Last season, there were championship expectations for the Brooklyn Nets. With 3 superstars on your roster, that is always going to be the expectation. Injuries got in the way of that, but this year, there will be no excuses. Injuries or not, a championship is expected to be brought back to Brooklyn. However, there are key things that the Nets will need to do in order to go all the way.
This may be obvious, but it’s the most important factor. Kyrie Irving spraining his ankle was a brutal blow as he helps take the scoring load off of Kevin Durant. And James Harden pulling his hamstring limited his playmaking ability severely, even if he was on the court. While the Nets were not the only team to suffer from injuries during last year’s playoffs, they suffered the most. There isn’t necessarily a science to staying healthy. So I may be saying it’s luck. The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t see any injuries to their star players during their finals run and look how that turned out. What the Nets need is a break, injury-free playoffs, and if that is the case, they will be the clear favorites to win the championship.
An Improved Supporting Cast
Due to injuries last year, the Nets supporting cast was forced to step up in big ways during the playoffs. And while the supporting cast wasn’t terrible, they certainly struggled. Mike James and Tyler Johnson did not seem ready for the moment, and Bruce Brown, while great at many things, isn’t an offensive threat. This offseason, though, the Nets signed Patty Mills to a 2 year $12M deal. Mills, an underrated scorer, has been in big playoff games his whole career with the Spurs. He will be able to come off the bench and carry the offensive load when needed.
In addition, the Nets have Cam Thomas, who many are saying is the steal of this year’s draft, who can come off the bench just like Mills and provide scoring in bunches. Thomas lit it up this past week at Summer League, averaging 27.0 points per game and earned Co-MVP. Thomas looks like he can quickly get acclimated to the NBA and make an impact with the Nets, even at only 19 years old.
Another struggle for the Nets last year was rebounding, something Sean Marks stressed was an issue a few weeks ago at his press conference. With Blake Griffin starting at center, standing only 6’9”, other teams would almost always out rebound the Nets, especially the Bucks in the playoffs. So many games are decided by who gets more offensive rebounds in the last 2 minutes. The Nets got killed by other teams in that area and often lost games because of it. And while the Nets did draft Day’Ron Sharpe out of UNC who stands at 6’11”, he isn’t going to make an impact at first or much at all this year. It’s going to just take more effort from the Nets as a whole if they want to improve their rebounding. And that applies to new players such as James Johnson to even Kevin Durant.
Don’t get me wrong, the Nets are the favorites to win the championship this upcoming year, as they should be. But they were also the favorites last year, and look how that turned out. These are just 3 things that if the Nets can address then their title hopes will improve even more. We just have to hope that the NBA gods bless the Nets with an injury-free season.