Coming into the 2021-22 season, many were picking the Brooklyn Nets to win the National Basketball Association championship.
But due to injuries, Kyrie Irving being unavailable for many games due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and perhaps subpar coaching, the Nets were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
Now, there are whispers that they might make wholesale changes this summer.
Irving will enter the final season of his contract, which is a player option, and some feel the Nets should trade him.
Others think Brooklyn should deal Kevin Durant, and some are even questioning whether the Durant-Irving duo will work well.
I’ve seen some of the best duos that have ever played in the NBA in my 40 years of being associated with the league. After watching the first three games between the Celtics and the Nets, I’m wondering if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are a good fit.🤔
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 24, 2022
But as long as Irving commits himself to the team, it should keep its core together.
Irving And Durant Still Have Plenty Of Potential
In Irving, the Nets have one of the greatest ball-handlers in basketball history and a player who can score efficiently at all three levels.
He is also arguably the NBA’s premier crunch-time performer, and he has a history of coming through in the clutch.
Kyrie Irving’s game-winner against the Warriors on Christmas in 2016 capped off one of the best Christmas Day games ever. 🎄🎄 pic.twitter.com/Ya4dJyajt5
— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) December 25, 2019
Kyrie Irving turned 28-years-old today. We only saw him play 20 games this season, but he went off during that time.
From the vault:
10/25/2019: Knicks @ Nets.
Game winner. pic.twitter.com/fvnDHrBwXf
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) March 23, 2020
The North Jersey native is also a solid floor general who averaged 5.8 assists per game in the regular season.
Meanwhile, although Durant is 33 years of age and perhaps a bit injury-prone, he is still in the discussion as perhaps the best player in basketball.
He put up 29.9 points a game on 51.8 percent shooting overall and 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
Durant is equally adept at scoring on and off the ball, which makes it easy for him to fit in with many types of fellow superstar players, such as Irving.
Durant also gave the Nets 6.4 assists per game in the regular season, and he remains a solid defensive player as well.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics made him look old and ineffective by holding him to 38.6 percent shooting from the field.
But help could be on the way for him and the rest of the team.
Ben Simmons Could Help Unlock Brooklyn’s Ultimate Potential
When the Nets traded James Harden and got Simmons in February, it was thought that the former Philadelphia 76ers point guard would end his protracted holdout and suit up for Brooklyn this season.
But he didn’t, citing a back injury, and he is reportedly about to have surgery to correct it.
Simmons is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late September, and his unique talents and skills could act as a catalyst for Brooklyn – if he fully commits to his new team.
He is one of the NBA’s deadliest players in transition, and his great passing skills (he has a career average of 7.7 assists a game) can get Irving and especially Durant easier looks offensively.
The Nets are a team that has to play fast-break basketball to be successful, and Simmons can make that happen if he decides to consistently be aggressive.
RJ making a lot of excellent points. Ben Simmons will play at 100MPH while James Harden has played at 33 MPH. Adding to the pace will open the Nets offense up as well, but that will fall on Steve Nash to create a system that best suits their newest talents.
— Kristian Winfield #NFTAllStar (@Krisplashed) February 10, 2022
When the game slows down, they could post up Simmons or play him in the dunker’s spot and allow him to use his 6-foot-11, 240-pound frame to overpower smaller defenders.
I think the Nets not having a paint-dominant, back to the basket big man is really going to benefit Ben Simmons and allow him to thrive within that offense. ESPECIALLY when they go small.
He gets clowned but he really provides another dimension to their team.
— Jake (@JakeNFLNBA) April 12, 2022
Of course, Simmons is one of the game’s great defensive players, which can relieve Durant of the burden of having to guard superstars such as Boston’s Jayson Tatum.
The pieces are there for the Nets – it’s up to the team to put them together to form a complete championship puzzle.