The Brooklyn Nets had the third-best odds to win an NBA title entering the 2020-2021 season.
As the regular season comes to a close, they are now the consensus favorites at most sportsbooks.
Brooklyn’s uber-talented Big Three is the main reason why.
They are tremendous offensive talents who cause headaches for any NBA defense.
Brooklyn Nets vs.
Top-10 Point Differential: 13-8 (+0.9 / 5th)
Top-10 Offense: 13-7 (+1.0 / 4th)
Top-10 Defense: 15-9 (+4.0 / 5th)
Top-10 Across Board: 6-3 (+1.4 / 3rd)
— Jackson Lloyd (@JLloyd952) May 10, 2021
But the Nets are not without their flaws.
Brooklyn has a juggernaut of an offense, but also a bottom 10 defense (both in terms of PPG).
The last team to have a bottom 10 defense and win an NBA title was the 2000-2001 LA Lakers.
And they were one of the most dominant teams ever who had just won the title the previous year.
And would go on to win the title the next year as well.
The Nets may equal the superstar talent of those Laker teams (Shaq and Kobe).
But they do not share the same continuity.
The Shaq and Kobe-led Lakers had three seasons together before they finally won a title.
KD, Irving, and Harden have shared the court for a combined 7 games this season.
Talent is usually the deciding factor in the modern age NBA, but continuity is still very important.
And Brooklyn will not have much of it heading into the playoffs.
While they are the heavy title favorite, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers will be worthy challengers.
Here is why the 76ers have the best shot to take down the Nets.
76ers Stars in 4th Season Together
The one thing the Sixers and Bucks have going for them is continuity.
And they have had Jrue Holiday with them all season as well.
Because of this familiarity, these players have a better feel for how to play with and off of each other.
Which is very important when it comes to the 4th quarter of playoff basketball.
After years of speculation as to whether Embiid and Simmons could play together, they are answering that question this year.
Philly is 32-6 in games when both Simmons and Embiid play.
Sixers record: 44-21
With Ben and Joel: 32-6
Without Embiid: 9-10
Without Simmons: 5-7
The duo adds 16.5 more points than their opponents per 100 possessions this season which is up from just +0.8 points per 100 possessions last season
— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) May 4, 2021
When one or both of Embiid and Simmons do not play, Philly is 12-15.
The star duo has a rating of +16.5 per 100 possessions on the season, up from +0.8 per 100 possessions last season.
Roster construction and continuity have both played parts in this drastic rise.
More room to operate and a better feel of how to play with each other has led to an MVP-caliber season from Embiid and a DPOY-caliber season from Simmons.
This continuity between their stars is a big reason why the Sixers are 6-3 in games decided by 3 points or less.
They are also 4-2 in games that go into overtime.
Brooklyn is 3-5 in 3-point games and 2-2 in OT games, while Milwaukee is 5-5 and 1-1, respectively.
When it comes to crunch time, Philly has a slight advantage.
The first thing that comes to mind with Brooklyn is their offensive firepower.
To counteract this lethal scoring group a team will need an elite-level defense.
Philadelphia has this defense.
Simmons and Embiid could both be DPOY candidates.
Simmons, at 6’10”, 240 lb, has become one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
He consistently matches up with the opposing team’s best player, regardless of position.
And Embiid is a force in the paint, as evidenced by his +2.0 Def. EPM and 1.4 BPG.
These two are the bookends for a defense that gives up the 6th fewest points per game and has the 2nd best defensive rating in the league.
But Philly has other solid individual defenders that contribute.
But the Sixers’ (not so) secret weapon is Matisse Thybulle.
Simmons, Embiid, Thybulle:
• 125 Minutes
• (+) 18.9 Net RTG
• 51% FG x 38% 3P
• 43% Opponent FG
• 34% Opponent 3P
Unforgiving lockdown defense.
— Brock Landes (@LandesBrock) May 7, 2021
The 2nd year wing from Washington is already one of the best defenders in the NBA.
His 6’5” frame and 6’11” wingspan makes him a menace both on and off the ball.
Thybulle has a +4.0 Def. EPM (99th percentile in the league) and is 9th in the league in SPG despite only playing 20 MPG.
He is also 1 of only 8 players to average greater than 1 SPG and 1 BPG.
It will be impossible to stop all three Nets’ superstars.
But a 4th quarter lineup of Simmons, Thybulle, Green, Harris, and Embiid is about as good as you can hope for against Brooklyn.
76ers Should Have Home Court Advantage
The final factor the gives Philly the best shot is they should have a home-court advantage in a potential series.
They are currently the #1 seed with a 1.5 game lead over the #2 seed Nets and own the tiebreaker.
If the Sixers can hold onto the #1 seed in the playoffs, it would guarantee them home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
A huge factor for a team that has gone 117-32 at home over the past 4 seasons.
With COVID restrictions starting to ease up, there is also the potential for near full crowds come playoff time.
And on top of home-court advantage, the Sixers would also avoid seeing the Nets until the Conference Finals.
Assuming the standings hold true, Philly would face Charlotte in the first round and then the winner of New York/Atlanta in the second round.
A much easier path than the Nets would potentially have to take.
They are in line to face Boston in the first round and the winner of Milwaukee/Miami in the second round.
I think the Brooklyn Nets are the best team in the East. But vs the defending Eastern champs Heat in the 1st round, then vs the Bucks w home court, and then vs the 76ers w home court would be a rough path to the finals. pic.twitter.com/lJMcLENBpd
— Spencer Keele (@SpencerKeele) May 8, 2021
No playoff matchup is easy, but Charlotte/New York/Atlanta is easier than Boston/Milwaukee/Miami.
Between roster continuity, an elite defense, and home-court advantage, the Sixers should be primed to give Brooklyn a run for their money.NEXT: Are The Brooklyn Nets Overrated? (Full Argument)