The Nets Big 3 are averaging 85.9 points in the playoffs.— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 31, 2021
KD 35/8/3 on 56/46/91%
Harden 26/7/11 on 55/46/91%
Kyrie 25/7/3 on 47/38/100% pic.twitter.com/aUgQ5gKD3a
Winners of only one playoff series since 2007, the Brooklyn Nets were considered one of the worst teams in the NBA for most of the 2010s. In the aftermath of a disastrous trade for All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Nets were unable to rebuild as the Boston Celtics owned their first-round draft picks for several years.
Now, with a revamped team and its destiny in its own hands, Brooklyn have stuffed the stat sheet in the regular season. It all began with a measure of revenge over the franchise that has haunted it for years, with Steve Nash’s elites downing the Celtics in the first round with a 4-1 series win.
Why Are Brooklyn So Heavily Backed?
In an NBA that has been run by superteams ever since style icon LeBron James made the bold decision to join the Miami Heat, the 2020/21 Brooklyn Nets are the latest – and most dangerous – iteration of that trend. Two years ago, free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant agreed to join the Nets, suddenly boosting the potential of an already-promising ball squad into the stratosphere. With the addition of superstar guard and three-time scoring leader James Harden, the Nets began to look more like an All-Star team than a regular franchise.
With three players on the roster capable of putting up 25 points per game, the Nets are providing plenty of entertainment for fans, as well as being a terrifying prospect for NBA defenses. They are sitting at odds of +175 to win the NBA title as of June 3, sportsbooks believe there is no team that can withstand the offensive firepower that Durant, Irving and Harden bring from both sides of the three-point line. After those three big names, the Nets can rely on the likes of Joe Harris (14.1 points per game) and Jeff Green (11.0), both shooting over 40% from three-point range during the regular season. When the Nets deploy their preferred starting five, they can outscore any team in the league.
Who Can Stop Them?
Sportsbooks are divided on who poses the biggest threat to the Nets. It’s easy for teams to scheme around one player – Anthony Davis took the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic out of the Western Conference Finals completely last season with suffocating defense. But the Nets have three All-Stars, each capable of taking over a game if another player gets double-teamed. As a result, one single player cannot be tasked with shutting down the Nets’ biggest weapon, because no one can agree which of Harden, Durant and Irving that refers to.
With injuries playing a part in a crowded Western Conference, sportsbooks believe that if anyone can stop the Nets, they will need to come out of the East. The Nets have battled for seeding all season long with two teams harboring title ambitions – Giannis Antetokoumpo’s Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia 76ers behind Joel Embiid. Superstar individuals are often what make the NBA Finals so popular, and they will be key again in this year’s playoffs.
For the Bucks (+600), this season represents a shift in how they’re viewed, after being top seeded and Giannis winning MVP two seasons running. Despite missing out on the NBA Finals both times, Giannis attached himself to Milwaukee for the long term with a massive five-year, $228 million supermax extension in the offseason. That made him one of the highest-paid players across sports in what is a significant career move for the talented star. How he dominates on the offensive end may be the key to downing the Nets, who have plenty of star guards but no one capable of guarding the man they call the Greek Freak.
The Sixers (+900), meanwhile, entered the offseason as top seed for the first time since 2001. Not unlike the Nets, they were derided in the mid-2010s for ‘tanking’ to get better draft picks, but those days are over as Doc Rivers has them playing like potential champions this year. Embiid is firmly in the MVP conversation after months of dominating performances in the paint, while Ben Simmons creates mismatches wherever he plays. If that famous pairing stays healthy, they would be a formidable threat for Brooklyn if they were to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But for most teams, the question is not how to beat Brooklyn, but how to survive them. In Harden, Durant, Irving, Harris and Green, the Nets have one of the strongest starting fives this century. If they can make good on their potential, they would bring home the first NBA Championship in franchise history.