In less than a year, the Boston Celtics have gone from NBA title contenders to full-blown underdogs. In that same time, the Brooklyn Nets have managed to do the exact opposite.
At least, that’s what the majority of the basketball world wants you to believe.
With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant now in Brooklyn, Kemba Walker in Boston and seemingly everybody else in Los Angeles, news outlets and their talking heads have begun forecasting the 2019-20 NBA season. And, despite Durant facing a lengthy rehab from the ruptured Achilles he suffered during the NBA Finals, the “experts” are nearly unanimous: the Nets will be better than the Celtics.
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Listen, there’s no denying the Nets are talented and on the rise. And, with Irving and DeAndre Jordan now in the fold, Brooklyn should be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. If Durant returns in time for the playoffs, Barclays Center very well could host conference finals games in May.
But there’s also the possibility that Irving torpedoes Brooklyn’s locker room and alienates Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert — rising stars who just led the Nets to the playoffs. There’s also a chance Jordan, ever-overrated and on the wrong side of 30, doesn’t make much of a difference. And, of course, there’s a high probability Durant either doesn’t play next season or is a shell of himself upon returning.
If even one of those scenarios comes to fruition, the Celtics could have a better season than the Nets. Hell, even if everything goes right for Brooklyn, fans and media shouldn’t discount the possibility of Boston going deeper in the playoffs.
Sure, the Anthony Davis-Kyrie Irving-Al Horford superteam never left fantasyland, but a lineup comprised of Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter is nothing to sneeze at, particularly if Hayward returns to his pre-injury form. Furthermore, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis and Semi Ojeleye all are fine role pieces, and don’t be shocked if the Celtics get legitimate contributions from their recent draft class.
Boston has two major problems: 1.) Reconciling the Hayward-Brown-Tatum redundancy, and 2.) finding a big man capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo. Neither of those issues are easily fixable, but they still can be solved. They’re certainly easier to deal with than a star player who hates his teammates as much as they hate him.
And hey, what if, you know, everyone shows up next season with a better mindset and plays to their potential? Far stranger things have happened in the NBA.
Admittedly, we just bombarded you with a ton of “ifs.” But that’s the point. To anoint the Nets and subsequently dismiss the Celtics is to ignore a ton of variables that need consideration.
On paper, the Nets look like potential world-beaters. But people said similar things about the Celtics this time last year, and we all know how that turned out.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images