Few teams created a larger stir during free agency than the Brooklyn Nets, prompting waves of optimism for a fanbase that has been starved of success. The Nets have failed to win the NBA Championship in their 43 seasons in the league, and have not made a deep surge into the playoffs since their move to Brooklyn in 2012. It was time for the team to act and general manager Sean Marks delivered with the backing of owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Joseph Tsai.
Brooklyn was able to lure Kyrie Irving to the Barclays Center after his ill-fated two-year spell with the Boston Celtics. DeAndre Jordan also arrived on a four-year contract, moving from Madison Square Garden and over the East River to his new home.
However, the biggest acquisition of all came in an ambitious trade deal for Kevin Durant. The 31-year-old opted to end his tenure with the Golden State Warriors, and the Nets were the team to produce the strongest trade deal to secure his rights. Durant will be ruled out for the opening stages of the 2019/20 campaign after rupturing his Achilles in the NBA Finals. There will be hope that he can return in the second half of the season to join Kenny Atkinson’s men on a charge in the Eastern Conference, although their work will be cut out for them to compete at the top.
The Nets are backed in the NBA betting odds at +750 to win the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the thoughts of bookmakers. Without a healthy Durant, Atkinson’s side are not as talented as the Warriors unit that has dominated the NBA for the past six years. Even comparisons to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat teams with LeBron James are also off the mark, but they could look at the example of the Toronto Raptors last season in how to build a Championship-winning outfit.
Toronto was the ultimate tease in the Eastern Conference with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, dominating the regular season to put their side in the picture for the title. However, they always failed to rise to the occasion in the playoffs. A trade deal for Kawhi Leonard changed all that as he replaced DeRozan and immediately brought the crown to Toronto in his one and only season. Whether the three outstanding additions that the Nets have made can make the same impact remains to be seen, although they are all under contract for at least the next few years.
Talent does not always bring success. Durant was part of a combination with Russell Westbrook and James Harden at the Oklahoma City Thunder that somehow failed to win a Championship, despite the incredible level of brilliance the team could put on the court at one time. Irving was supposed to be the star that guided the Celtics back to the top of the Eastern Conference, but his attitude and underwhelming performances drew the ire of the Boston faithful. Even Jordan was with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin at the Clippers and never reached the Western Conference Finals.
It was once Durant x Westbrook x Harden in OKC.
End of an era. pic.twitter.com/PNPj7LM9zZ
— ESPN (@espn) July 12, 2019
There are plenty of reasons for Brooklyn fans to feel enthusiastic heading into the new season, but that can all change in the opening month of the campaign. Quality is one thing, but cohesion and unity on the court are more important. If Atkinson can work with his roster to become a well-oiled machine then the Nets’ empty trophy cabinet might well be filled come the end of the term.