The Brooklyn Nets have championship aspirations this season and nothing but.
In the NBA, the two most common ways of building championship teams are like this: you either have two stars with a lot of depth or have three stars with very little depth.
LeBron James is an example of this, as his Los Angeles Lakers had two stars with Anthony Davis and himself, or the Cleveland Cavaliers with James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (also the Miami Heat).
Sean Marks and the Brooklyn Nets have thrown this idea out the window. Not only do they have three stars in Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden, they also have some of the best depth for a current contender.
The Brooklyn Nets have three bonafide superstars in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, but it’s their bench that has been the real stars.
In the Harden trade, the Nets lost three key rotation players in Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince – all while Spencer Dinwiddie is out for the season with a torn ACL.
You’d think that the Nets would have to get Steve Nash on the court to even have a decent nine-man lineup. However, Marks and the Nets front office have pulled off heist after heist to not only have some depth but have some of the best role players this offseason thus far.
The Nets picked up Bruce Brown and Landry Shamet for the draft rights for 19th overall pick Saddiq Bey, Dzanan Musa and a second-round pick — which has been a steal for the Nets.
The Kenny Atkinson era produced sharpshooter Joe Harris, Jeff Green was a free agent signed on the veteran minimum, Blake Griffin was signed in a buy-out, Nicolas Claxton was the 31st overall pick and Mike James was picked up after playing in Russia – who one GM said was one of four players in Europe who could make an impact on an NBA team right now according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
You are not supposed to have that kind of depth when you trade players and assets to get James Freakin’ Harden – and they aren’t supposed to fit as well as they do with those stars.
This is the magic of the Nets right now. Even with Harden missing games due to a lingering hamstring injury you still have Durant and Irving, plus all of those elite role players.
We’ve seen what a lack of depth (or productive depth) has done to teams in these playoffs. The Lakers struggled without Kyle Kuzma or Dennis Schröder shooting well and the Bucks only go nine deep (including Donte Divincenzo out), with Jeff Teague playing more than he should be.
If and or when Harden and Green become healthy the Nets legitimately go 10-12 deep, and there is diversity in how they can play.
Against bigger lineups, you can off dust DeAndre Jordan or throw in Alize ‘wreaking ball’ Johnson, if you need a pure spacing lineup you can have Shamet and Harris and for a small-ball lineup, you can have Griffin at five or four with Durant.
The Brooklyn Nets seem like title favorites with how they have dismantled every team in front of them thus far. But their success is not solely determined by their three stars, but by the entire team.
And that is rewriting how we convince the team building debate of two stars with depth or three stars with none.
The Nets are proving that you can not only have three MVP-like players, but you can also surround them with elite role players if you are competent at player development, overseas scouting, and making good free-agent signings.