Offseason Power Rankings: Celtics, Bucks keep top spots in Eastern Conference


2021-22 record: 44-38

Pace: 99.4 (11), OffRtg: 113.2 (10), DefRtg: 112.3 (20), NetRtg: +0.9 (15)

Key addition(s): Royce O’Neale, T.J. Warren

Key departure(s): Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic, Andre Drummond, any good vibes that might have been remaining

Three numbers to know …

  • In the three seasons since they joined the Nets, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have played in only 58 games (including the Play-In Tournament and playoffs) together. The Nets are 34-24 (.586) in those games, but have outscored their opponents by 9.4 points per 100 possessions (scoring 120.9 per 100) in their 1,736 minutes on the floor together.
  • The Nets ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage, both in the regular season (grabbing just 70.4% of available defensive boards) and in the playoffs (64.2%).
  • Durant had an effective field goal percentage of 42.8% in the playoffs, down from 57% in the regular season. That was the fifth biggest drop among 89 players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts. The Nets still scored more efficiently (115.0 points scored per 100 possessions) in their series against the Celtics than the Bucks, Heat or Warriors did.

Key question: What if there’s no trade(s)?

Making a trade is easier said than done, especially when another transaction (see Gobert, Rudy) has set a standard (in regard to the return) that will be difficult to exceed. Durant is under contract for four more seasons and, with 11 weeks to go until opening night, the Nets don’t seem to be close to any kind of deal. But will he just suit up and hoop if he’s still on the roster on Oct. 18? And will the Nets be willing to placate Irving if they don’t trade him?

If feelings can be put aside (we used similar wording about Ben Simmons’ team at this time last year), the Nets have the talent to compete with the best teams in the East. Simmons appears to be on track toward his return and the Nets can complement two of the best one-on-one players in basketball history with two of the top four guys in career 3-point percentage. Defense will always be a question, but with Simmons, O’Neale (39.3% on catch-and-shoot 3s over the last four seasons) and Warren, Brooklyn has addressed one of its most pressing issues (perimeter size).

Alas, it’s difficult to keep the rose-colored glasses on for more than a few seconds. The team that was impossible to stop when it was healthy has fallen apart after winning just a single playoff series. With the Nets’ next five first-round picks owed to (or eligible to be swapped with) the Rockets, you can understand the desire to recoup as many of those losses as possible, while also trying to stay somewhat competitive short term. The situation Nets GM Sean Marks was in when he was hired in 2016 somehow looks more desirable than this one.

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