After a thrilling seven-game series between the Nets and the Bucks, there is nothing but questions regarding Brooklyn and their ‘Big 3’, the main one being “was this experiment a failure or did things just not fall into place as they should have?”
The heavily favored Brooklyn Nets and their collection of superstars were kicked out of the playoffs by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, a dangerous defensive team, in Game Seven Saturday night, and with the Nets’ inability to reach the Conference Finals, there are doubts about whether or not the way Brooklyn attacked the construction of the team was all for nothing or if the injuries were just too much to overcome in the end.
Brooklyn amassed some of the biggest names in the NBA these past two seasons starting with the additions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last season (although Durant never played a game due to injury and Irving only played 20 games) before adding the likes of James Harden and Blake Griffin to the roster midway through the season this year.
All of the talent, the shooting ability, and the veteran smarts of the first-year coach–and 2x NBA MVP–Steve Nash ended up falling short thanks to a bevy of injuries to two of their biggest contributors, Irving and Harden, but was it really just injuries that made Brooklyn unable to compete with the Bucks’ size and strength? Or was it doomed to fail from the get-go?
Superteams have been a commonality amongst the NBA over the past decade, with more and more being built across the coasts, but the combination of Durant, Harden, Irving, and Griffin seemed too good to be true when looking at the team on paper.
“There’s only one ball,” many people said when Harden was traded to Brooklyn back in January. “He’s washed up and too beat up to provide much,” most people said when Griffin agreed to come to the Nets back in March.
Both statements would end up looking silly by the end of the season considering Griffin had somewhat of a revenge season (averaging 10 ppg with the Nets and shooting 53% in the playoffs), and when all of Brooklyn’s big three were on the court, the scoring came effortlessly but, lo and behold, the three superstars only shared the court for a total of 43 seconds during the Bucks series.
Durant was eventually asked to step up and make up for the lack of talent that was left on the court during the last few games, and he did so marvelously, averaging 43 ppg over the past three games in which he played an average of 47.1 minutes per game during.
So Durant did his duty, and he did it well, but when Harden came back hobbled in Game Five and only scored five points in 46 minutes it was easy to see that Durant was essentially playing 1v5 and taking the full bulk of responsibility of getting Brooklyn to the Conference Finals to give his star teammates more time to rest and heal.
He almost did so too, but in the end, his shoe was a few centimeters too big and caused a game-ending three-pointer to turn into a long, game-tying two-point shot which the Bucks eventually overcame in slow-paced overtime.
The Nets’ experiment looks like it failed from the viewpoint of the casual fan, and even in the eyes of some of the biggest NBA analysts, but it’s not entirely anyone’s fault that this explosive team didn’t live up to the expectations that were put on them…
No, it all started to show signs of cracking from the beginning when Nets GM Sean Marks went all-in on two of the most injury-prone players on the market during the 2019 offseason, causing the whole Brooklyn superteam experiment to start without Durant (and basically Irving) for the first season and leaving them without much salary cap space to build depth behind the injured superstars later.
Then after looking at this previous season, it was pretty obvious that sooner or later the injury bug would hit at least one of the Nets’ big three, especially late in the season when Harden and Irving were showing signs of fatigue before the postseason run. Because of the lack of talent on Brooklyn’s bench, it was almost impossible to come up with very many audibles or game plans that didn’t revolve around Durant or whichever member of the big three was left on the hardwood.
At the moment all three of Brooklyn’s superstars are set to return next season and prove that the Nets’ faith in them should not be shaken, nor should the fan’s, but I fear there will be plenty of load management and additions to the bench before they can compete for an NBA Championship as a complete squad.
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