Anytime there are multiple star players on the roster, there’s pressure to win it all. And the Brooklyn Nets had three stars in James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant. Unfortunately, they were unable to make the conference finals after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the semifinals. It was an epic final game of the year, highlighted by a historic performance from Durant, whose 48 points were the most ever in an NBA playoff Game 7. The Nets went shot for shot with Milwaukee through the second half with 20 lead changes and 10 ties. But in the end, Milwaukee was victorious.
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Of course, you can make an argument that a healthy Nets team would’ve made the conference finals. Early on, Spencer Dinwiddie suffered an ACL tear and never returned. Lamarcus Aldridge signed with the Nets but was rushed into sudden retirement due to a heart issue. Harden had issues with his hamstring for the second half of the season and in the playoffs in the semifinals. Irving was out for personal reasons and he was done in Game 4 of the semifinals after injuring his ankle. But that’s something the Nets have dealt with all season long. Between the regular season and the playoffs, Irving, Durant, and Harden all played 14 games together. Despite the injuries, they were still able to secure the second seed in the East. Of course, they still did not reach the NBA Finals, let alone the conference finals.
Team Award Winners
I went back and forth on this between Durant and Harden. It’s hard to differentiate between two on who’s the most valuable player. But I decided to stick with Durant and here’s why. Durant was incredible in this year’s playoffs, especially late in the series against Milwaukee when he had to take over. From Games 5-7, Durant put up some astounding numbers, averaging 43 points, 12.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists while shooting 53.9 percent from the floor. Most importantly, he was hitting clutch shot after clutch shot to give Brooklyn a fighting chance. He most definitely made a strong case for not only being the best on his team but in the world.
Defensive Player of the Year-Bruce Brown
Nets guard Bruce Brown will be my pick. Brown has been a terrific defender for the Nets. He has a long length and the ability to defend multiple positions. The Nets typically had him guard the opposing team’s best player. Most importantly, he does the dirty work for the team. He dives for loose balls and takes charges. He may be one-dimensional, but his defense keeps him on the floor at all times.
Sixth Man of the Year-Jeff Green
The sixth man pick will be Jeff Green. Green, who has bounced around the league for some time, saw improvement in his three-point shooting. This season, he shot a career-high 41.2 percent from the field. His best performance of the year came in Game 5 of the Semifinals, where he drained seven three-pointers against Milwaukee. And he provided highlight dunks as well. Green averaged 11 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a reserve this season.
Most Improved Player –Joe Harris
There are not many good choices for this one. So I decided to go with Joe Harris. After receiving a huge contract last summer, expectations were high for Harris. Especially on a title-contending team like Brooklyn. Harris improved his three-point shooting from 42.4 percent last season to 47.5 percent this season. With so much attention on the Brooklyn stars, Harris took advantage of the opportunity. He also had some good moments on the defensive end.
Biggest Disappointment-Spencer Dinwiddie
I know I picked Dinwiddie here but it’s mainly because of his ACL injury. He only appeared in three games with the Nets this season. With Kyrie missing Games 5-7, the Nets really needed someone off the bench to provide playmaking. A player who can ease the playmaking duties of Harden and Durant. If Spencer was healthy, he certainly would have helped on that end. He was a key player for Brooklyn last year, starting in 49 games when Kyrie and Caris Levert were out. He had averaged 20.6 pints and 6.8 assists in the 2019-20 season.
The offseason begins with the team’s three best players. Durant, Irving, and Harden are all eligible for huge contract extensions. The three stars could also play out next season and become free agents in 2022. The Nets also have nine free agents, including Green, Blake Griffin, and Brown. Dinwiddie is also reportedly declining his option and becoming an unrestricted free agent. With limited cap space, the Nets may choose to pursue sign-and-trade options for Dinwiddie.
In all, the summer comes down to the “Big Three”. Extending the three stars will put the Nets in range for one of the largest luxury tax payments in NBA history. However, with an owner willing to spend for championships, that hefty tax bill may be worth it. Also, if all three players are committed long-term, it could entice other free agents to take pay cuts and join them. This will be a summer to watch for the Nets.
Follow Jacari McRae on Twitter @JMcRae23
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