This one is for the theory crafters out there. Before we get started let’s take a look at where the Nets are right now. Sitting 25-28 let’s remind ourselves of the obstacles that coach Kenny Atkinson had to deal with throughout the season.
-Kevin Durant rehabs for first season signed.
-Wilson Chandler’s 25 game suspension.
-Iman Shumpert filling Chandler’s role temporarily (released after Chandler’s return).
-David Nwaba waived after Achilles injury.
-Kyrie Irving missing most of the season.
-Caris LeVert also missing time due to injury.
That’s enough roster turnover for a team to find themselves in the lottery. For the Nets to find themselves in 7th place in the East and climbing in the win column before the All-Star break deserves nothing but praise from the coaching staff.
Now onto the question at hand. The funnest part about this is the theory crafting about Kevin Durant. If we received a fully healthy Durant alongside Kyrie the question becomes how would the coaching staff build their identity? Would they rely heavily on Durant’s offensive production? Or would they preach inclusiveness which is on par with how the Nets do things? It’s a legitimate question because the first point would be plausible considering Kevin Durant pre-injury was putting up efficient/monstrous numbers. We know who he is. The Nets know who he is. Opponents know who he is. Would the Nets change their identity to hop on Durant’s back and allow him to carry them through the season?
I’m going to assume that Kenny Atkinson has the foresight to understand that his players require integration and sharing of the ball for the team as a whole to be at their best. Especially considering the expectations at this point would be to get a championship. For me the Nets play their best basketball when they have length on the defensive end, and shooting on the offensive end. So the projected starting five would look like this:
The second team being:
This team here would have length in every game to disrupt passing lanes and defend the paint on both the starting five and the bench. As well as shooting to boot. This 10-man rotation is better than Indiana, Heat, Toronto, Sixers, and Celtics talent wise. In fact this team would be the only team with two proven super stars in the finals in the entire eastern conference. The Nets would be the team to beat, being in either the first seed or second seed. I will respect the Bucks because they are having a historic season and I don’t think the Nets even in this situation make that fact change.
We have to remember that even though Kyrie is not a defensive stalwart his strength comes in disrupting passing lanes. Kevin Durant can play both ends of the floor at an elite level. Caris LeVert is a bordering elite two-way player, and Jarrett Allen is a stud in protecting the rim. The weakest link defensively would be Joe Harris in the starting five and even he plays strong with his body on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Kevin Durant has experience playing within a system and prides himself on playing correct basketball. That would definitely rub off on Kyrie because say what you want about him, the one thing that holds true is the respect he has for Durant. This team if fully healthy would have been a nightmare for most teams to play against. Their record more than likely resembling where Toronto is currently at 40-15 possibly higher.
In this parallel universe the Nets would be the team to beat in the East, possibly facing either the Bucks or the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Whether or not the Nets win is up in the air, anything can happen. Its possible the Bucks or the Celtics prove once and for all they are for real. But one thing would be for sure, whether the Bucks or Celtics were to beat them, it would be considered an upset.