Brooklyn Nets: After wild night, Nets are better … but how much?

Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russell Kyrie Irving (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Point guard

At the point guard position, D’Angelo Russell is out after becoming the Brooklyn Nets’ first All-Star since 2014, leading the team to the postseason for the first time since 2015 and finishing second to Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors in voting for Most Improved Player.

More. 25 best individual games in Nets history. light

Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, had a turbulent second season with the Boston Celtics before declining his option for 2019-20 to become a free agent.

Irving clashed with the team’s younger players at times, publicly criticizing the team’s mental approach and bench enthusiasm in thinly veiled jabs at the young core of the Celtics.

He followed that up with a very poor performance in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, a series in which Boston lost four straight games after posting a Game 1 blowout victory on the road.

Despite the drama in Boston, Irving is an upgrade — and a pretty significant one — over Russell, with the question being how well Irving will mesh with coach Kenny Atkinson and his rather egalitarian rotations.

Irving was much more isolation heavy than Russell last season and that could lead to some stagnation at the offense end, because sixth man Spencer Dinwiddie as well as Caris LeVert (likely the Nets’ starter at either the 2 or 3 spot) are also at their best in isolation.

But Irving is also a far more efficient shooter than Russell has been, with Irving’s worst shooting seasons being better than or close to Russell’s career-high shooting marks from last season.

If Atkinson can get the sometimes-mercurial Irving to buy in all the way, Irving could take his scoring to new levels with his 49 percent overall shooting coupled with a 40 percent mark from deep. He could be a legitimate 50/40/90 candidate, something Russell is not ever likely to threaten.

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