In its first Power Rankings since the mad scramble that was NBA free agency, ESPN places the Nets, with Kyrie Irving but without Kevin Durant, at No. 12. Tim Bontemps writes...
Brooklyn completed its remarkable turnaround over the past few years by signing Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan in the opening hours of free agency, lifting a franchise that had been left for dead in the wake of trading four first-round picks to the Celtics back in 2013. If Durant were healthy, the Nets would likely be the favorites in the East. But he is not, having torn his Achilles during the NBA Finals, and will miss -- at a minimum -- most of next season. In the meantime, the Nets will hope that things go differently for Irving than they did in Boston last year, when he and the team’s young players struggled to mesh and the Celtics disappointed. Brooklyn’s roster has a similar composition, including emerging wing Caris LeVert, that will try to push the Nets along until Durant can return -- whether that’s sometime late next season or in 2020-21.
The rankings also gave the Nets a 20-1 chance for the Larry O’Brien Trophy at season’s end.
ESPN put the Nets behind four Eastern Conference teams, the Bucks at No. 1; the 76ers at No. 4; the Celtics at No. 7; and the Raptors at No. 10. The Bucks and Nuggets top the rankings. Bontemps also writes, in his ranking of the Knicks at No. 28, that Brooklyn has an opportunity to sway New York fans.
“Now the Knicks will struggle once again, while the Nets are the exciting team within the five boroughs.”
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