As we move along into the rest of the NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets are two teams that will be abundantly talked about. This is almost entirely due to the blockbuster trade involving Ben Simmons and James Harden. It is a popular belief that the Nets walked away having won that trade, but that’s still up for discussion. The one thing that hardly anybody seems to be talking about is the Nets’ foreseeable future. It appears that their next 10 games – at the very least- won’t be all clear skies and sunshine as many people believe.
For starters, let’s take a look at the next 10 games on the Brooklyn Nets’ schedule:
2/24 – vs. Boston Celtics
2/26 – @ Milwaukee Bucks
2/28 – vs. Toronto Raptors
3/1 – @ Toronto Raptors
3/3 – vs. Miami Heat
3/6 – @ Boston Celtics
3/8 – @ Charlotte Hornets
3/10 – @ Philadelphia 76ers
3/13 – vs. New York Knicks
3/15 – @ Orlando Magic
Out of these 8 teams, 6 of them have records above .500. So far this season the Nets are 15-19 vs teams over .500 via ClutchPoints. This is problem #1 as they go on to play 7 games against teams above .500 over their next 10 games.
They will also be playing roughly half of these games without Kyrie Irving, which brings me to my next point.
Another huge problem on the Brooklyn Nets’ agenda is Kyrie Irving. Due to his vaccination status, he is only eligible to play in 9 out of their 23 remaining games. This is assuming that the vaccine mandate doesn’t get lifted in New York. Kyrie has been playing at a high level since his return, but those 14 games could decide a lot in terms of their outcome this season.
The Nets acquired many new pieces over the last couple weeks that could be of use towards the end of the season. As of right now they just look like a group of role-players without Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons. Kyrie can only do so much with this group especially when he’s out half of the time. In 14 games with Kyrie this season, the Nets have a 4-10 record, so there’s no definite success with just him playing. This is largely due to the absence of Kevin Durant over the last month or so, which could last for a little while longer.
As crazy as it sounds, Kevin Durant is a massive problem for the Brooklyn Nets. It isn’t exactly Durant himself that’s the issue, but more so his absence. Around a month ago the All-Star captain suffered an MCL sprain mid-game. Durant has been out ever since and this has had a severe impact on the Nets.
The Nets have played without Durant in 23 games this season and will likely play at least 10 more before he’s back. Out of those 23 games, the Nets have only won 7 of them. It still remains unclear as to when Durant will return because there’s no timetable as of right now. They remain optimistic, and their hope was for Durant to return shortly after the All-Star break. With hardly any recent updates, it’s hard to tell when we could see him on the court again.
It is possible that Durant doesn’t return until late March or even early April. That gives the Nets a lot of time to fall well below .500, and have to fight their way back into playoff position.
You may have noticed that the Nets’ 3 biggest problems are their “Big 3”, or “Big 2 ½ “ as some fans like to call them. The final problem that we’ll be looking at is the newly acquired, Ben Simmons. As every NBA fan should know, Ben Simmons hasn’t played in a single game this season. That will change soon enough as he is finally out of the “hostile” environment that the 76ers supposedly were.
When asked in a recent interview, Ben Simmons said that he “hopes” to play the Sixers on March 10th. Any Sixers fan or Ben Simmons supporter should know that his response means “probably not”. If Simmons were to sit out of the Sixers game, the earliest he would return is 9 games away, against the New York Knicks. This circles back to the point of the Nets’ next 10 games. The difficulty to win these games with the situation that they’re in will be off the charts.
Once Simmons does return, he could have a lot of pressure on him to succeed. If Durant isn’t back by the time that Simmons is, Ben will have to lead the Brooklyn Nets by himself. Irving is going to be an aid to Simmons on the road which wouldn’t be too often. Ben Simmons, to put it frankly, isn’t good under pressure. We’ve seen this over and over again, and now that narrative has stuck. With all of the weight on his shoulders, Simmons could end up being a negative factor for the Nets.
Pray for the Best
This next month or so could be an absolute train-wreck for the Nets. There is a very slim chance of them being put in the right scenarios to succeed with the current status of their big 3. Don’t be surprised if the Nets are as low as the 10 seed in the East by the end of next week.