Brooklyn Nets Tumultuous Season Ends in a Sweep

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A number of questions will inevitably arise as to the immediate future of the Brooklyn Nets. Especially considering they were considered the favorites entering this year. It’s been a tumultuous year, primarily due to their ‘big 3,’ becoming a ‘big 2,’ when James Harden forced his way out. No matter which way we slice it, the optics are poor for this team. Their Harden deal backfired massively, and Kyrie Irving has largely been a headache with glimpses of brilliance. Yet he still brought with him Kevin Durant who remains their great hope moving forward. However, with two of the league’s best players, being swept in the first round of the playoffs is embarrassing. For various reasons including Harden forcing his way out, along with Irving’s vaccination status plus chemistry and coaching concerns- the Nets’ tumultuous season ends in a sweep.

We’ll briefly break down the series, where it went wrong, and the Nets’ plans moving forward.

Brooklyn Nets Tumultuous Season Ends in a Sweep- a Series breakdown

Brooklyn ignominiously fell to the Celtics in a series sweep. Much of it came down to coaching, chemistry, and especially defense. Each matchup was competitive to the final minutes, meaning the outcome of this series largely came down to the fine margins.

Jayson Tatum lived up to his star billing by deciding Game One with a dramatic buzzer-beating spin move on the flailing Irving to lay it in.

Game Two was a story of a second-half collapse from Brooklyn. Blowing a 17-point lead and Irving and Durant combining for just a single basket in the second half.

Boston then held Brooklyn at arm’s length for the final two games. Tatum dropped 39 and Durant struggled to deal with the Celtics stifling defense in the next game. Game Four was a similar story despite Durant’s best performance of the series, and the sweep was complete.

Tatum proved to be the star of this series without question.

Biggest Mismatch was on the Sidelines

Credit has to go to Celtics coach Ime Udoka for his defensive scheme keying up on Durant. Through the first three games, the Celtics held Durant to just 19-52 shooting with 17 turnovers. Routinely doubling him and denying him any rhythm. Conversely, Brooklyn’s coach Steve Nash seemed slightly bewildered in this series and was late to make any adjustments himself until it was too late.

It became apparent that the biggest mismatch was down to coaching; Udoka put on a clinic whilst Brooklyn’s offense was centered around isolation schemes. Durant, Irving, and Bruce Brown did all they could to keep their team in the series. However, off-ball movement was often minimal and Boston was undaunted by Brooklyn attempting to set screens and switch. Consequentially, their defense remained on top of every action.

Boston-based sports writer for SI Chris Mannix told the Early Edition: “Steve Nash has been bad this series…the offensive play calling has been horrible. It’s been effectively ‘let’s throw the ball to KD and Kyrie’ and watch them get muscled by Boston’s D.”

It’s hard to argue with anything he opined here. There were noticeable times when he failed to creatively find ways to get Durant open. Whereas Udoka targeted certain individuals and made the most of mismatches in their favor.

In fairness to Nash, his roster lacked the necessary depth, especially defensively. Also as mentioned many issues were out of his control. However, his coaching inexperience was painfully highlighted in this series.

Brooklyn Nets Roster Construction

To quote JJ Reddick on ESPN Get Up: “This is a cautionary tale about roster construction. It’s very difficult to have an extremely top-heavy roster without depth. Especially when your depth or your superstars are not homegrown.” To further add to his point, the Celtics had depth and a strong nucleus of homegrown talent. Tatum; Jaylen Brown; and Marcus Smart were drafted by the Celtics and formed a nucleus and chemistry to fit their playing style.

This Nets roster is extremely top-heavy. Two of the best scorers in the league, without many two-way players and a lack of depth in key areas around them. Furthermore, it’s difficult to gain chemistry without playing many games as a unit. This should not be overlooked in playoff series. Roster cohesion is key to a championship roster. Case in point last season’s champions Milwaukee Bucks, and this year’s Celtics team. This has been the Nets’ undoing for the past three years.

Brooklyn made the mistake of lacking rim protection through much of the year, along with lacking complementary defensive pieces around their stars.

Durant had to carry an extraordinary workload when Irving was out, and he was phenomenal. However, it was too much for one man to carry this team for long stretches. Even for one of the best players in a generation.

Who is Running the Show in Brooklyn?

Irving further raised eyebrows in his post-game press conference inferring he wants to be involved in future roster construction: “When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that entails us managing this franchise together.” This is a bizarre statement from an eccentric figure. Irving has missed the majority of his games since coming to the Nets for various reasons. Since becoming a Net he has gone AWOL at one point, had injuries, and refused to take the vaccine- thus making him ineligible for half of this season. To then infer he believes he should have a say in the management is a sign of the dysfunction in Brooklyn.

There is no denying his other-worldly talent. Even in short sample size, he was an incredible scorer this year averaging 27 points per game. Case in point dropping 60 against the Magic. His priority should be being the best version of himself as a leader rather than adding management to his responsibilities. It also could be perceived as subtly undermining GM Sean Marks or even Nash in the organization. When players control the organization, it gives the impression that the inmates are running the asylum.

Job number one to fix this situation is to establish a clear management structure. GM-Head Coach-players. By all means, consult with your star players but not more than that. Allow Marks to build the roster as he sees fit.

Can Ben Simmons be Trusted Next Year by the Brooklyn Nets?

By far the biggest question going into next year remains Ben Simmons– the main piece of the Harden deal. Rumored to return for Game 3 or 4 of this series, Simmons backed out last minute incurring the wrath of ex-players and legends. Shaquille O’Neal described it as a “punk move,” Reggie Miller accused him of having “Zero competitive fire.” Simmons has a lot of work to do to regain respect around the league it is fair to say next season.

Teasing a return for a number of months, yet due to a herniated disc in his back, combined with mental health concerns Simmons sat out. Furthermore, his relationship with the 76ers and their fans was rock bottom after being a key reason for their playoff elimination last year. He refused to play this year until he got his trade. Since the trade, it appeared he was readying himself for the playoffs, but in the end, he didn’t suit up and he’s been heavily criticized through the media for it.

Simmons’s desire to play has to be a concern moving forward for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets Future plans

Irving is expected to be given an extension to continue his partnership with Durant at this stage. Assuming both remain healthy throughout, they will no doubt be better next year with a full year together.

Despite missteps in roster construction, Marks is still one of the better executives in the league. Therefore Net fans should still have faith he will put together a better supporting cast next year. Brown and Patty Mills were good finds from Marks, and Seth Curry will be a valuable shooter next year. A key priority is to upgrade at the wing and bring in two-way players, possibly through the draft.

Marks will also likely need to replace Drummond who is an unrestricted free agent and acquire a rim-protecting big.

Without question, the Simmons situation will need to be resolved. After admitting the stress of suiting up impacted his back, it’s fair to wonder about him moving forward. How will he handle the New York market after struggling in Philadelphia? His value will also be very low in a trade. Marks will need to decide on whether to attempt to maximize his value or cut bait on his large contract. If he can get him on board, he is an All-Star caliber defender/playmaker to further improve this roster.

While it appears Nash is safe for now, for me the problem was never talent this year. It came down to the fine margins, and Nash thus far has failed to show the coaching nous to manage these huge egos to take this team to the next level.

Don’t expect wholesale changes from the Brooklyn Nets this offseason- it will be about finding quality role players and building chemistry.

 

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