The Brooklyn Nets, at 26-13, are comfortably in position to land a top-3 seed in the Eastern Conference going into the playoffs, as they, the current top seeded Sixers, and the Bucks have separated themselves from the pack already. What makes Brooklyn’s run to this point all the more impressive is that they are doing so with a roster that is seemingly constantly in flux.
James Harden and Kyrie Irving are playing spectacular basketball next to one another and Joe Harris is putting forth an historically great shooting season, but they’ve still had to play more than half of their games this season without the man many would consider their absolute best player in Kevin Durant. Now, having Harden and Irving to keep the ship afloat in Durant’s absence, as he has twice had 7-day quarantines for contact tracing and more recently has missed time due to a hamstring strain, is a tremendous luxury, but this is a team still trying to build its chemistry and hasn’t been able to fully do so.
The wait for the full strength Nets will continue for a bit longer, as The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports Durant will sit another 1-2 weeks, as Brooklyn is understandably being cautious with the fickle nature of hamstring injuries. It’s smart to give hamstrings as much time as possible to fully heal, and the Nets are a team with title aspirations who won’t be afraid of having to go on the road for a series in the conference finals or semis. As such, putting their longterm goals ahead of pushing for a 1-seed (which, they’re only a game out of even with KD’s extended absence) makes sense.
At the same time, the regular season should be the time for the Nets to be able to tinker with rotations and allow Steve Nash to figure out how to handle rest in the minutes between the start and finish of the game when he wants his Big Three all on the floor. Brooklyn has some other pieces to work into the fold as well, with Blake Griffin still getting in game shape to make his debut and the expectation that they aren’t done with the buyout market just yet. The next month-plus will likely see a lot of different lineups pop up, as Durant eventually returns, Griffin works his way in, and potential other additions arrive on the roster. That sets up an interesting, possibly fun, challenge for Nash to keep things fresh in the playoff push at the end of the season, and the Nets will be nothing if not fascinating as they try to harness all their star power to be at their best for the postseason.