The NBA's free agency period opened at 6 p.m. Sunday. Almost as soon as the clock hit 6 p.m., the Brooklyn Nets signed superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, changing the landscape of the NBA in mere moments.
Durant and Irving are both former All-Stars and NBA Champions. You can’t discuss this era of basketball without discussing their influence. That's why the Nets undoubtedly won the first day of free agency. However, I’m not sold on this duo’s ability to win in the years to come.
Irving is not a leader. He is one of the best ball handlers the game has ever seen, a consistent shooter and undoubtedly one of the best talents in the game right now, but his value is overstated.
The last two years are evidence of Irving’s inability to lead. In March of 2018, he suffered a season-ending knee injury and the second-seeded Boston Celtics were forced to go on without him.
The Irving-less Celtics responded by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and forcing seven games against the Cavaliers. With LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers and heading west, this would lead most to believe the Celtics were the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. That wasn’t the case.
This year, Irving was back and had another solid regular season, leading the Celtics to the fourth seed in the east, winning six games less than the year prior.
After sweeping the beat-up Indiana Pacers in the first round, Boston ran into the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the conference semifinals. Simply put, Irving didn’t show up whatsoever. After a 112-90 win in game one, the Celtics dropped the next four, and Irving shot just 30% in the final four games of the series.
It is just one year of bad performances, but in Irving’s short two-year stint in Boston, he failed to take a very talented roster past the second round. Next year without Durant, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, and an inferior roster to back Irving up, there’s no reason to expect much from Brooklyn.
The year after next is when the Nets should see a major jump, since they’ll have the two-time finals MVP back from his Achilles injury to pair with Irving. This in theory gives the Nets the leader they need to make a deep playoff run, but it all depends on how close Durant is able to return to his former self.
We’ve seen the affect a ruptured Achilles typically has on a player’s career. Aside from Dominique Wilkens, for superstars of Durant’s caliber, this injury has effectively been a career ender.
Durant does have the benefit of modern medicine on his side as well as one of the most potent skill sets in NBA history. However, Durant is 30 years old and nearly seven feet tall.
All things considered, Durant’s career is in jeopardy more than most are willing to admit. He will be back eventually, but the Nets are counting on him being the same player he was before the injury, and that may not be the case.
If everything goes as planned for the Nets, this duo has the potential to compete for a championship once Durant returns. But considering Irving’s last two seasons and Durant’s injury, I wouldn’t put my money on everything going perfectly.
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