3. The Brooklyn Nets have been unable to establish on-court chemistry
Last season the Brooklyn Nets played without Kevin Durant as he rehabbed from an Achilles injury, and frequently played without the oft-unavailable Kyrie Irving. Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown played for the Detroit Pistons; James Harden and Jeff Green for the Houston Rockets. LaMarcus Aldridge was watching rodeos in San Antonio, and head coach Steve Nash was commenting on soccer matches.
The Nets were largely carried by Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, none of whom will be a part of this team’s playoff push. In last year’s playoffs, a four-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, the Nets played without Irving or Dinwiddie. Their combined 20 starts include 15 from players not on the current roster and just two (Joe Harris) from a player likely to be in this year’s Nets playoff rotation.
That complete rotation turnover makes it nearly impossible to know how this group will perform once the playoffs begin. It is rare for a newly-formed super team to succeed in year one. The 2008 Boston Celtics won the title, but LeBron James didn’t win in year one with either the Miami Heat or his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year’s LA Clippers fell well short of the title. The 2014 Brooklyn Nets and 2012 Los Angeles Lakers never came close.
This is not Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors in 2016. That was an established championship core adding a superstar. This is Kevin Durant (and James Harden, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Bruce Brown) joining Joe Harris and the healthy version of Kyrie Irving. They needed this season to build that chemistry, not simply the off-court trust but the on-court reliance on one another. They have had just a few months to build the former, and basically no time to build the latter.
The team has not played a single game with their entire, expected postseason rotation. They have played just seven games with all three of their stars, and the last of those came on February 13th, nearly two months ago. Basketball is not simply taking the most talented players; chemistry is real, even if sometimes overrated, and it’s hard to look at this season and conclude that the Nets have been able to build enough to win the title.