It was the umpteenth hare we saw leap into a possible Ben Simmons outing from Philadelphia, but this one was intercepted long before it could even get close to the burrow. The greyhound, Kevin Durant.
Stephen A. Smith leaked for ESPN that the 76ers and Nets offices established a synapse for symbiotic purposes. Or less pedantic: that some liked Kyrie and others dicked Simmons. And that the exchange of cards could be a fact already today if the best player in New York (and for some, on the planet), had not interposed and unilaterally ignored the operation.
When Kevin Durant arrived in the neighborhood, he knew that he was already doing it with an Irving under his arm, since he had committed himself (by word of mouth) the first. Kev joined almost immediately, and after him the other superstars, both current (James Harden) and twilight (Griffin, Aldridge, Millsap…) have been trickling down.
Sun Tzu philosophy: the best defense, a tremendous attack
In Brooklyn they have an extremely powerful project for this season 2021-22, and as in the previous season, without injuries and despite the various movements of the market, there is no one who escapes their shadow. The Big Three that the gathering of Sean Marks –Irving, Durant and Harden– may be, in offensive terms, the one with the greatest pure arsenal in all of history, only perhaps holding up the comparison that of the Warriors that placed Durántula himself next to the Splash brothers (debate fueled by Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith himself last winter).
NETS BIG THREE vs. Clippers
Irving: 39 points and 5 rebounds
Durant: 28 points and 9 rebounds
Harden: 23 points, 14 assists 11 rebounds pic.twitter.com/oTFQNyf4GT
— NBA Spain (@NBAspain) February 3, 2021
In the long time we were able to enjoy them playing in unison in regular season, the trident at the baton of Steve Nash showed a tasty trailer of what he is capable of, so that a greater continuity and the derivative adjustments that accompany it, makes us intuit, on paper, some Nets of authentic dynamite and almost Unstoppable even by the other great squads (Lakers, Bucks, Warriors, Suns, Heat or Nuggets) of the competition.
The increase in pace, the total absence of modesty from the triple and the little referee empathy with the defenses, push data as crazy as this: the 2020-21 Nets are the best team in offensive rating of all history, with 118.3 points. Cool. Chachi. But the record is immediately softened as the next six best brands are also from this past season, held by the Blazers (117.8), Jazz and Clippers (117.6), Suns and Bucks (117.2) and Nuggets (117.1).
It’s Off.Rt (which varies slightly depending on the portal consulted or whether or not it appears as ‘adjusted’), it rises to 122.4 in the 186 minutes that the skull trio was sharing the track. A very small sample but a track may not be far from what, with more time and chemistry on the parquet, they could manage to do: for now, to open their mouths, sign an attack 5% more lethal than the second best of all the times.
However, Is his offensive strength sufficient argument to win the title of champion? Well, the injury history is no small thing in this trio of superstars. And here, as we’ll see shortly, comes Ben Simmons.
The health of the Big Three
KD7 came from being blank in the 2019-20 season to return in a state of grace in the 20-21 and sign a solo playoffs that caused one of the most serious injuries in a player of his stature (Achilles tendon rupture) barely looked like a slight cramp in bed upon waking. However, you should never lower your guard, and less when we talk about the most decisive and indefensible player in the squad.
James Harden, who had been an all-rounder both in his years as a sixth man in OKC and as a franchise player in Houston, playing practically everything and with a load of minutes that neither non-union employers, saw his body say ‘enough’ on his arrival to NY. The first check came in the regular season, with muscle problems in his right leg, and after more than a month out, that same leg (and again in the hamstring) left him dry again 43 seconds after entering in his first playoff game against Milwaukee, posing a deadly setback to Brooklyn’s ring aspirations. Well, neither he nor Irving were there to help the unguarded titan, Kevin Durant.
As for Irving, his constant absences throughout his career – the result of his aggressive play (mainly crushing his shoulders) and ankles that are not made of foam – have been added lately and more and more assiduously others than they have nothing to do with the bone or muscle plane. These are personal, mental and vindictive. His social crusades have meant that this year he has been absent from the fields on more than one occasion, something that should not have been liked at all within the leadership that comes from making the bet of the century so that one of his cows sacred down to category subprime.
In any case, with the three healthy and in bangarang, the Nets are what they are: a great team that looks much more in attack than it lacks in defense … or not?
As we can see in this graph of the Wall Street Journal, The best attack (long) was accompanied by a fragile defense and full of cracks. Once again, the sample sinned again as insufficient, and in fact, as the games progressed, the improvement in this facet was tangible. In fact, little of this should matter, because where defenses really gain weight and can be prosecuted is in the postseason. There, the Nets, still starved, were not the exception, and they spread behind as they had not hit the rest of regular season. From receiving more than 113 points (9th worst league defense) to correcting themselves to around 109 in the two playoff rounds they played.
What’s Next: Hypothetical
But now let’s put a plausible-pessimistic scenario. That one of the three stars falls. It doesn’t matter which one, as all three have a similar offensive display (Irving slightly below). Would Steve Nash’s squad still be differential enough in attack, with only two of his All-NBAs on the wood, to make up for his mediocrities behind? The answer is clear if it is Kevin Durant who is injured, the team’s defensive bulwark when he wears his overalls. No.
Irving and Harden, even with the good cast of secondary in Brooklyn, aim to fall short of some of the other megaprojects that populate the circuit should they run out of KD.
But hey, going back to matters standing –Without physical ills and keeping Kyrie away from Miguel Bosé–, the other legitimate question for the case is whether there is a defensive antidote in the NBA for these three beasts in good shape.
It seems that only teams like the Heat, 76ers or Milwaukee could have a say in the East, and the Lakers, Jazz, Suns (and maybe Warriors if the best returns. Klay-two-way) in the West. However, finding a way to slow down his attack or reduce his efficiency, draw blood in his rear and tip the balance in his favor, does not seem so complicated, because neither in zonal defense, nor in man, nor in terms of profiles. rim protector, the Brooklyn wardrobe can boast of being well supplied.
What would Ben have guessed?
And here, the transfer of Ben Simmons, could have supposed the squaring of the circle, bringing balance to the squad without the multitude of adjustments that comes to Steve Nash, depending on the type and entity of the rival.
Simmons – let’s say he has not improved his launch at all from the triple or in mid-range in summer – it is youth, it is IQ, it is defense to man, it is immunity to mismatch, it is interior versatility and it is a finish next to the rim. All this, we insist, without any improvement over what was seen in Philly or any hunger for adaptation.
Obviously, in outdoor gunpowder and creative talent in the 1vs1, he and Irving are night and day. But the crux of the matter here would lie in discussing whether Brooklyn’s offensive arsenal without Irving (but with Durant, Harden, Harris, Millsap, Griffin, Mills, Aldridge, Claxton, Brown, Bembry and the feverish scorer out of the draft, Cam Thomas) is more grateful for an extra ‘punch’ (with Irving), rather than a counterweight that makes life more peaceful behind them.
After all, the season returns to normal this season and the calendar returns to its 82 games of rigor, to which to add, of course, the playoffs in the case of the Nets. Some Nets with the fifth “oldest” squad in the league, with an average of 27.8 years, but whose entire starting five (bet Nash to include Griffin of false ‘5’) will exceed 30 years of age at time to kick off the playoffs.
Ben Simmons is, by far, the player with the most offensive rebounds in the NBA among all guards and guards (Data of teamrankings); just one of the facets where the Nets have suffered the most problems. Also in robberies, where he has finished with the eighth best mark in the NBA (1.54), and while in Brooklyn they ranked 27th last season (lineups.com). Similarly, they ranked 22nd in terms of triples allowed, when he still point-guard of the 76ers is one of the best when it comes to limiting the percentages of success of his rivals when he is the one who overcomes them, with a Diff% (Percentage Points Different) of -5 points, while Irving comes from driving a +0.1.
Of course, this is all just cold data. Numbers in the past bull and without the option of knowing their scope or real impact of adding them to the whole and to the context in the long term. The reality is that Simmons seems to be staying and Irving (whose personal relationship with Durant is sensational for a long time, and that is a priceless intangible) is not going anywhere.
Marks’ bet is clear. All black. And black, in case there is any doubt, is the equivalent of attack. To an extraordinary attack.
(Cover photo by Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)