The Nets are finally playing like the team everyone expected them to be, but are they sustainable?

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Kevin Durant (7) shake hands during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

“They take us for granted,” Kevin Durant said recently , referring to what seemed like a precious little attention being given to his net, which was beginning to play its best ball of the season. “me and [Kyrie Irving] Especially. We must jump through the hula hoop from the fire [for people] to be impressed.”

You can kind of understand where Durant is coming from. “They” — we members of the media, as well as fans, spectators, and mayhem lovers of all stripes — made countless comments and condemnations in Brooklyn throughout the months of chaos that marked it. shooting And the And the Emotions on the field and Of which . Once KD and Co. Finally getting it all together it was all crickets. what gives? What happened to equality of time, fairness, ethics in basketball journalism, etc.?

It is possible that some of the comparative silence stems from a reluctance to obtain it is very It seems pretty obvious, given how frequently we’ve seen things quickly and dramatically at Barclays Center over the past four seasons. Some of it may be due to the somewhat underwhelming circumstances of the Brooklyn rise: In the 13-game span between Thanksgiving and the publication of KD’s conversation with Goodwill, the Nets played which ranked in the top ten net ratings, and they .

It may be some of it, with all due respect to The Posting God, that KD has made it a retard. Everyone knows that he and Kyrie can jump through flaming rings with the greatest of ease; It’s just that we don’t necessarily feel obligated to applaud them just for their decision not to host the circus for a while.

Whatever the case was then, there is no need to remain silent now. Not after Brooklyn won 12 straight, the , and 16 of the last 17 contests. At a certain point, you are what your record says it is, and the Nets record – 25-12 with the NBA now 21-5 and only half a game from the #1 East going into Wednesday’s game with the Bulls — he says they’re a bona fide contender for the championship.

Which is to say: after The Nets are finally looking as good as they think and like the team we thought they could be.

It begins, as all things Brooklyn do, with Durant, who looked as dominant in every ounce as he’s ever been–at 34, now three and a half years after his Achilles tendon rupture– Could He played the best basketball in his career.

Durant ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring, averaging 29.6 points on 56/36/93 shooting splits—high-level shooting efficiency, which is saying something, considering he’s Kevin explodes with Durant Scores 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. He shoots a ridiculous 63.2% on his two-point attempts despite only taking 2.5 shots per game on the edge and shoots consistently with the best and longest-limbed defender on each team; According to Second Spectrum, he takes a hotly contested seven shots from midrange per play, punching approx. 58% who are they. Just look at this filth:

durant do that Against #1 stoppers gives Irving the opportunity to beat perimeter defenses by the secondary, which he’s done with 25.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists in shooting 52/42/90 since returning from . In that period, Brooklyn scored 119.5 points per 100 possessions – the . This, of course, has always been the core concept of these networks, and it always made sense: a pair of two and more On the planet who can also beat you in passing; Score more points win more matches.

The thorniest issues have always been getting them on the court together for an extended period of time without opening up the hell under Atlantic Avenue and swallowing the franchise whole, surrounding them with players who could capitalize on the defensive attention they demand and defend. Well enough to stand up against elite opponents. Well, despite Irving’s comment, so far so good. For one thing, KD and Kyrie really were This season than they did and almost as many of them as they did . On the other hand, the complementary pieces that Shawn Marks and the Brooklyn front office have brought to surround his stars are finally healthy, you know, complementary.

The biggest non-vaccination reason mosquitoes caught fire last year was that their distorted spin couldn’t stop constantly on the count. Opponents can choose their poison, forcing either a big, lumbering (LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre DrummondPaul Millsap) or a Lilliputian guard (Irving, Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Goran Dragic) at work, exploiting their favorite incompatibilities. If that doesn’t work, they can just hit the offensive glass, knowing that Brooklyn’s shifting defense often pulls its big men off the edge and opens the door to second chances against smaller running backs. The numbers back that up: Brooklyn finished last season And the and gave up horribly to me Celtics In the first round sweep.

This year’s model, though, proved more resilient in the defensive rankings and exceptionally tidy . One big reason why? They are just bigger.

The return of the injured Brooklyn Wings meant that Vaughn — who, by the way, had performed exactly This type of which was reported to have been reported to Brooklyn – It is possible to rely on formations that balance defensive length, versatility, and intelligence ratio, with spacing between the floor and the attack gravity. Whatever his warts are, Ben Simmons He remains 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot wingspan and the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year on his resume. People’s Champion Yuta Watanabe Goes 6-foot-9 with an ever-revving engine. TJ Warrenfinally after missing nearly 2 years with a stress fracture in his left foot, is healthy after 6-8lbs, 220lbs; Joe HarrisHe was sidelined for most of last season due to ankle injuries and is standing 6-6 and 220.

Add that quartet to Durant and his just-right glue-man Royce O’Neale, and you’ve got real size on the perimeter – the kind that opponents can’t shoot without a second thought, forcing them to think hard about what constitutes a catch-worthy match that can straighten their spine. from this type Favored by Brooklyn, this one best highlights the skills of an overly athletic fast twitch center like Nic Claxton. No one changes ball screens more frequently than the Nets, according to Second Spectrum’s data tracking, and they concede just 0.91 points per opportunity on possessions where they screen ball, the third-most dangerous mark in the league. Combine that with these guys playing their offensive roles – Watanabe, O’Neal and Harris all shoot over 40% from 3-point range ; Claxton ; Simmons and Warren are both over 60% inside the bracket; And Simmons and O’Neale combined for more than 10 assists in a game – and you have a recipe for a very dangerous team.

The questions continued. Simmons was legitimately helpful – nearly 12 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and for every 36 minutes of word time While defending the best scoring threats — and Brooklyn actually outperformed its opponents by a margin , despite the internal crowding concerns associated with two non-bowlers playing. However: that is , although he has only tried 42 in 27 games this season, is still a cause for potential Hack-a-Ben concern in the post-season. The margins narrow in Brooklyn spacing and shooting shots a bit, and the need for those supporting cast members to keep their trio working increases by 40%; Bring this shoot back down to earth just a little bit, and KD and Kyrie’s “Your turn, my turn” act might start to go awry.

As excellent as Claxton was, he was an edge protector – leading the NBA in Hold opponents according to his ranking as one of the toughest defenders in the league, according to – In addition to the Nets serving as a defensive unit, it makes sense to wonder how long they’ll be able to hold out in a seven-game series against this world-breaking big league (Giannis AntikonmoAnd the Joel Embiid) or a pair of myrtle wings (Jason Tatum And the Jaylen Brown) may have to face him in the playoffs. And perhaps above all, there is a lingering fear that Durant will hit Atlas with the world on his shoulders for an injury for the third season in a row, that Irving will be injured again. It’s Dog Season – The circus is back in Brooklyn.

Focus too hard on these questions, however, and you risk missing the answer at the heart of the entire Nets project. this is This is why you risk sacrificing your underdog culture for high-end talent in the first place, why you brush off any storm that might come with it, why you don’t heed the demands of the trade, why you grit your teeth through whatever new hell crops up on social media and in scrum – because By every still, you see a team that can win the championship. Whether you think this team will stick together enough to shoot it, or whether this is worth whatever it takes to get to this point is immaterial; The Nets see him, believe in him, and play like the team we’ve been waiting for. KD is very much right about that: given everything that’s happened over the past few years, we shouldn’t take that for granted.

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