The Brooklyn Nets have reliable stars, but their time together on the court is producing some troubling results early in the season.
Coming off a loss to the Miami Heat, their second defeat in three games, the 2-3 Nets are still figuring some things out.
Perhaps more puzzling than Brooklyn’s 29th-rated offense this season is that much of the damage on that side of the floor can be attributed to its two best players sharing the court.
Of course, there are always going to be some bizarre statistics when you’re only six percent into the season. Still, the drastic drop in the Nets’ offensive rating when Durant and Harden are on the court could speak to why they’re off to a slower start than expected.
Boasting the league’s best offensive rating last season with Kyrie Irving available (118.3), that number skyrocketed to 130.5 when the Durant-Harden duo was on the court. This season, the rating of 95.6 with them on the floor would easily be worse than any team in the league but the Detroit Pistons (91.0).
Inside the numbers of the Brooklyn Nets’ discouraging Kevin Durant-James Harden trend
It’s hard to put much blame on the play of Durant early in the season. The box score of the last game pretty much sums up how the Nets have fared in their three losses:
Harden, meanwhile, has struggled both with getting to the free throw line and from the field overall. Shooting just 33.3% from the 3-point line and 35.9% overall, he attributes his rough start to getting back into game shape after suffering from a rare injury in April.
"“As much as I want to get back to 30 and 40 points, I can’t do that,” Harden told the media on Wednesday. “As much as I want to, as much as I would love to, I didn’t have any opportunities to play pickup. It was all rehab.”"
After having 11 separate games last season in which he shot 10 or more free throws, Harden has only been to the line 15 times through five games this year. While I expect that will change as he gets his feet under him and adapts to not seeking fouls as much, that’s definitely attributed to his humble output of 16.6 points per game so far.
The Brooklyn Nets are one week into the 2021-22 season, and the Joe Harris that earned a four-year contract at the end of 2020 still hasn't shown up.
All in all, the data is obviously skewed by the small sample size, but shows that Harden will need to pick up his game quickly to avoid the slow start becoming an extended skid. Facing the basement-dwelling Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in three of their next four games should help.