irving has never shied away from his thoughts, though he hasn’t articulated them as clearly, and it has gotten him into tricky situations. That included controversial comments around the COVID-19 pandemic and as late as anti-Semetic remarks for which he was suspended.
While that was going on, Harden and Durant were feuding. Two alpha personalities on and off the court caused chaos. It included a priceless moment when Durant picked over Harden when drafting All-Star teams alongside LeBron James. It was priceless with jokes that came out of that.
The disgruntled Harden became the odd man out when he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for another disgruntled star Ben Simmons. Simmons was sitting out due to injuries, and he later said mental health issues. He did not debut with the Nets until the 2022-23 season despite thoughts he would suit up in the 2022 playoffs.
Rounding into Form
After a meddling start to the 2022-23 season, which saw the Nets at 13-12, it has improved rather quickly. Some of the attrition they saw early in the year – Irving’s suspension, Simmons getting acclimated – has subsided, and Brooklyn has won nine straight games and pulled within the Eastern Conference’s third seed, though there is a long way to go.
In the last six games, Simmons, who was Rookie of the Year in 2018, is averaging 8.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game while posting a plus-7 rating or better in that span. He’s statistically having the worst season of his career but is fitting in alongside a pair of stars, something that many would have questioned and done when he was acquired. He’s averaging 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game for the season.
Durant passed Tim Duncan on the career points list to rank 15th. He also moved past Kobe Bryant for made 3-pointers and is 21st. That came in a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has proven to be one of the best scorers in league history and is averaging 30.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game this season alone. He fits along well with Simmons with the ability to score off the ball.
But will the Nets be able to capitalize on their core? They haven’t reached the NBA Finals since 2003 and haven’t won a championship since the ABA title in 1976. This team is shaping up to be the core that can end that spell.