In a Dec. 30 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Brooklyn Nets presented a starting lineup of James Harden, Patty Mills, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Nic Claxton. As they climbed out of the hole they quickly fell into in the first quarter, YES Nets analyst Sarah Kustok stated, “The Nets started three playmakers alongside two bigs. The ball keeps moving, everyone is getting touches, the possibilities are endless.”
And that’s with Patty Mills in the starting lineup. Soon, Kyrie Irving will return to the Nets and give them three playmaking superstars in the starting lineup. Each one can attract the defense, make the right pass, and make the shot if needed.
They’re such polarizing talents that it leaves the rest of the roster free to roam. Before the New Year, the Nets are atop of the Eastern Conference, are without their sharpshooter Joe Harris, and are coming off a COVID-19 outbreak.
One of those things is not like the others.
While this run has shown only a piece of the Nets’ potential, it’s proven that one of the biggest keys to the Nets’ success is Patty Mills. His offense and playmaking ability can give any of the superstars a break. He’s displayed the elite shooting we usually only see when he’s playing for the Australian National Team.
In the game against the Sixers, Mills ended with 5 points on 2-10 shooting from the field. However, his game is perfect for the Nets. According to ShotQuality, he has an 82% rim and three rate and ranks in the 70th percentile for possessions resulting in quality shots. Coach Nash has only scratched the surface of what Mills can do for Brooklyn.
Fast forward to Saturday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Mills pouring in 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting (including 5-of-9 from the 3-point line). Had the Nets not gone cold in the final six minutes of the game (they blew a 13-point lead), we’d be talking about Mills’ showing much more favorably.
The fact of the matter is that Nets can’t rely on Durant and Harden combining for 66 points every night. The duo also can’t average 39 minutes a game. This is why reincorporating Irving onto the road roster and bringing back a healthy Harris are so important.
Harris is starting light basketball activity while Irving won’t be making his debut until Jan. 5 against the Pacers. But, with these losses against the Sixers and Clippers, the Nets still hold first in the East at only 80% strength. Just wait and see what they can do when they reach 100%.