By Shawn Dennis
Love it or hate it, the current Brooklyn Nets roster is arguably the best team on paper since the NBA was first formed in New York all the way back in 1946. To think it was only a decade ago LeBron James made the decision to “take his talents to South Beach” in 2010 to Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors six years later to bring the Dubs two championships. Now, this is the ultimate formation of a squad to bring down the King in his last few seasons of reigning the league.
What makes this team so special other than the fact that they have a combined 40 All Star appearances, two MVP’s, and three NBA Championships? Each of these All Stars, which include Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, and Kevin Durant all are playing with a motivation to prove themselves for different reasons.
Griffin has been injury prone and is in the back half of his career, as this is his last chance to win a championship before retiring after his disappointing tenure in Los Angeles for the Clippers. Same goes for Aldridge and Harden who both played the majority of their careers on one team (Harden with the Houston Rockets and Aldridge with the Portland Trail Blazers) and always came up short as the main guy for their team.
Durant and Kyrie have both suffered a hefty amount of injuries, especially Durant, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles and has missed more games with a bum hamstring. Kyrie, on the other hand, has been in a whirlwind of media drama from sitting out games, not attending post-game media sessions, and whatever else he has got his hands into, so this season has to end with nothing short of a ring.
Last but not least, James Harden, I believe, has the most to prove on this roster. Whether or not he will end up being the go-to guy in the crunch is still up in the air, but what led up to his trade, his stint in Houston, and what he has accomplished without a championship conveys this feeling that he has the most weight on his shoulders.
This Nets team is the definition of championship or bust because of the possibility that if one player leaves out of the core of All-Stars, the chances of another leaving increases dramatically. Likewise, the signings of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge prior to the deadline is the icing on the cake to putting this team atop of the East at least and if LeBron James or Anthony Davis can’t stay healthy through the playoffs, who’s going to stop them?
What I think separates this team from the other two dynasties of the Golden State Warriors from 2014-2019 and the Miami Heat from 2010-2014 is the versatility presented from the big three in this team versus the other two. We’ve barely been given the chance to see KD, Kyrie, and Harden all on the floor together, so it’s still difficult to judge what the playoffs will consist of, but the fact that they can still win games when one of the three are out is so crucial.
Going down the stretch, it’s more than likely that one of the big three will get hurt and I don’t necessarily think that will set them back like what happened with the other powerhouses. Head coach Steve Nash has proven how effective “player coaching” can be as LeBron has shown his fair share of doing the same throughout his career. I think having this be Nash’s first season as a head coach is extremely beneficial for them because he isn’t exactly tied down to a specific style or formation of play. If you’ve watched any Nets games, it honestly feels like the best players at the YMCA teamed up and are beating up on whoever comes their way. Between their style, endurance, and offensive abilities, this might be the team to disprove the notion that “defense wins championships.”
Lastly, two points have to be addressed to comprehend how dangerous this Nets roster is. Currently, KD, Kyrie, and Harden are all averaging more than 25 points per game and two of these players (Kyrie Irving and James Harden) are in contention for winning MVP. When in the NBA has this ever occurred and when will it again, if it ever does? If the Nets don’t win the championship this year, it will be so much more of a disappointment then when LeBron and the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in his first year in Miami.