Now that seasons are coming to an end, it is time to write the obituary for the 2020-2021 seasons that were. Looking back on each team that made the playoffs will give a chance to look at what went right and what went wrong. It will also allow us to look ahead to what’s to come during the offseason to come.
The super team came together and put on the villain hat. Unfortunately, injuries caught up to them and the Brooklyn Nets went home early.
In what was a strange season for the Brooklyn Nets, they were clearly one of if not the most talented teams on the floor. James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are all top 20 players at worst. Every time another player signed with the team it led to NBA Twitter reacting as if the league had folded and competitiveness was dead. So, why are they going home in the second round of the playoffs?
For most of the season, the big three of the Nets failed to get on the court at the same time. Durant was limited to 35 games during the regular season. Harden, who was traded to the team in the second week of January, only played 36 games for the team. Irving played 54 before suffering an ill-timed injury in the Conference Finals.
Despite the injuries, throughout much of the season the Nets looked like the overwhelming favorite to win the championship. They were the best offensive unit in the league (offensive rating 117.3) and were able to tighten up the defense in the playoffs. Bruce Brown was a revelation and proved to be one of the most important two-way players on the team. Blake Griffin joined the team in the buyout market and provided solid shooting passing and hustle.
Ultimately, the injuries were just too much. Harden was playing on a grade two hamstring strain in the second round and was only able to hobble through the final three games. Irving suffered an ankle sprain in the fourth game and the series turned from there. Despite Durant’s legendary run (34.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 steals on shooting splits of .514/.402/871 in 40.4 minutes per game) the season is over.
What Comes Next
There is good news and bad news for the Brooklyn Nets. The good news is Durant, Irving, Harden and Joe Harris are all under contract for next season. Harris struggled mightily against the Bucks but he oftentimes looked like the fourth All-Star this season. However, the rest of the roster is up in the air.
It starts with the notion that all three of their stars are eligible for extensions. They all may prefer to wait to hit free agency but the bill still looms. Beyond that, Jeff Green, Tyler Johnson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Bruce Brown (restricted), Blake Griffin and Mike James are all free agents. Spencer Dinwiddie (who missed all but three games this season) has a player option that is nearly guaranteed to be declined.
Furthermore, multiple assistant coaches on Steve Nash’s staff are under consideration for other jobs. Mike D’Antoni has been connected to multiple openings around the league, including the Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers. Ime Udoka is one of the leading candidates for the Boston Celtics job. Change is coming in Brooklyn. However, this feels like the Miami Heat in 2011 after losing to the Dallas Mavericks. They will find veterans who want to play for a title (like Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge did this season) and they should be the favorites to win it all next season.