Before injuring his hamstring, James Harden was a legitimate MVP candidate for the Brooklyn Nets. However, Harden’s lingering hamstring issue will keep him out of tomorrow’s Game 3 at Milwaukee. The Nets hold a comfortable 2-0 series lead, so they can afford to be without Harden right now, but he should be back in the near future. We saw the Nets destroy the Bucks by nearly 40 points on Monday night even without James Harden. We must ask ourselves, do the Nets need James Harden?
James Harden’s Impact On The Nets
James Harden has had an exceptional year thus far with the Nets. He’s averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists in just 30 minutes per game. Moreover, Harden shot an incredibly efficient 56% from the field and 48% from three. Harden’s efficiency rose as the talent around him improved from his Houston days. Harden’s impact on the Nets goes beyond the numbers. With Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant, there is far less pressure on each player to handle the ball and attempt a large number of shots. This, in turn, allows for all three players to shoot more efficiently and share the ball with each other. As long as at least one of the three is having an efficient shooting game, the Nets are tough to beat. Milwaukee is finding this out the hard way, even with James Harden playing less than one minute in the entire series.
Can The Nets Win A Championship Without Harden?
The simple answer would be yes. The Brooklyn Nets are still talented enough to win the championship without James Harden. While they may not still be the favorites, there is still a real chance that Brooklyn could win it. The Nets likely won’t be able to replicate their Game 2 performance against the Bucks, but they have proven that they are capable of beating elite teams without Harden. With Bruce Brown entering the starting lineup in Harden’s place, the Nets have a more versatile defensive lineup that can be used to combat elite scorers such as Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell, or Tobias Harris. The Nets defense would actually improve, while the offense would not suffer that much. Running Kyrie Irving at point guard is only a slight downgrade from James Harden. The Nets will still be able to score at will against any defense given the talent they have.
Luckily for the Nets, Harden should have plenty of time before he comes back onto the court. Unless Milwaukee makes an unforeseeable push in this series, the Nets do not have to rush Harden back. Like James Harden, Jeff Green’s foot injury is in the same situation. Both could possibly return later in the series, but there is a real chance that neither player will need to play in this series. If the Nets win in 4 or 5 games, there will be even more time for Harden and Green to recover. Especially since the Hawks and Sixers series appears to be a lengthy 6 or 7 game series. The Brooklyn Nets would love to have James Harden back, but there’s no reason to rush him back. The Nets will be fine and are still the favorites to win the 2021 NBA championship.