Brooklyn Nets 2020 Playoff Preview
Updated: Aug 16, 2020
The Brooklyn Nets entered the 2019-20 NBA season with hefty expectations. All eyes in the league were on the Nets following their free agency splash the evening of June 30th, 2019, when the team signed NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, as well as former All-Star DeAndre Jordan. While it was known that Durant would miss the entire season while rehabbing from a devastating Achilles injury suffered during game five of the 2019 NBA Finals, the team still had plenty of optimism after experiencing their first playoff berth in four years.
Injuries played a large factor with this team, highlighted by Irving’s lingering shoulder and knee injuries that held the star point guard to only 20 games in his inaugural season in Brooklyn. Despite the midseason firing of former head coach Kenny Atkinson and a league-leading seven players opting out of the restart due to COVID-19 or injury, the Nets finished the season as the seven seed in the East with a 35-37 record (5-3 during the NBA restart) and will look to carry that momentum into the playoffs. They will face off with the defending champion Toronto Raptors in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The biggest strength of the Nets is their selflessness and willingness to move the basketball. They have emphasized ball movement and taking high-quality shots. This team does not have a plethora of household names in their rotation entering the playoffs, but what they do have is a team of gritty players who are hungry to make a name for themselves. A team with egoless personalities that play with hustle and heart from the opening tip to the final buzzer. This Nets team has kept themselves in difficult games with ball movement, finding the open man, and playing a selfless brand of basketball.
The biggest weakness of the Nets is their lack of size and experience playing together. Nearly half of the Nets team that made up the 15-man roster on opening night elected to sit out of the restart due to health or injury concerns.
While this team plays with unmatched effort, they lack the size to match up with many starting centers and larger forwards in the East such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Bam Adebayo. In addition, the Nets have added five new players who are still learning more about the Nets organization, the in-game tendencies of their new teammates, and the coaching preferences of Jacque Vaughn.
The X-factor of this Nets team is their ability to limit turnovers. Ball movement has been a point of emphasis within Jacque Vaughn’s offensive system. Without Durant, Irving, and Dinwiddie, this Nets team is lacking players with a proven knack of creating their own shot. LeVert is currently the team’s best shot creator and has taken on an increased role of creating his own looks as well as facilitating the offense and getting his team involved.
This Nets bubble team does not have a plethora of guys who can create for themselves. They will keep themselves in games with ball movement, swinging the basketball effectively, finding the open man for the best quality shot, and most importantly maximizing their possessions by limiting turnovers.
Players to Watch
While he may not be considered “underrated” after a remarkable 37-point outing against the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers, Caris LeVert will certainly be a player to watch for Brooklyn. He is capable of scoring at all three levels and utilizes an assortment of smooth actions and herky-jerky motions to keep his defender guessing his next move. On a team that featured All-Star D’Angelo Russell, LeVert was the best player for the Nets last year in their first-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. LeVert averaged 21 points per game on 49.3 percent overall shooting and 46.2 percent shooting from three that series. Now the undisputed number one option on a depleted Nets team, LeVert will have a golden opportunity to show the world he is an All-Star caliber talent.
Another player to watch will be Tyler Johnson. Johnson joined Brooklyn for the resumption of play and has been a bright spot for the depleted Nets. He is a quality bench scorer with career averages of 10.5 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent shooting from three. His success is a quiet reason why this shorthanded Nets team has achieved unforeseen success lately.
Estimated Playoff Run
While the Nets have certainly surpassed expectations, they are still expected to be eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs. With their win over the Clippers last Sunday, Brooklyn clinched the seven seed in the Eastern Conference and a matchup with the Toronto Raptors. The Nets have never been a team to back down to a challenge, so you can expect them to keep the games close and keep fans on the edge of their seats.
A successful playoff stint with this team would mean stealing a game or two from the Raptors while core organizational players like Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris gain another year of playoff experience. Next season is when the Nets will finally pair Durant and Irving and will instantly become legitimate championship contenders.