The Brooklyn Nets once again took over the top spot in the Eastern Conference Wednesday night, as the return of Kevin Durant and their throttling of the New Orleans Pelicans helped snatch the East’s best record away from the rival Philadelphia 76ers.
Not only are Doc Rivers and the 76ers as talented and deep as the Nets, but they present a very interesting stylistic challenge. While the Nets like to play as fast as possible and utilize their speed on offense, Philly is more content with banging down low in the post with big men like Joel Embiid or the switchblade known as point guard Ben Simmons.
While the Milwaukee Bucks are still as lethal as even given the presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brooklyn and Philadelphia look like the two best teams in this conference, and the pair appear to be hurtling towards an explosive confrontation in a hypothetical conference finals matchup.
The 76ers will give the Nets plenty of trouble given their size and the star power of Embiid, but these three stats prove that the Nets might actually have an edge.
The Brooklyn Nets have the edge over the 76ers due to these three stats.
No. 3: Brooklyn has dominated without Kevin Durant
On any other team in which Durant played in just 20 of the first 52 games in any given year, that might’ve been enough to derail the season. Not only have the Nets survived their stretch without KD, but they’ve thrived, posting a 23-9 mark in games where Durant hasn’t played. Winning 72% of games without KD shows how good Kyrie Irving and James Harden have been.
Harden has taken home Conference Player of the Month honors, while Irving averaged 28.3 points per game on 50% shooting since February 10. The Nets are far from just a two-man show, as the depth that detractors claimed was non-existent after the Harden trade has saved the day many times over.
The Brooklyn Nets were playing well with just Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
Joe Harris and Jeff Green remain two of the best shooters in the league at their position, Bruce Brown has emerged as a unique two-way standout given his physicality, and center Nicolas Claxton is starting to look like a long-term piece Brooklyn can lean on.
With Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge apparently fitting the Nets like a glove, Brooklyn now has even more options to lean on in case one of their three superstars is unable to suit up. The Nets went from laughably shallow to one of the most varied offensive attacks in the league, and that will serve them well in the summer.