Playoff basketball is back in New York City, and it’s not happening in Madison Square Garden. Instead, the Brooklyn Nets have made the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season, and may even have a shot at the sixth seed when the regular season ends. The Nets have made strides with their young players, something hat the Knicks have failed to do, and it should be exciting to see how this inexperienced group can perform on the big stage. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons Brooklyn has been so successful this year, and what they will need to do to be successful in the postseason.
Boy is D’Angelo Russell showing how much of a fool Magic Johnson is. Russell was traded from the Lakers to the Nets to make space for Lonzo Ball, and it might have been the biggest mistake the recent-resigned Johnson made in his tenure with the historic franchise. Russell was averaging 14.4 points per game in his time with the Lakers but has shined while with the Nets, averaging just over 18 points and having his best year this season with 21.1 points and seven assists per game.
Making his first All-Star game appearance this year, Russell is the shining star of the Nets this season, hitting clutch shots left and right to give his team the best chance to win. He’s proven he can be a leader, and I can’t wait to see how he performs in the pressure of the playoffs.
Kenny Atkinson’s Core Four
It’s interesting to think of the situation the Nets were in when they first moved to Brooklyn. Having just made the trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Brooklyn was somewhat of a retirement home with no real chance at a championship run. Finally, the franchise made the decision to start young and develop, and it sure has paid off. The Nets have produced some of the best homegrown talent in the NBA through their G-League affiliate and training staff, which has been a fun transition to see in the sport itself.
With head coach Kenny Atkinson first taking over the Nets in the 2016-17 season, the only four players that remain from that struggling year are Joe Harris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. All four have become impact players, with Harris leading by becoming one of the league’s sharpshooters, winning the 3-point contest this year and leading the league in 3-point field goal percentage at .474. Dinwiddie is second on the team in assists per game with 4.6 and in points per game with 16.9, while LeVert was third in points with 13.8. I would be scared to face this young squad at any point in the playoffs if I was an opposing team.
What to Expect?
If the Nets can win against Miami Wednesday night, they will have clinched the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and will likely face the third seeded Philadelphia 76ers. Although Philly is a good team, the Nets can certainly give them trouble in the paint and have the advantage at point. They’ll just have to find someone to guard Ben Simmons when he brings the ball up. Joel Embiid is a monster, but a combination of Ed Davis, Jarrett Allen and DeMarre Carroll on the boards could provide some trouble.
I’m sure fans aren’t expecting much, but it’s playoff basketball and anything can happen! It may not be the Knicks, but New York has the postseason feel in the air.