The Nets are my new favorite team
David Thorpe breaks down the new-look Brooklyn Nets
BY DAVID THORPE
One way to look at recent Brooklyn history: Nets general manager Sean Marks messed everything up, yet gets to keep trying.
However, Marks was on this path before; he just put it aside to accommodate Nets ownership’s desire to bring on star players, and then shoved it a little farther away bringing on more stars to accommodate the stars they’d acquired. It seems to me the Nets are simply back on Marks’ original path of slow-growing a contender. All in all, it’s a pretty soft landing—and if this doesn’t pan out, Marks has collected a bunch of players who could be converted into a star (or two). Nothing wrong with that.
After a career night from Mikal Bridges in a meaningful win over the Heat, they already look to be on an interesting road. Yes, the Nets took some risks I’d have avoided, but they’re a well-run franchise. Many who cover the league worried how their big three—James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving—would fit together, and then worried even more when the Nets moved Harden for the enigmatic Ben Simmons. Back in October, we pointed out this mess, then wondered what it could look like if it all got sorted.
The resulting months ahead were, at the very least, interesting. In a 20-game span, while Durant was healthy, the Nets rattled off 18 wins. Then Durant got hurt (again). Nash is long gone. Simmons has been solid on defense, yet a disaster overall. Then Kyrie pulled a Kyrie, and … here we are.
Even after all that drama, the Nets are still going to be pretty good—and this new-look team will have every chance to prove the team is far better than one might think. They’ve made a very good pivot. With about 25 games remaining, the Nets are nine games over .500 and fifth in the Eastern Conference; it’s hard to imagine them slipping out of the playoff picture.
The good news is, the starting five of Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, Dorian Finney-Smith, Cameron Johnson, and Nic Claxton is the most modern-looking lineup in the league: five long, athletic, dogged defenders with an elite rim protector surrounded by four capable shooters. (The construct recalls what the Toronto Raptors have been trying to accomplish in recent years—the Nets just have better shooters.) These Nets are just so malleable: There’s no end to their defensive versatility.
But to what end?
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