Published by Fran Cava
It has been a wild stretch for New York sports this past month. The Knicks started the season off playing some inspiring ball(although that’s already falling apart), the Jets managed to lose the number one pick in disastrous fashion, the Steve Cohen Mets traded for a highly marketable top ten player, and the Yankees have done absolutely nothing. While this has been exciting for some, and nauseating for others, this news pails in comparison to the blockbuster that went down Thursday.
Brooklyn has taken over the news by trading their foreseeable to the Houston Rockets for one of the greatest scorers ever, in James Harden. The past few months could be made into an MTV reality show, following and detailing the dysfunctional circus of a team Houston has put forth. After shaking up the team and bringing in some intriguing pieces like Christian Wood, John Wall, and Boogie Cousins – Harden decided he wanted out, and he wanted out immediately. Cousins came out and said his attitude towards the team was downright disrespectful, some might say to a point that could not be fixed. Trades rumors floated around the whole summer, but nobody thought it would go down would this early into the season. While things were bad behind the scenes, nothing quite culminated this year’s bizarre Rockets team like Harden’s press conference on Wednesday.
Kind of an anticlimactic end to the Harden Houston era, but it felt overdue. The Nets were the favorite to land him, and they did just that.
While the deal is scarily reminiscent of the 2013 Garnett trade in terms of assets given up, the return is far better. At the time the Nets were getting a corpse of KG and an extremely washed Pierce when now they are getting a top 5 talent. It was considered an all-in move then, just as it is today, except now they actually have a chance to do something special.
In terms of individual offensive players, there might not be a team in the history of the game with more talent. Harden elevates this team to historic levels in terms of potential scoring volumes and efficiency ratings. Even though the Warriors dynasty from the past few years are the better “team”, the sheer talent of the Nets big three is arguably better. The Nets now have a top 15 player in Kyrie(when he actually wants to play ball), a top 5 player in Harden, and the second-best player in the league in KD. In the playoffs, you need guys that can create for themselves, and who’s better at that than Harden? Now they have three guys who can all create for others and can score of anyone in isolation. There are not enough perimeter defenders on any team to account for this onslaught of offense they’ll have. They also have a deadeye shooter in Joe Harris and Deandre Jordan who is simply employed for his friendship with KD and Kyrie. The bench is non-existent, and there’s only one ball to go around 3 heavy usage players but, it may be a case where there’s too much talent to underperform. Think about a team trying to scheme against these three in a playoff series. You have three guys capable of scoring 40 on any given night; it’s a frightening matchup for any team. You can’t overcommit or double any of them because either they will carve that up, or they will kick it to another for a three. Your only hope is to tire them out and get to their unfathomably weak bench, which will look drastically different come playoff time.
The Nets bench right now is as thin as Christian Bale in The Machinist. It’s a problem, and quite frankly disturbing to watch. But, between buyout season, and teams looking to acquire 2nd round draft picks they will be able to bolster that in due time. Sean Marks has already leaked that more moves will be made soon. In the meantime, the trio is going to have nearly a full season together to build some chemistry, barring Kyrie decides to return soon. It’s well known that the NBA has become a star-driven league. You have stars, you win championships. That’s the trend of the past ten years, and that seems to be the trend moving forward. When the big three is on the court the Nets have the most star power in the league, and that’s why I believe they will run through the East. Partially due to their abilities, and partially due to the rest of the Conference.
As of right now, no team stacks up to the Nets. Milwaukee doesn’t deserve respect until proven otherwise. Giannis continues to put up historic regular season figures, but his past playoff performances prohibit me from taking him over a KD led squad in a seven-game series. The Sixers dropped the ball keeping Ben and remaining in the territory of, “ really good, but not championship good”. Harden and Embiid sound a lot better than Simmons and Embiid; especially since we’ve seen what the latter duo has done. They are rumored to be in talks for Buddy Hield, but is he really taking them over the edge? Maybe, but you’re also banking on Tobias to play well down the stretch. The Celtics are a well-constructed team, but they don’t have the talent to keep up with Brooklyn. Tatum and Brown are phenomenal players, but they need Kemba to turn it up a notch in the playoffs if they want to have a chance. The reigning Eastern Conference champs have been disappointing to start the year. The Heat may have overachieved last year, which caused them to feel too content with their current roster. As of right now, they are also still a piece away from making real noise. As for everyone else, no other team in the East is capable of competing with Brooklyn when it matters.
In the West, the Lakers look like they have it covered in terms of repeating as conference champs. Their chemistry is through the roof, the new acquisitions have fit well, and they still have LeBron and AD. They could be marketed as the Nets FOIL, considering their striking difference in bench reliance. The Lakers are undoubtedly the deepest team in the league, while we have discussed the Net’s depth problems. Nonetheless, I expect these two teams will meet this July in the Finals, with the Nets taking the series. Star power prevails over all!