A 3-Step Plan for the Brooklyn Nets to Live Up to Their Potential in the Second Half of the Season

If the Brooklyn Nets aren’t the most disappointing team in the NBA, they’re on a shortlist of contenders. Dubbed the preseason favorite to win the title, just about everything that could go wrong has for the Nets. If continuity were currency, Brooklyn would be flat broke.

The Nets have used an NBA-high 33 starting lineups en route to their 31–28 record at the All-Star break. Underachievers in their own right, the Los Angeles Lakers are next with 28. Eighteen players have made at least one start for the Nets.

It’s almost reached the point where the team might consider replacing the advertisements on the jerseys with “Hello. My name is …” stickers. So what can coach Steve Nash’s team do to turn things around over the final 23 games?

1. The Brooklyn Nets need Kevin Durant ASAP

Kevin Durant sprained his left MCL on Jan. 15. The Brooklyn Nets entered a freefall immediately after that.

Brooklyn is 4–13 since Durant’s injury and lost 11 straight games during that span. No NBA champion has ever lost more than six in a row, so that’s not an encouraging sign.

With James Harden traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, Kyrie Irving eligible for only eight games the rest of the regular season, and Ben Simmons working his way back into shape, the Nets offense is a shambles.

Joe Harris has been out since mid-November, further complicating the spacing. The addition of Seth Curry in the Harden trade helps mitigate that.

But Durant is the key to getting Brooklyn’s listing ship upright. The Nets are 24–12 when Durant plays and 7–16 when he doesn’t. Their .667 pace with the 2013–14 MVP in the lineup would be the best in the Eastern Conference.

It’s not a shock that having one of the most devastating scorers in NBA history on the court makes your team better. Durant led the NBA in scoring when he got hurt while also getting 5.8 assists a game. No one else on the roster can duplicate that production.

There is no definite timetable for the 12-time All-Star’s return. But it can’t come fast enough for the struggling Nets.

2. Another guard is crucial

Seth Curry has helped the Brooklyn Nets offense by replacing the deep shooting threat lost with Joe Harris' ankle injury.
Seth Curry has helped the Brooklyn Nets offense by replacing the deep shooting threat lost with Joe Harris’ ankle injury. | Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Kyrie Irving has played 14 games. Kessler Edwards, an undrafted rookie on a two-way contract, has started 20. Yeah, it’s been that strange for the Brooklyn Nets.

The San Antonio Spurs waived veteran point guard Goran Dragić, and Brooklyn is one of several contenders circling the 35-year-old.

According to Marc Stein on Substack, the former All-Star plans to take some time to survey the scene. The Nets are far from alone in their pursuit of Dragić. The Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers are also on his trail.

Brooklyn might have a wild card in the discussions. Dragić served as Nash’s backup for the Phoenix Suns during his first three seasons in the NBA and regards the Nets’ coach as a mentor figure.

With Irving’s sporadic availability, continuity at the offensive end has been all but impossible to maintain. A veteran point guard like The Dragon could stabilize that situation.

Brooklyn doesn’t have an open roster spot. However, they currently have five centers — Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, Nic Claxton, and rookie Day’Ron Sharpe.

With all due respect to Griffin, a six-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection, he’s been awful this year. He’s shooting 56.7% from two-point range and a putrid 24.0% from deep. At age 32, his high-flyer days are few and far between, and he’s never been a rim protector. He’s also on a veteran’s minimum deal, so even for the luxury-tax strapped Nets, he’s an inexpensive player to cut loose.

3. The Brooklyn Nets must find a sense of urgency

Veteran Patty Mills told Peter Botte of the New York Post during All-Star Weekend in Cleveland that there’s no more time to waste. The Brooklyn Nets have their backs against the proverbial wall.

“It’s go time,” Mills said. “I think being able to add the pieces we’ve added, getting people back from injury, this is who we got. I keep talking about the vibe around the locker room and everyone enjoying each other’s presence. … You can feel it in the locker room, and that’s gonna carry us a long way, I believe, if we can stay tight as a group.

“It’s gonna take all of us to get the job done. It’s a massive push for us coming up.”

Brooklyn is eighth in the East, seven games behind the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. But they trail the sixth-place Boston Celtics by 2.5 games for the final guaranteed playoff berth. Catching Boston is a realistic goal, even if the top of the conference appears out of reach.

Homecourt advantage in the playoffs might not be that advantageous without a change in the city’s vaccine mandate. Irving can only play on the road, which means three games in a best-of-seven series. If the standings remain unchanged, Brooklyn will visit the Toronto Raptors in the first game of the play-in tournament.

That would be an Irving-free trip. But there is a reason for hope.

Durant nearly carried the Nets to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. He’s one of the few players in the NBA capable of putting a team on his shoulders. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, not with the vaunted Big Three in town, but this is the reality for the Brooklyn Nets.

The final seven weeks of the regular season represent a substantial uphill climb.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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