When Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the Brooklyn Nets earlier this summer it made the Nets instant title contenders, but in the more immediate future, it put much more pressure on the other Nets players to step up this upcoming season.
Since Kevin Durant tole his Achilles in the NBA Finals, the best-case scenario is for him to return to the court with a handful of games remaining in the 2019-2020 NBA season. What this means is the Nets will have to go a majority of the year, if not all of it, without a perennial MVP contender, NBA champion, Finals MVP, and surefire Hall of Famer.
The void left by the absence of Durant is not one that can be filled with one player, it instead requires all the players on the Nets team to step up this season for the team to reach its potential.
Kevin Durant has been quoted saying that he is also very excited to see how the rest of the Nets team will be able to play in his absence.
“I’m excited about this group. Obviously with me not starting off the season, being injured, you’re gonna see a lot of guys step up, do some things and go to another level as a player,” Durant said.
This analysis by Durant about the 2019-2020 iteration of the Nets is what makes this season such an exciting, and fascinating one. Even though the Nets do not have Durant, this season will be a trial run of what the Nets could be once he will be able to return to action.
How will all of the other Nets pieces play, will the young players be able to step up, and how will Head Coach Kenny Atkinson fare with coaching the most talented team he has ever had in his coaching career?
By many accounts, the Nets had a very successful 2018-2019 season as they finished with a 42-40 record which was good enough for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Nets ultimately bowed out in the playoffs in five games as they were defeated by the Philadelphia 76ers.
This season though, expectations are sky high and the Nets must build on what they laid the foundation for last season. A first-round playoff exit may not be enough to satisfy Nets fans after the team signed Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan as their two biggest free agent signings that will be on the court opening night.
Both Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert have a great deal of pressure on them to continue developing, and turn into the franchise cornerstone players the Nets believe they are. LeVert was limited to only 40 games last season due to injury, but before he went down, he was averaging a career-high 13.7 points-per-game. LeVert will look to become a better all-around offensive player to fill some of the void left by Durant’s injury.
Dinwiddie took a step forward in virtually all offensive categories last year and averaged 16.8 ppg. The Nets also need him to continue to evolve his game during the 2019-2020 NBA season.
Other players like sharp-shooter Joe Harris, inside-presence Jordan, floor-general Irving, and still developing players like center Jarrett Allen all have defined roles on this team for Atkinson this year.
Nets General Manager Sean Marks has done a great job this off season improving the team, and has put them in prime position for a championship window that stats in 2020 and should remain open for a half-decade.
The Nets will look to improve on their win total from last season, 42, because Irving is an improvement over D’Angelo Russell, and DeAndre Jordan is still a high-quality NBA player. He is a rim protector, shot blocker, and alley-oop savant that will be able to mentor the younger Nets players which will continue their development.
If the Nets are able to play together, and play a selfless brand of basketball, there is no question they have the makings of being one of the last four teams standing in the Eastern Conference.
Then, the Nets will be off and running in October of 2020 when Durant enters the Barclays Center with the expectations of an entire borough on his shoulders.
The injury for Durant may actually end up being a silver lining because the younger players will have to grow up in a hurry because they will not have an all-time great to rely on. It may pay dividends once Durant does actually make his long-awaited return to the court.