The Brooklyn Nets went all in on championship aspirations when they acquired former MVP James Harden to go alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. There were many skeptics about how this trio would work out with them all being so ball dominant. Many analysts had no clue if any of the players would be able to adjust to the style of play the team would require to be successful. James Harden is the player who seems to have made the adjustment.
James Harden is averaging 25 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds per game with a shooting split of 49/42/86. The points are down nine points on average from last season, but his assists, rebounds, and shooting percentages are all up. Harden has done an incredible job adjusting to the new role and has leveled up this Brooklyn Nets offense.
The Nets are 16-7 since Harden’s arrival and that is due to the style of play the team has developed. The Nets’ starting lineup is highly unorthodox consisting of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, and Bruce Brown Jr. Yes, that is correct, 6’4” Bruce Brown is the starting center of the Nets. Shorter than every player not named Kyrie Irving, he is the one that is listed in the center position.
On offense it looks wonderful, Brown is clinical in the paint with a deadly floater and is shooting 65 percent on two-point shots. Joe Harris and the two-out-of-three stars that don’t have the ball, all spot-up around the three-point line and are well guarded because they will kill teams if they have open threes. Then the player who has the ball can go one-on-one or receive a screen from Brown that leaves the paint wide open for a drive. Coaches Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni are doing an incredible job with the offense. It shows as the Nets sit in first for offensive rating with 118.5 points per 100 possessions.
The one area the Nets lack however is on the defensive side, because with a 6’4” center it can leave the middle very porous for dominant big men. The three: Irving, Durant, and Harden are also not known for their on ball defense which correlates to the Nets defensive rating of 114.2 points per 100 possessions, which is 26th in the NBA.
Most of the time, the Nets offense can bail out their defense and this is seen in their high scoring wins, such as a 132-128 win against the Atlanta Hawks. However, there comes times like a shocking 149-146 loss to the Washington Wizards where their shortcomings on defense just can not possibly bail out offense.
As the season goes on, the Nets have to figure out a way to tighten up their defense. When it comes playoff time, if the team has a couple games of bad shooting, they can easily be knocked out due to their poor defense.
It is only halfway through the season and there is plenty of time for the team to figure things out defensively. That will also come with more playing time together as the big three has seldom played together. This also means that there is another level to the Nets offensively and that statement should scare any team in the NBA.
If the Nets can take that step up defensively and if even possible, offensively; then no team will want to face the Nets when it comes playoff time.