The Brooklyn Nets have positioned themselves as the presumptive favorites in the East and, for many, have surpassed the reigning champion Lakers as the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this summer. With Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving all on the roster and, in the brief spell they played together, bludgeoning opponents on offense, they are simply a difficult team to pick against in a seven-game series.
The Nets also have been the biggest winners on the buyout market this season, landing Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge to bolster their frontcourt rotation, which was their biggest question mark. Now, the efficacy of Griffin and Aldridge, particularly in aiding the Nets below average defense, remains to be seen, but if nothing else they have built a roster capable of deploying a tremendous amount of lineup options, depending on what their opponent does in a playoff series. They can go small or big and maintain their elite level on offense with the moves they’ve made, and while defense may still be the lingering question, it may not matter.
Some have seen Brooklyn’s acquisition of Griffin and Aldridge, former All-Stars who have maybe lost a step or two from their peak, as “unfair.” For Griffin in particular, he’s found that criticism amusing because, as he told reporters on Monday morning, he spent the last year plus hearing about how bad he was while in Detroit.
Some perspective from Blake Griffin about the amount of talent the Nets have acquired: For the last year, I have been hearing about how bad I was and then I come here and people say, 'Oh, it's not fair.' "I guess you could say it's amusing," Griffin said.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) March 29, 2021
There’s something to both sides here, as Griffin has a point that he’d been effectively left for dead in terms of being considered a positive player, but suddenly by joining the Nets he’s tabbed as an All-Star talent again and makes them unfair. On the other hand, Griffin isn’t a superstar capable of carrying a team as a first option anymore, as his knee injury suffered the last time he dragged Detroit to the playoffs has taken some of his burst away, but when asked to be a fourth option, he’s incredibly overqualified for that role.
Griffin does have a very good point about how quickly perception flips of a player the moment they join a contender, as we’ve seen with Blake and his old running mate in Detroit, Andre Drummond, now that he’s joined the Lakers. This is in part because fans of those teams will overhype their new acquisition, but it’s also because the buyout world is, really, an overcorrection in terms of reassessing a player’s value. On a max deal, an older star on the decline is a negative asset, but to go from that to being on a veteran minimum contract makes them an overwhelmingly positive one, especially since they are almost always coming in willing to take a much lesser role just to be part of a winner. Griffin certainly falls into that category, and at least he can find the humor in how quickly he’s gone from being called washed with the Pistons to an unfair advantage for the Nets.