The Brooklyn Nets were looked at as clear title contenders going into the season with their big three of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, but things have now changed.
With Irving expected to miss some, if not all, of the upcoming NBA season, the Nets’ title projections take a big hit. There are still one the favorites to take it all, but the journey has gotten a lot harder without the services of their star point guard.
Unlike the Eastern Conference of old that LeBron James dominated, this version is much deeper and the teams are much improved. In fact, the FiveThirtyEight projections show just how deep the conference is.
In previous years, the Raptors, who are projected to finish with a 41-41 record, would be able to coast into the playoffs, but they are now projected to finish ninth. Where does that leave the Nets?
Nets Reach 50 Wins
With the expectation that Irving is going to miss the entire season, the new projections put the Brooklyn Nets at 50 wins, which is still impressive, but it would put them at the fourth seed and no longer a lock to get to the NBA Finals.
Instead, FiveThirtyEight has the Bucks, 76ers and Hawks all finishing higher than them, which might be a bit of a shock.
The Bucks are defending NBA champs, so a strong argument can be made there, but the 76ers have big question marks about Ben Simmons being with the team and the Hawks are still viewed by many to be too young. They had an impressive run last year, but there’s no telling if they could repeat that.
These projections give the Nets a 14 percent chance to make the NBA Finals and just an eight percent change of winning it all. Those projections don’t paint a good picture for Nets fans, but that’s part of the deal that comes with losing one of the best point guards in the league.
In most scenarios, this would be considered to be a successful season, but the Nets are shooting for the title, so anything short would be looked at as a disappointment.
Will Irving Return?
The million dollar question is if the Nets will ever be with the services of Kyrie Irving this season. If they are, then you can expect their title chances to rise significantly, and an argument could be made that they should win it all with him in the lineup.
Brooklyn has already said they would welcome back their point guard with open arms if he reverses course and gets vaccinated, but they put their foot down and said they would not allow him to just be a part-time player.
From the sound of his Instagram Live from October 13, it doesn’t seem like he will be reporting to the team any time soon, so the Nets look ready to start the season without him. Once the missing paychecks start happening, maybe he’ll reconsider.
For the time being, the Nets will have to start their title run without Irving.
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