April 3 @ Indiana Pacers
Obviously, the NBA can be wildly unpredictable and our guesses can be way off, but many prognosticators have scoped out the Nets to finish in the 45-50 win range. This total would put them right on the edge of being able to secure home-court advantage in the first round.
If Brooklyn were to be in a situation such as this, the last two weeks of the regular season would prove vital to playoff positioning when all is said and done. And one team they may be competing against for one of those coveted spots are the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana settled on their backcourt for the foreseeable future when they acquired Malcolm Brogdon in a sign-and-trade this offseason to partner alongside Victor Oladipo. This duo has limitless potential on the defensive end and could prove to be one of the best backcourts in the East in the near future.
However, with Oladipo still recovering from his ruptured quad and likely to miss at least the first few months, these two team’s early-season matchups will lack a bit of luster. But likely by their game in February and almost certainly by April, Oladipo should be good to play against Brooklyn.
If coach Nate McMillan can keep the team afloat around .500 until their star returns, they certainly have the firepower to make a run at a top-four seed come season’s end. That is why the final matchup between these two could prove to be pivotal.
On the floor, this Pacers team has a lot of depth similar to Brooklyn, especially on the wing. McMillan’s main challenge outside of weathering the early season storm minus Oladipo will be to decide how to distribute minutes at the four spots. Again, this is a topic of conversation in Brooklyn as well.
How McMillan decides to solve this problem may shape how this season series plays out. He could choose to play the skilled but slower Domantas Sabonis for more minutes alongside Myles Turner, or he could opt to slide TJ Warren to the four for stretches and choose to push the tempo and be more athletic across the board, allowing for more switchability defensively.
This matchup could be a massive one for playoff positioning and the Indiana backcourt may be better equipped to contain Brooklyn’s dynamic ball handlers from penetrating better than anyone else in the East. Also, look for Kenny to potentially throw zone looks at this team defensively if they choose to play their two best bigs together for long stretches.
Obviously, affairs such as Kyrie’s return, an appearance from Zion, and Knicks games will catch everyone’s attention for good reason, but as we saw against Sacramento last year, sometimes the best games can catch you by surprise.