The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip off on Dec. 23. To get you ready for the year to come, we'll be dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, the Brooklyn Nets take the spotlight.
2019-20 season record
35-37, 7th in the Eastern Conference
Reggie Perry, No. 57 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Bruce Brown, Trade
Landry Shamet, Trade
Jeff Green, Free agency
Garrett Temple, Free agency
Jamal Crawford, Free agency
Justin Anderson, Free agency
Lance Thomas, Free agency
Michael Beasley, Free agency
Wilson Chandler, Free agency
Chris Chiozza, Free agency
Donta Hall, Free agency
Tyler Johnson, Free agency
Jeremiah Martin, Free agency
|PG||Kyrie Irving||Spencer Dinwiddie|
|SG||Caris LeVert||Bruce Brown|
|SF||Joe Harris||Landry Shamet||Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot|
|PF||Kevin Durant||Taurean Prince||Jeff Green|
|C||DeAndre Jordan||Jarrett Allen||Nicolas Claxton|
3 key storylines
Will Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant take the Nets to the top?
This has been over a year in the making.
At long last, we will see Irving and Durant take the court as teammates this season. Together, they form one of the league's most dynamic one-two punches. Irving has long been one of the electrifying talents in the NBA, posting career averages of 22.4 points, 5.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Durant, meanwhile, has spent much of his career in the conversation of best player in the league. He brings one MVP award, two championships, two Finals MVP awards and four scoring titles with him to Brooklyn.
On paper, Irving and Durant have the potential to turn the Nets into title contenders this season and beyond. But will they?
A lot of it hinges on how Durant recovers from tearing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, an injury that robbed him of the entire 2019-20 season. History says Durant won't return the same player he was before the injury, but there's reason to believe he will be an exception based on his style of play .
It helps that there's been a lot of talk coming out of workouts this offseason of Durant being " back again ." If he is, the Nets will have the star power to win it all.
The supporting cast
The Nets aren't short on talent outside of Irving and Durant. Two of the more interesting players to watch this season: Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.
Dinwiddie and LeVert are both coming off of breakout seasons with the Nets. Dinwiddie saw his role expand when Irving went down with an injury, resulting in him taking over as the team's lead ball handler for much of the season. He made the most of the opportunity, posting a career-best 20.6 points per game to go along with 6.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
As for LeVert, he once again battled injuries but ended the season on a high. Not long before the season was suspended, LeVert scored a career-high 51 points in a win over the Boston Celtics. He then dominated in Brooklyn's eight seeding games, making the All-Bubble Second Team with averages of 25.0 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds.
There's no questioning Dinwiddie and LeVert's talent. What remains to be seen is whether or not they can now succeed alongside Irving and Durant, two score-first players who are consistently among the league leaders in usage. Whereas Dinwiddie and LeVert were Brooklyn's primary or secondary option for much of last season, they will be the third or fourth option at times this season.
That's a good problem for the Nets to have - they would much rather have too much talent than not enough - but it remains to be seen if they can get all the pieces to fit together.
A brand new coaching staff
The job of putting those pieces together falls on Steve Nash's shoulders.
A two-time MVP and first ballot Hall of Famer, Nash is widely regarded as being one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, but this will be his first time coaching in the NBA. He'll have plenty on his plate, from figuring out how to get the most out of Irving and Durant, both of whom are coming off of injuries, to how Dinwiddie, LeVert, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, Jarrett Allen, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet and Taurean Prince fit into his rotation.
Consulting him will be Mike D'Antoni, who was Nash's head coach in Phoenix and is the architect of the well-known "Seven Seconds or Less" offence, Amar'e Stoudemire, who was Nash's pick-and-roll partner on the Suns, and a trio of former NBA players in Ime Udoka, Jacque Vaughn and Tiago Splitter.
Nash has his work cut out, but he's put together a star-studded staff to help him out.
"We've assembled an experienced staff of high-character individuals with varied backgrounds, both on and off the court, that will help create a solid foundation for me and our players," said Nash . "When I set out to build this staff, I wanted to put together a committed group that would connect with our players and help put them in the best position to succeed as a team.
"With coaching and playing experience at the highest level and a deep background in player development, I'm confident that we've put the right people in place to lead us forward."
5 games to watch
vs. Golden State Warriors, Date: Dec. 22
Klay Thompson possibly missing the entire season with an Achilles tear takes a lot of the excitement out of this matchup, but it will still be fun watching Durant play against the Warriors, the franchise he won two championships with.
at Boston Celtics, Date: Dec. 25
The Celtics are another Eastern Conference team that will be looking to come out on top this season. This will be the first opportunity to watch Irving play against his former team since leaving the Celtics for the Nets in 2019.
vs. Milwaukee Bucks, Date: Jan. 18
The Bucks were the most dominant team in the league last regular season and they've retooled this offseason following another disappointing exit in the playoffs. Beyond the obvious appeal of watching Irving go at Jrue Holiday and Durant go at Giannis Antetokounmpo, this could be a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview.
at Los Angeles Lakers, Date: Feb. 18
Durant against LeBron James is always must-see TV. The two have played against each other 21 times in the regular season in their careers, with James coming out on top in 15 of them. Their averages? 28.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game for James compared to 28.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for Durant.
at LA Clippers, Date: Feb. 21
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