NBA Season Preview 2022-23: The mystery that is the Brooklyn Nets

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The Brooklyn Nets are hard to get a read on heading into the 2022-23 season. There are a number of directions this could go.

Boy, oh boy, what an offseason for the Brooklyn Nets. Though it looked like the roster coming into the season had the potential to look drastically different than the way it ended in 2022, the Nets actually return most of their core… For now.

The fringe pieces will certainly look different, though.

After a long, drawn-out trade request (or, bluff?) involving multiple pleas from ownership with Kevin Durant, the friction ended ahead of the season start. Durant and the Nets recommitted to each other, at least publicly. For now, Durant is still a Net.

All the while, the Nets return Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, who has yet to play in the black and white. The pieces around them will look a bit different, but the Nets have every bit of talent to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn Nets offseason overview

Lots of movement for the Nets this offseason with the roster, mostly on the outside of the rotation and the fringe of the roster.

Players in:

  • Marcus Zegarowski
  • Chris Chiozza
  • Markieff Morris
  • T.J. Warren
  • Alondes Williams
  • Royce O’Neale

Players out:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Bruce Brown
  • Goran Dragic
  • Andre Drummond
  • David Duke Jr.
  • Blake Griffin
  • Shaquille Harrison
  • James Johnson

Brooklyn Nets projected rotation

  1. Point Guard: Kyrie Irving; Patty Mills; Seth Curry; Ben Simmons; Cam Thomas
  2. Shooting Guard: Joe Harris; Seth Curry; Cam Thomas; Patty Mills
  3. Small Forward: Kevin Durant; Royce O’Neale; T.J. Warren
  4. Power Forward: Ben Simmons; T.J. Warren; Markieff Morris; Royce O’Neale
  5. Center: Nic Claxton; Day’Ron Sharpe; Markieff Morris

Best case and worst case scenario for the Brooklyn Nets

The best-case scenario for a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is a title. In fact, that’s the expectation and has been for the last several seasons. Plenty has stood in the way of that, both internally and externally.

The worst-case scenario is yet another fateful mix of circumstances that keeps the Nets from even getting past the first round of the playoffs, the outcome in three of the last four years (though Kyrie and KD weren’t on the roster until three years ago). What might that mix of circumstances look like? Any combination of these could put a hitch in the plans:

  • Injuries
  • Non-physical-injury player availability
  • Trade requests

While it may be viewed as unfair to posit that non-injury player availability could impact the team, we need to consider recent history.

Kyrie Irving has been absent in recent seasons for extended periods of time for undisclosed personal reasons as well as due to his choice to not get vaccinated and local health mandates. Ben Simmons was absent in Philadelphia for mental health reasons. While that projects to be a legitimate injury designation once the next CBA goes through, it is not at this point.

These may be viewed as isolated incidents, but it’s difficult to not see a pattern.

The Durant, Irving, and James Harden trio saw just 16 games on the floor together. While all systems appear to be a go for this year, you never really know with this group of players.

Award Watch: Could Ben Simmons secure Most Improved?

Most Improved Player might feel like a slight for a 3-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year and first overall pick. Simmons, though, still has a lot of room to grow, and the memory of his game is etched in our minds as the guy who gave up an easy dunk in an elimination game against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 postseason.

After his appearance on J.J. Redick’s podcast, I’m feeling optimistic. Simmons seems mentally refreshed and genuinely excited for the fresh start in Brooklyn.

If Simmons comes out and has even a modicum of a jump-shot to help space the floor to add to his elite defense and rim-running capabilities, the perception will be that he has taken a significant leap forward. If he can shoot even 30 percent beyond the arc on a few attempts per game, he could very well be viewed as a player who has gone from “good” to “great,” which could launch him right into the discussion for the Most Improved Player of the Year award.

There’s a precedent for elite players winning this award. Giannis Antetokounmpo won it in 2017. That season, Antetokounmpo attempted 2.3 3-pointers per game after attempting just 0.4 and 1.4 the two season prior. He made just 27.2 percent of them. Maybe it would just take some attempts from Simmons to take his offensive game to the next level.

Early in his career, Simmons’ defensive strength, length, and impressive guard-like skills for a player of his size were compared to that of Antetokonmpo. He could continue to follow in those footsteps this year with a MIP win.

Brooklyn Nets predicted record and finish

The variation between the best and worst-case scenarios for the Nets is incredibly wide. That said, you have to look at the talent they have and assume they’ll find a way to figure it out.

  • Final record: 47-35
  • Playoff outcome: Loss in Eastern Conference Finals

Talent will get the Nets far enough, but a lack of chemistry and “wanting to be there” from its star players will prevent them from overcoming playoff obstacles when it matters the most.

One reason the Brooklyn Nets are worth watching this season

The Nets are impossible to predict. If they have everyone playing and all cylinders are firing, they should be close to unstoppable. But if a single screw is loose in the machine, all could come to a screeching halt. Such a circumstance could even trigger unwanted organizational changes, like further pressing on the now-idle trade request from Kevin Durant.

One thing to watch: The Suns are looking like they’re about to implode. Phoenix was rumored to be in the running for Kevin Durant when his trade request was still active, and — just connecting some speculative dots — there could be something there.

Watching the Nets gives you incredible basketball or a soap opera. It’s must-see TV either way.

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