The Brooklyn Nets: Can the new big three work?

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Erik Cleves Kristensen | Flickr

Kyle McKee

Heading into the 2021 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets were poised to be one of the most highly covered teams across the league.

Kevin Durant made his first return to action since tearing his Achilles heel in the 2019 NBA Finals, and Kyrie Irving is simply Irving. Everyone was curious to see how the two superstars would play together.

Now that they’ve acquired James Harden from the Houston Rockets, the Nets and their new big three of Durant, Irving and Harden have taken the league by storm.

As of Jan. 31, the Nets have a record of 13-9, which puts them in second place in the Eastern Conference, right behind the Philadelphia 76ers who have a record of 15-6.

Since acquiring Harden, the Nets have won six out of nine games, including wins against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks.

However, although the Nets are near the top of the Eastern Conference and have three of the best players in the NBA, there are many reasons Nets fans should be concerned. The biggest concern is their defense. Before the Harden deal, the Nets had a pretty mediocre defense and struggled on the grass, leading opponents to easy buckets.

According to StatMuse, Brooklyn has a 119.9 defensive rating since acquiring Harden which is the worst in the league. In fact, if the season ended today, the Nets defensive rating would be the worst in NBA history.

The second reason for concern is health. Out of Durant, Irving and Harden, only Harden has proven to be a durable player. KD and Irving aren’t injury prone, but they have had their fair share of injuries, especially Irving.

The last reason for concern for the Nets is Irving’s off the court antics. Throughout his career, from Cleveland to Boston to Brooklyn, he has had off the court issues that have affected his team.

Including this season, in which Irving left the team and gave no reason for his absence. Only time will tell if Irving can straighten up, but if the past is any indication of the future, then Irving will continue to provide off-court distractions for his team.

Now on the flip side to all of this is how incredible the Nets offense has been.

According to StatMuse, since acquiring Harden, the Nets have had a 122.6 offensive rating, which is the best in the league and if the season ended today, it would be the best of all time.

Through only a couple of weeks of play, this new big three have proven to be one of the greatest big three ever on the offensive end and the weakest on the defensive end.

The Nets will have to make some moves before the trade deadline to address the weakness in their defense. If they don’t make any moves, then Brooklyn is going to have to outscore everyone.

Though they are certainly capable of doing that, defense wins championships and if they want to get to the Finals then the Nets will have to improve on that end of the floor.