Questioning the answers - Will Warriors have solutions for Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the Nets?
Getting to know the new-look Nets - a Q&A With Matt Brooks
The New Jersey Nets are one of the league’s title favorites this season. Led by familiar star Kevin Durant, who has united with his friend Kyrie Irving, the Nets will be a harsh welcoming committee for the Golden State Warriors when they kick off the season against each other on December 22.
Ahead of the matchup, I (virtually) sat down with Matt Brooks of Nets Daily to discuss how things are going in New Jersey, as well as some keys to the matchup.
Duby: The Brooklyn Nets are entering this season with two new All Stars, a new head coach, and championship aspirations. What parts of the old team will be the most important to carry forward?
Matt: The key thing for the Brooklyn Nets will be avoiding, well, to put it plainly, an LA Clippers situation. Preferential treatment, massaging the egos of the stars as if they’re a divine autonomous operation could rub the guys who have been with the team for a while the wrong way. Shoot, there’s a literal blueprint out there for Sean Marks on what NOT to do with superstars in the fold.
Go ahead and run Joe Harris off many-a-stagger screen, and find him in transition to keep him feeling involved. Let Spencer Dinwiddie take the occasional (heavy emphasis on occasional) step-back three to give the guy some breathing room. Shovel some possessions Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert’s way, so that they can run that uber-effective pick-and-roll that was so effective in the bubble.
Nash should showcase the stars, yes, but he’s also got to make sure he acknowledges what got the Nets here in the first place.
Duby: The Schrödinger’s philosophy of preseason says that those games were simultaneously meaningless, and also very important - based on the preseason games, how are the Nets looking? Strengths and weaknesses?
Matt: Ah yes, the famous Schrödinger study on preseason basketball. One of my favorites from Intro to Psychology 101.
I’m sure this will come as a shock to literally nobody, but the Nets look great on offense… and not so great on defense. Revolutionary stuff, I know!
Nash has his work cut out for him devising a scheme that hides some of Brooklyn’s weaker options, while featuring the (admittedly scarce) number of plus defenders.
The good news is that Kevin Durant, albeit by the looks of a very early sample, could be one of the guys who will play a big part in hopefully propping the Nets above the association’s median as a defensive group. So far, his footwork has been snappy, his balance pronounced, and he’s still got that, you know, 7’5” wingspan that can terrorize all types of assignments. He’s one of the few true multi-positional defenders on the roster.
Duby: Ok, let’s talk specific matchups. Durant has said that it’s nothing personal, but he’s going to torch the Warriors, isn’t he? Draymond Green will be an interesting defensive foil, but he’s been out with Covid and may not play. Curry on Irving has a ton of history too. Beyond the main stories, who else do the Warriors need to be worried about?
Matt: Golden State is a terrific first test, for all of the reasons you mentioned. Attempting to even slightly slow down the force that is Stephen Curry is one hell of a preliminary ask for Brooklyn’s point-of-attack defense. I’d expect Curry and Kyrie to exchange bombs from deep, even as both squads throw their best counters the starry guards’ way (Spencer Dinwiddie, Brad Wanamaker, Kent Bazemore, etc). As for Kevin Durant, who exactly is Golden State’s best option to guard him? Is it… Kelly Oubre? Is so, that’s one hell of a “Welcome to the Bay.” Would it be Eric Paschall? Either way, Durant is licking his chops at whatever defender Steve Kerr throws his direction.
Where this game will be won is when those second units come in. Brooklyn’s bench features an offense unto itself; the Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen screen-and-dive game quite literally won real life basketball games in the “bubble,” and that’s now Brooklyn’s secondary offense. Throw Landry Shamet, Taurean Prince, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and maybe a sprinkle of Tyler Johnson (very impressive in the bubble!) as backup spacers, and that’s a pretty nifty second-unit.
For the Warriors, meanwhile, it sure seems like a lot of Marquese Chriss, Brad Wanamaker, and Jordan Poole-generated offense, so… I’m not exactly sure about all of that. Depth doesn’t appear to be a strength for the Dubs, at least in comparison with the Nets.
Duby: Is this a championship or bust season for Brooklyn?
Matt: Oh yeah, without a doubt. You don’t bring in THIS much talent and spend as much money as you have on guys like Joe Harris and Taurean Prince without the goal of securing the Larry O’Bee.
Duby: How do you think the Warriors will do this year?
Matt: Great question. Right now, I have them sneaking in as the 8-seed in the West. Compared to the (very competitive) field, the Dubs are the only squad to boast a bonafide Top-6 player––something that none of *deep breath* New Orleans, Minnesota, Memphis, Houston (I’m assuming James Harden is dealt very soon), San Antonio and Sacramento can say.
Is the depth around the Curry and Draymond Green... a little scarce? I mean, sure, yeah. But this is a league that is all about superstardom and the perks that come with that. Curry falls into that category without even a second thought until further notice.