Colin McGee ‘22
Basketball is beloved in New York. Courts such as Rucker Park and institutions such as St. John’s basketball inspires and mesmerizes us. Unfortunately, the two New York NBA teams have recently not done the same. The New York Knicks have endured a well documented long streak of futility. The Brooklyn Nets were the worst team in the NBA just 4 years ago. However, the Nets’ blockbuster January 13th trade for James Harden has now given them arguably the most talented roster in the league headlined by Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving.
In order to acquire James Harden, the Nets had to give up a whopping 4 first round picks and 4 pick swaps along with many key role players. In order to understand how important these picks are it’s important to go back to a trade which the Nets made in 2013. The 2013 trade in which the Nets sent a boatload of draft picks for the aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics would go down in infamy.
This is because the Boston Celtics would draft their young superstar duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum out of the picks they received in this trade in the years 2016 and 2017 respectively. The Nets would only go as far as the second round and Garnett and Pierce would only spend a few years in Brooklyn and would retire soon after.
This trade is considered as one of the most lopsided ever. So, giving up a bounty of first round picks for Harden shows that the Nets are all-in on this core winning them a championship.
The Nets are coached by first-time head coach and Hall of Fame player Steve Nash in a hire which many originally took issue with as they felt they were more qualified candidates. Nash was a very decorated player, winning 2 MVPs in his career. He also has his work cut out for him as he takes over a team with extremely high expectations.
Kevin Durant is the leader and best player on this team. Durant, undoubtedly a top 3 player in the NBA today, is a former MVP and one of the most gifted scorers of all time. His near 7 foot frame along with elite shooting and ball handling makes him a matchup nightmare for anyone. He came to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving in the loaded 2019 free agent class. Irving, a good friend of Durant, is already one of the best ball handlers of all time. He is known for making big time shots, with one of the biggest shots in recent memory in Game 7 in the 2016 Finals being one of them. James Harden came to Brooklyn after requesting a trade from Houston. He is also a former MVP and led the NBA in points per game for the previous 3 seasons.
Just by looking at the resumes at these 3 great players, you can see how great they are on the offensive side of the ball. However, the success of these Nets is going to depend on their success on the defensive end. The Nets have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league this year. As of February 23rd, the Nets are ranked as having the third worst defense in the whole NBA, only ahead of the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings. It is to be expected that Durant, Irving and Harden will not be as active on defense in order to save their energy on offense. So, the Nets are going to need their defense in a supporting cast made up of shooters such as Joe Harris and veterans such as DeAndre Jordan. Expect the Nets to make more moves to solidify their defense before the trade deadline.
As of February 23rd, the Nets have compiled a record of 20-12, best for 2nd in the Eastern Conference. Despite only having the sixth best record in the league, these Nets are truly capable of lifting up the Larry O’Brien trophy at season’s end. This would be monumental for all of New York. The Empire State has not seen a championship in one of the 4 major North American sports since Eli Manning led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory all the way back on February 5, 2012. In comparison, the state of Missouri has seen triple the amount of championships in this time period. It may just be these super Nets who end this long and undeserving drought.