The Nets qualified for the playoffs despite Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Wilson Chandler, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant not playing.
Dinwiddie, Jordan and Prince tested positive for coronavirus. Chandler opted out, and Irving decided to have season-ending shoulder surgery. Durant missed the entire season after injuring his Achilles in last year’s NBA Finals.
They received next to nothing from their replacements such as Jamal Crawford (he was never in shape to play) and Lance Thomas. Michael Beasley tested positive for coronavirus. Even if those guys played, the Nets had no shot against the deep and talented Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors played like the Eastern Conference favorites to play in the NBA Finals by sweeping the Nets in four games after another dominating performance in a 150-122 victory Sunday night.
Three out of the four games were never close, and as gutty as the Nets played in Game 2, the Raptors featured too much firepower from the bench for their opponent to keep up.
For anyone that says the Nets can beat the Raptors in a seven-game series if they have all their guys healthy, that’s being delusional and naive. They can win some games, but that’s not a guarantee they can win the series.
The Nets should be better next year when all their guys return. Kevin Durant himself makes the Nets better. But that’s good enough to get you a cup of coffee. Yes, the Nets will make the playoffs, but they are not the team to beat out East just yet.
So many questions must be answered with this roster before we declare the Nets as a championship contender. For one thing, Durant needs to show he hasn’t lost much after an Achilles injury. Second, can Irving work well with his teammates? Third, the Nets have to develop a bench. Finally, how much improvement can the Nets make on defense?
No one knows what Durant can do. Not even him. He will produce. Can he be the player he was before the injury? Achilles’ injury can be tricky. He will lose a lot of speed, and he is not getting any younger, especially after playing for 12 seasons. Will he stop attacking the rim and just settle for jumpers? If that’s the case, then he becomes worthless. His strength comes from beating his defenders and driving to the lane. He can shoot well on occasion, but the Nets are not paying him to be a shooter only. Also, how much will the injury affect his defense?
Irving remains a question mark for the Nets. For one thing, he struggled to work with Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris. The offense looked stagnant and unwatchable when Irving played with them. How he works with Durant is another question. Sure, both talk about wanting to play with each other, but saying and doing are just two different things. No one knows how those two will fare. Second of all, can he play through injuries? Finally, is he tough enough to handle adversity?
The Raptors bench overpowered the Nets in this series. The Nets had no answer for them, and the Nets don’t have the depth to help them win a championship. They hoped Crawford, Beasley and Thomas made the most of their opportunity in the restart bubble when they signed then, but they offered nothing to the point they shouldn’t be back.
Unless the Nets make improvements with their bench, it could pose a problem against teams like the Raptors next season.
The Nets defense stunk this season. The Raptors did whatever they wanted when they wanted to. Seeing Kyle Lowry run past the Nets defenders and score in the paint was embarrassing. Fred VanVleet shooting jumpers from wherever was tough to watch.
The Nets could use some physicality and force defensively. Maybe Durant can be that guy, but can he do those things remains to be seen..
For anyone that says a new head coach can make a difference, just stop. Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd or whoever won’t have as much success as Jacque Vaughn if he doesn’t have the personnel to play defense.
Getting a third star helps, but what do the Nets have to offer to acquire a player like Bradley Beal?
Plus, no one knows if Irving and Durant can play together since it did not happen this year. To expect three guys to all of a sudden play together and do well is crazy. Only one basketball exists, and someone will be unhappy if he does not get touches. It could be risky, and three stars does not beat the Raptors bench.
Unless Nets owner Joseph Tsai pays the luxury tax, the Nets don’t have much room to maneuver.
So many questions than answers for the Nets heading to next season.
The Raptors’ sweep of the Nets reinforces that.
Featured Image: Kim Klement