The Brooklyn Nets might have claimed the title of “King of New York.” The current number five seed in the Eastern Conference has taken the NBA by storm this year.
Just last week, Nets general manager Sean Marks pulled the biggest trade of the season, giving up key role players like Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince, along with draft compensation, for James Harden.
Since the trade, the combination of Kevin Durant and Harden has been lethal for opposing teams to stop. Despite all the Nets success on and off the court, the attention of fans and spectators has been elsewhere.
The Problem: Short Term
Kyrie Irving, point guard for Brooklyn, had been absent from team activities and games for two weeks after playing his last game against Utah on January 5. After several days of absence, Irving returned to the lineup on Wednesday against his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In the midst of all the drama surrounding Irving, the question has come up: Do the Nets need Irving to win?
The short-term answer is no. In a small sample size, Durant and Harden have shown that they would be just fine without Irving.
Those two games, against the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks, Harden and Durant combined for 138 points without Kyrie in the line-up, winning both games.
Several days later, the big three showcased their dynamic abilities for the first time this season together in a double-overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Three Stars, Several Problems
A close game against Cleveland raised some flags; however, to no one’s surprise, it has nothing to do with the offense.
The Nets gave up 147 points to a Cavalier team that is ranked last in offensive efficiency, according ESPN’s Hollinger Team Statistics. What could be even more glaring is that Irving, Durant and Harden played for a combined 149 minutes.
With the Nets having so much firepower, it may look good on paper, but they have proven early that the show is run by three stars, with very minimal help from role players.
Circling back to the importance of Irving to Brooklyn; he may not be needed short term, as Harden and Durant have proven that they can be successful without him, but long term may be an issue.
What will the Nets have to look forward to in the future? A playoff run against prominent Eastern Conference teams like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. Not to mention, possibly going up against the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers or another prominent Western Conference team in the NBA Finals.
To be able to get to those stages in the season, Kyrie will need to play, not because of his skillset on the basketball court (although that’s the primary reason), but because the Nets got rid of three to four valuable assets that came off the bench.
The offensive firepower from those three stars will be difficult to stop, but in the long run, they’ll all need to show up for the Brooklyn Nets to have a legitimate shot at winning an NBA Title.
All stats courtesy of ESPN Hollinger Team Statistics.
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