Winners of 13 of their last 14 games and waiting to re-integrate Kevin Durant into the mix, the Brooklyn Nets are undoubtedly the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and take home their first championship in franchise history.
James Harden continues to prove that trading for him was the most brilliant move the Nets could make to solidify their chances of winning a ring, as the former MVP has seamlessly embraced his new role.
“The Beard’s” scoring numbers are down significantly from the last few seasons. Still, he’s scoring at higher efficiency levels than any of his previous seasons while averaging a career-high in assists.
It’s not like Harden relies solely on Kyrie Irving and Durant to pass the ball to; he’s unlocking the absolute best out of guys like Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Landry Shamet every night. Brown and Jordan are excellent at finishing near the rim, and the other three guys are excellent three-point shooters. When Irving and Durant need a breather, defenses won’t be able to get too comfortable trying to stop Harden from scoring. He can dish out an assist instead. There won’t be too many minutes without the big three together on the floor in the playoffs.
In case you weren’t aware, Irving, is currently averaging 27.6 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game on nearly 50/40/90 splits. The only thing holding him back from those splits is that he’s currently averaging a tick over 88 percent from the free-throw line, but that is so minuscule when you compare it to the other two splits. Irving gets creative each night and finds a way to score the ball, as the 6-foot-2 guard is converting 62.1 percent of his looks within five feet of the rim, proving he isn’t shy of attacking more prominent defenders.
Any concerns about Irving and Harden co-existing with only one ball to go around have gone entirely out the window, as both are selflessly playing to their strengths while leading their team to wins. Having Harden running the show frees up Irving to do more damage night in and night out.
As previously mentioned, the Nets have won 13 of their last 14 games, with all but one of those games without Durant’s services. Since February 10, the first win of this recent stretch, the Nets rank 13th in defensive rating and have given up the 10th fewest points per game.
They’re turning the corner defensively. Suppose the Nets can continue to at least defend at this level. In that case, the Net’s defensive concerns should only start to disappear as the Nets continue to perform at historically high levels on the offensive end.
Durant will return in the next couple of weeks or so, and when he was out there with Harden and Irving, he showed a willingness to take a step back. Since January 20, when the big three made their debut, Durant has taken over 40 percent of his shot attempts without even taking a dribble. Instead, he’s been cutting to the rim, catching and shooting, and finding other ways than scoring in isolation to get his points. Durant has proven before that he can work within a ball-movement-heavy system and sacrifice for his team’s betterment. Now he has his best friend and other friends alongside him to create that same dynamic he had with the Golden State Warriors.
Defensively, having Durant out there is going to help significantly. Durant can use his 6-foot-10 frame to help contest shots at the rim and stay in front of opposing players to prevent them from scoring. In his lone matchup against Kawhi Leonard this season, he held him to 3-of-10 shooting in under nine minutes of matching up against him. Leonard put up over 30 points in that game. Even Leonard will get him on most nights, and in games against other contending teams, every shot counts. If Durant can continue to help limit the damage of the superstars he’s matched up against, then the Nets will be in excellent shape.
Adding Blake Griffin, who is only two years removed from a season where he made the All-NBA Third Team, will make this team stronger. Griffin will bring excellent playmaking skills to the table and a stretch four that can knock down the three or even create his own shot at times. He’s not going to be the same high-usage player he once was, but he can still be a threat to give you 20 points and 5+ rebounds on any given night. It also helps that Griffin may have leftover chemistry with Jordan and Brown from his past stops, as Griffin almost certainly will share the floor with the two of them for extended stretches. We should also expect to see a rejuvenated Griffin now that he’s back in a winning situation.
It’s sporadic for a team to have three MVP caliber players simultaneously, but they also have the perfect supporting cast to complement them. None of their role players ever really need to have the ball in their hands for a prolonged time to get going on offense. All they need to do is get to their spots, and Harden will find them. Irving, Durant, and Griffin are all more than capable of finding open guys as well.
Unless something catastrophic happens, no teams currently constructed can take down the Nets in a 7-game series. The chemistry is clicking on all cylinders, and everyone is playing to their strengths with a team-first attitude. Get ready because “Scary Hours” is just getting started!
Is The Brooklyn Nets’ Offense The New High Powered defense? by Chris Allen
They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, but there’s a new Brooklyn Nets roster that might change this ancient philosophy in sports. The Nets are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
I’ve been watching the revitalized Nets with James Harden’s addition in one of the biggest blockbuster trades this season. With the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now Harden, the Brooklyn Nets arguably have three of the top 7 most unguardable players in the league. This causes a nightmare for defenses. After all, you can’t double-team anybody because you’re going to leave another prolific scorer open. Blake Griffin’s addition to the roster will make it challenging for defenses to have a scheme other than one on one.
With their lineup’s construction, no one would be surprised if they got a bucket on every offensive possession. It must be demoralizing from a defensive standpoint to try to do your best to contest a layup from Irving as he can put your best defender on skates. Or try and put an undersized defender on 7’0 Durant because your bigs don’t have the quickness and agility to stay with him. Last but not least, you have to try not to foul Harden, who recently hacked the officiating rule perfecting his step-back three.
With the focus on those three, how are the rest of your team not subject to being a poster prop for the year’s dunk with DeAndre Jordan and Griffin.
From a sport psychology standpoint, you can’t go an entire fourth quarter in a close competitive game when every possession they do some lack of a better term “2K Hall of Fame Shit” without losing your competitive edge. Essentially their offense is so good that it puts pressure on the opposition to defend them on the defensive side and attempt to keep up with them on the offensive side, adding more stress to each player on the opposite team to make a play to stay in the game. This allows the Nets to be essentially mediocre on defense, and if they get a stop or create turnovers, you not only lost possession, but you put the ball back into their hands which is what you don’t want to do late in the 4th quarter.
At this point, the only thing that can stop the Nets is a COVID protocol or injury. If the Nets stay healthy and work together as a team, it’ll be a tough challenge for anybody in the West, let alone in the East, to take down such an offense of powerhouse. With Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines just inflating the offense, even more, this team is dangerous.
Irving can drop 40 on any night; Harden can get as many four-point plays as he wants, and Durant receives the green light whenever he touches the ball. Even if they miss their shots, they still have pretty solid rebounders in Nicolas Claxton, Jordan, and Griffin to reset the offense.
Let’s not forget that they still have one of the best three-point shooters in the league, Joe Harris, waiting on defenders to make a mistake the man almost can’t miss. If the Nets make it to the NBA finals, they could threaten the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of repeating. Then again, I guess there’s only one way to determine if the offense can win you a championship.
Five Players In The NBA That Can Finish Their Careers With Greater On-Court Legacies Than LeBron James by @ReelTPJ
Five players in the league can finish their careers with more extraordinary court legacies than LeBron James. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Zion Williamson, Luka Dončić, Ja Morant, and LaMelo Ball. Here’s why:
GOAT for GOAT LeBron can challenge any GOAT from Bill Russell, a pioneer amongst pioneers and leaders amongst leaders. To a GOAT such as Wilt Chamberlain, who stacked the numbers so high, not even James Harden iso’s in a Mike D’Antoni system could catch. To a GOAT such as Michael Jordan, the GOAT OF MY GOATS GOATS. It’s Mike. I’m from Chicago.
Off-the-court legacy, LeBron is tied with Jordan. Jordan is 50+ doing all this. LeBron is still in his 30s. LeBron’s done so much that I think it would be unfair to compare legacies. Michael Jordan is the precursor. So it’s hard to say LeBron can ever be better than him to those that love Mike. LeBron loves Mike.— That futuristic artificial intelligence Virtual Reality game of LeBron vs. MJ will be WILD in 2030.
LeBron’s current challengers, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, can’t catch him. Period. They’re old. They teamed up to beat bro. PLUS health. — Steph is my guy. He’s the only unanimous MVP and probably will be until Zion wins his first ring in 2025.
After Steph, THERE IS nobody good enough heading into their prime to challenge Bron’s legacy ON THE COURT. This era, 2015-2035, will also be the age of technology and the “stat” era. 50 years from now, Bron will be the first of a new generation of GOATS. He’ll be top 5 in every statistical category. Before the True Shooting percentage nerds took over the game, LeBron accumulated a large part of those numbers before the stat era began.
Also, this is the dawn of a new century. Basketball has been around for 130 years at this point. Really in its most proper form since 1970.
So let’s get to why these guys can challenge LeBron’s legacy.
Giannis is a 2X MVP and a DPOY through 8 seasons in the NBA. His numbers are still on par with last year’s. He continues to shine. BIGGEST QUESTION IS…… CAN HE WIN? I’m not sure. I hope he can. I think Giannis can win 5-7 rings if paired with the right guard. Imagine Ja and GIANNIS! OMG OMG OMG! One can dream, right? Still, Giannis has GOAT potential. He has everything you want in a player; he’s young, built like a horse (I’ve talked to him in person postgame), and he’s building his game out.
He’s a better player than LeBron was at this age. His offensive bag isn’t as big as LeBron, but LeBron isn’t 6’11 and built like Giannis.
ATHLETIC FREAK OF NATURE. LOOK AT THESE STATS OVER THE LAST 9 GAMES!
THIS MAN IS 20 YEARS OLD. This man’s numbers vs. LeBron’s are INSANE! Look at this:
These numbers are insane. Yes, this is an offensive generation, but who’s bodying Zion? Who’s FIGHTING ZION? In what era? WHO?
He made Tristan Thompson look like a child. SMH. And Thompson is a BIG dude who I’ve very rarely seen get abused like that. His play is Shaq-like. Plus, he’s averaging 26 points on 16 shots per game—less than Anthony Edwards. Edwards is averaging 16.8, and Zion’s played 21 games MORE than Anthony. TWENTY-ONE GAMES MORE!
He’s MY SON. LUKKKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAA! If he can win 3-4 rings, I think he can challenge LeBron’s legacy. He’ll have so many stats behind him. Currently, I think he has to develop his defensive game and learn to shoot and finish games better.
Ja is the biggest X-Factor in the NBA. BUT he won’t be if he stays with the Memphis Grizzlies. Request a trade and LEAVE JA. LEAVE! No one wants to play for the Grizzlies.
I told all of you, LeBron, and Kobe all in one. He’s only 19 years old! I think he has considerable potential and age for age. It’s a conversation, statistically!
So that’s the list! All legit arguments.
MY BAD: And I know I use to say Ben Simmons could challenge LeBron; he doesn’t have an offensive skillset when it comes to scoring. You have to do everything Bron does plus score to challenge him.
ALL STATS FROM BASKETBALL REFERENCE.
The Bulls Got Better by Pavy
Suppose you follow me on Twitter; the war against the Chicago Bulls Twitter is well documented. Yes, I’m from Chicago, but I enjoy being right more than supporting my hometown teams. My main riff started in the Jim Boylen era when Bulls fans told me he was a God-awful coach. My whole point was that even though he wasn’t the best coach, he wasn’t as bad as people think. The talent on the roster just wasn’t up to where it should’ve been, and it didn’t matter who was coaching. That team wasn’t that good.
This season there has been a slight improvement. Primarily because of the play of Zach LaVine. He’s averaging 28.1 points this season, but what is most impressive is his percentages. He’s shooting 52% from the field while shooting 43% from a distance. Hitting the shots that he shoots, which usually have a substantial degree of difficulty, is INSANE efficiency. But then the trade deadline happened, and the Bulls did something that we rarely as an organization see them do. MAKE TRADES.
When I woke up Thursday morning, the group chat was already in shambles. It was at least 20 messages, and I was confused. Then I logged on Twitter to find out Nikola Vučević and Daniel Theis were the Bulls’ newest members. Both players make this team much better than when I laid my head down for some sleep. For one, they have two legitimate All-Stars. Something the Bulls haven’t had since I was 21. For context, I’ll be 30 in less than two months. Also, it shows the team, and most importantly, the fan base, they’re dedicated to winning. No, this move probably won’t put them in the Finals. They still might be a first-round exit, but at least it’s something to be excited about.
It’s been a long road for Bulls fans throughout the Gar Forman and John Paxson era. I honestly believe Derrick Rose getting hurt was the worst thing that could’ve happened, not precisely the roster decision they made. But regardless, it looks like the new regime has a vision, and they aren’t scared to take shots. The Bulls historically don’t trade that often. Especially not mid-season. The most significant mid-season acquisitions I can remember is probably Jalen Rose. All in all, I’m excited about Bulls fans and the city of Chicago to watch actual competitive basketball again.
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