I recently wrote an article discussing if the Nets with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could lead the Nets to a championship or combust along the way.
Now I have to ask myself will Durant, Irving and now James Harden lead the Nets to a championship, or will he just further help the ship sink?
On paper, the idea of having arguably the three most lethal scorers in the league sounds amazing. Who wouldn’t want 3 guys who can easily combine for 90+ points night in and night out. That is what Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni have at their disposal in an attempt to out score teams to a championship.
But Nash also has three of the most drama filled, exuberant personalities, the league has ever seen.
Can the first year coach handle that?
Can he handle the 3 ball dominate players being disgruntled about touches, shot selections, who takes the final shot.
Can Nash get them to play defense? Team defense at that since Jarrett Allen isn’t there to clean up their missed assignments.
Is Nash up for the task?
The only time we have seen Harden and Irving on the court together was the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
The tape is nearly seven years old, long before Irving’s durability became a problem and well before Harden became a three-time scoring champion and led the league in assists in 2017.
In the tournament, Harden led Team USA in scoring with 14.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting while Irving averaged 12.1 points per game on 56 percent shooting. Both guards started all nine games.
One of the biggest takeaways from the 2016 Olympic film was how often Durant and Irving deferred to each other and passed up great shots for the other to score. And to their credit, that has quickly become the dynamic when both are on the court in Brooklyn. With Irving and Harden, it wasn’t exactly the same. Harden and Irving found each other occasionally but primarily deferred to each other in transition and full-court offense, but not as much in the half court.
Much like the FIBA tournament and the Olympics, the Nets will not run many scripted plays. Rather expect a lot of isolation and spread ball screens and put four guys on the perimeter to try to space and screen for certain players. Basically let Harden, Durant and Irving play one on one and let the best skillset win.
Joe Harris may be the biggest benefactor of the Harden trade. The Nets’ shooting would be elite in a four-out lineup comprised of Harris, Durant, Irving and Harden and ball movement alone could free up easy shots.
Harris, who is among the top 3 point shooters in the league, will thrive playing with three dominant scorers who will draw constant double teams and weak side help. Expect a ton of uncontested corner 3’s for Harris.
The biggest question that arose when Harden was first linked to Brooklyn was if all three star players could get the shots they wanted when they all require the ball in their hands to be at their best.
Although the NBA continues to head toward 3s and spacing, an isolation-heavy offense still has a place in the modern game.
With all three players in the latter stages of their career, an isolation-heavy offense could be good for Brooklyn because its less taxing on the body than a high-tempo offense would be. Schematically, it makes a lot of sense. But would it keep Irving, Durant and Harden happy?
Brooklyn would have three of the world’s best isolation players, so electing for an isolation heavy offense isn’t such a bad idea as it normally is. The question will be are the other two superstars content with standing in the corner while the other is dribbling like a Harlem Globetrotter for 24 seconds.
Durant didn’t like that offense in OKC, and he left to Golden State in search of a system that creates high percentage looks. Will be interesting to see how he reacts to playing with not one but two ball dominate dribble heads.
What about Harden? He didn’t love splitting on ball duty with Chris Paul nor Russell Westbrook. Will he be happy with having the ball significantly less?
Kyrie, happy? That is a deeper question than just basketball. The Nets need to locate him before we can even dissect any on court matters with him.
Is a championship in their future? It certainly is on the table. It’s always possible when you have two top 7 players, and three top 20 players on the same roster. But nobody truly knows the answer to this. This is a case of needing to see if egos and skillsets can gel together quickly. Remember there is no training camp or even a full season to work these issues out.
You’ll either see the trio combine for 100 points, or a mental breakdown at center court. I don’t think there will be any middle ground with this team. Either way the Nets are must watch basketball.