A Look at the Week Ahead for the Brooklyn Nets

As the second half of the NBA season moves along, the Brooklyn Nets continue to position themselves for a run at an NBA title. With the playoffs already being a certainty for the Nets, the objective of the regular season has become clear. Earlier in the season, they acquired James Harden. A few weeks ago, they signed former all star forward Blake Griffin. This week, the Nets bolstered their roster further by adding yet another big name player, LaMarcus Aldridge. With multiple major acquisitions, Sean Marks is clearly putting all of his focus on building a roster capable of winning the NBA Finals. With all of these new pieces being put together, time is needed to adjust. The remainder of the regular season presents a chance for Brooklyn to gear up for their postseason run.

In the week ahead, the Brooklyn Nets will look to do just that, as well as fight for the top seed in the eastern conference. After a 2-1 record in the previous week, the Nets are 31-15 on the year. They continue to battle the Philadelphia 76ers for a spot atop the conference, as Brooklyn currently trails by a game. This week, Brooklyn will receive a jolt to the lineup with the return of Kyrie Irving. Irving, who missed the Nets’ three game road trip due to family reasons, is set to return to the lineup tonight. Though Irving will return to the team this week, Brooklyn will continue to be without another star, Kevin Durant. It is unclear when Durant will return, though it is possible he is nearing a return to action. In the upcoming week, Harden and Kyrie will look to keep the Nets rolling. Let’s take a look at what the week ahead will hold for Brooklyn.

Monday, March 29th- Brooklyn Nets vs Minnesota Timberwolves

The Nets will kick off the week with a return home to the Barclays Center to host the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves, led by their star Karl Anthony-Towns, have been a doormat for the league this season. At 11-35, they have the worst record in the NBA. Outside of Towns, the lone bright spot on the Timberwolves roster has been the #1 overall draft selection in 2020, Anthony Edwards. Edwards is averaging 17 ppg this season, which leads all rookies. With his incredible athleticism, ferocious dunks, and microwave scoring ability, the Wolves’ rising star has been fun to watch. Unfortunately for Brooklyn fans, former Net D’Angelo Russell will not make his return to the Barclays Center, as he is out for the season with an injury. During his brief two year stint in Brooklyn, D’Angelo quickly became a fan favorite. Undoubtedly, Russell has a large fanbase that still remains in Brooklyn who would have loved to see him back in action. For Brooklyn, this is a game that they should win with ease.  Either way, expect a win here for Brooklyn.

Wednesday, March 31st- Brooklyn Nets vs Houston Rockets

The second game of the Brooklyn Nets’ three game home stand will continue with a visit from the Houston Rockets. Houston, like Minnesota, has struggled mightily this season. At 13-32, the Rockets have the third worst record in the NBA. Over their last 24 games, the Rockets are 2-22, including a stretch where they lost 20 in a row. Houston’s last game, however, resulted in their victory over the Timberwolves, 129-107. At times this season, Brooklyn has shown a lack of effort in games against the league’s inferior teams, leading to unexpected losses. In Brooklyn’s previous matchup with the Rockets, however, the Nets won by a score of 132-114. James Harden led the way with a 30 point triple double against his former team, resulting in a dominant win for Brooklyn. Expect ‘The Beard’ to lead his new team to another victory against  his former squad.

 Thursday, April 1st- Brooklyn Nets vs Charlotte Hornets

On Thursday, the Nets will look to open up the month of April on a high note with a win against the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte has been one of the most surprising teams in the East this year, and currently sit at 5th place in the conference. With 27 games still left in the season, the Hornets have already tied their win total from last season. Charlotte is 23-22 on the season, and they have won three of their last four. The Hornets’ suffered a devastating blow last week when their star rookie LaMelo Ball was lost to a wrist injury. Ball was on pace to run away with the Rookie of the Year honors, and he was a key piece to Charlotte’s impressive season. Despite the loss, Charlotte has continued to play well, as they are 3-1 in his absence. Led by Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, Charlotte has proved they will continue to compete at a high level in Ball’s absence.

The Nets are well aware of the Hornets’ ability to steal games. Early in the season, Brooklyn suffered a defeat at the hands of the Hornets 106-104. In that game, Kevin Durant and LaMelo Ball were playing while James Harden was still a member of the Houston Rockets. Clearly, it will be a different look for Thursday night’s game. Although the rosters will be different this time around, Charlotte will still present a challenge for the Nets. During the second night of a back to back, Brooklyn tends to rest players. If coach Steve Nash continues this trend, this would leave the Nets short-handed for this contest. Brooklyn will need to make sure they don’t come out flat, as Charlotte is a well coached team that plays hard. Brooklyn can and should defeat the Hornets at home. Expect the Hornets to put up a good fight, but ultimately lose to the Nets this time around.

Sunday, April 4th- Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls

After their homestand, the Nets will wrap up the week with a visit to Chicago to take on the Bulls. Chicago is looking to fight their way into the playoff picture, sitting at 10th in the eastern conference. The Bulls are 19-25 on the season and struggling as they’ve lost 5 of their last 6 games. At the trade deadline, Chicago brought in major reinforcements to help their playoff push, acquiring All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Their new star is an incredible player having one of the best seasons of his career, and is a great fit for Chicago’s squad.

In Addition, Vucevic is a player that has been a Nets’ killer during his time with the Orlando Magic. His size and rebounding ability combined with his ability to stretch the floor has always been something the Nets have struggled to combat. In joining the Bulls, he’ll team up with another All-Star, guard Zach LaVine. Coming off of his first All-Star appearance, LaVine is having a career year, averaging 28 ppg while shooting 43% from three. The two combine to form a strong scoring duo, and will be a challenge to defend. Still, Chicago’s star duo pales in comparison to Brooklyn’s, and the Nets are exponentially deeper. Brooklyn is clearly the far superior team and should come away with a victory against the Bulls. However, like Charlotte, the Bulls may not be as easy of a victory as their record may suggest. Despite the challenge, look for James Harden and Kyrie Irving to prevail once again.

What to Watch For: The Rich get Richer

As mentioned earlier in the article, the Brooklyn Nets have made yet another move to acquire a big name player. After adding Blake Griffin to a roster that already contained KD, Kyrie, and Harden, the Nets became the clear title favorites. Yet, Nets GM Sean Marks decided to further strengthen the league’s strongest team by adding another former All-Star, LaMarcus Aldridge. Though the veteran big man isn’t the same player he used to be, he will be a valuable addition to the team nonetheless. In San Antonio this season, Aldridge is averaging around 14 points per game. The Nets’ newest acquisition will provide the team with another dependable frontcourt option.

Head Coach Steve Nash has an interesting challenge on his hands: fitting Aldridge into the rotation. With the emergence of Nicolas Claxton, and impressive play from Blake Griffin, the Nets front court is crowded. The most likely candidate to lose minutes upon Aldridge’s arrival is DeAndre Jordan, who has struggled at times this season. Aldridge, unlike Jordan, can shoot the ball well, especially from mid range. This will allow the Nets to do what they love most: space the floor. In addition, Aldridge gives Brooklyn another high IQ veteran presence who can pass, rebound, and protect the rim. Still, at age 35, it is unlikely he plays major minutes for the Nets. Deploying Aldridge in short, 10-15 minute stretches may help conserve Aldridge and help Brooklyn get the most out of him.

Time will tell when and how the Nets decide to use their latest high caliber addition. Regardless, the Nets seem to become more formidable with each passing week. LaMarcus Aldridge will look to continue this trend as he and the Nets chase an NBA Finals trophy.

Prediction

The Brooklyn Nets will have yet another week of winning. After having no problems with Minnesota and Houston, Charlotte and Chicago will likely be more challenging. With Irving’s return and Harden’s consistency, the Nets will continue their dominance. Aldridge will have no problem adjusting to his new roster and fit like a glove. Joining the likes of  Griffin, Claxton, and Jeff Green, he will help make the Nets’ frontcourt one of the team’s endless strengths. I expect a perfect 4-0 week from Brooklyn, who should finally overtake the 76ers atop  the eastern conference by the end of the week.

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