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The Athletic paints uncertain portrait of Nets chances in 2021

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Celebrities Attend Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Game Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images

In a survey of 20 agents and a John Hollinger analysis, The Athletic suggests that while the Nets have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, their chances of winning it all next season remain cloudy.

In both cases, chemistry not talent is cited as Brooklyn’s big issue along with injuries and Steve Nash’s lack of experience.

In Ben Standig and Mike Vorkunov’s anonymous survey of the agents, only seven agreed with the proposition that the Nets are favorite coming out of the East, while 12 basically said not so fast. Apparently, one agent did not respond.

Among the seven who like the Nets chances, the talent assembled by Sean Marks et al was crucial to their belief that Brooklyn is the favorite...

“I think it does. And it should. But I think they’re all signed up for the same thing, so it’s not a mystery.” said one. “They were the favorites before Steve Nash. If those two guys can get in sync, they will be fun to watch,” said another.

But those who have their doubts suggested that chemistry —and particularly Irving’s mercurial personality — will get in the way.

Typical of the responses was this: “I think KD, if he’s healthy, is the best offensive player, and I buy Nash. But I give Kyrie two months before he’s a malcontent. So, no.”

Irving took the brunt of the criticism on chemistry among the doubters.

“No. No. Hell no. You’re banking on the highest level of volatility. It’s an impossibility. Kevin Durant is probably the best player in the NBA but Kyrie Irving is a total loose cannon and he’s not doing anything to show us anything but that right now. That’s going to be difficult. I hate to comment on people I don’t really know, but Kyrie is entering his Stephon Marbury phase. You can see it. It’s there. Basketball is not a priority for him.”

Another added, “I don’t think so. I’m very skeptical. They have a lot of talent but those personalities worry me a little bit.”

There was also a concern with injuries. Indeed, over the last six years, Irving’s missed 22.5 games per season and Durant, who’s missed most of one season and all of another over that span, lost on average 25.8 games. (In his four years in the NBA, Caris LeVert has missed 28.8.)

“Absolutely not. Those two are really good players but there’s an injury history with both and issues in the past with teammates,” noted one agent in the survey.

Moreover, there was some sentiment that Nash’s lack of experience could hurt, particularly early on.

Bottom line, said another agent, “Until I see the Nets play, Boston will be the favorite. The (Nets) have a new coach. They have to find a new chemistry. They have to be healthy. There’s too many question marks for me.”

KD did get some votes from the agents on the best player question. While 11 agreed LeBron James deserves that accolade, two agents chose Durant.

“He can get his shot at anytime, anywhere. LeBron is extremely talented, but if I am picking between the two I am going with Kevin,” said one. (Kawhi Leonard finished second to LeBron with three votes.)

In Part I of the survey, which ran Wednesday, J.R. Holden, the Nets director of player personnel —essentially their top scout— got praise as a front office rising star.

“I think (Holden) has a great mind,” said one agent. “He’s working his way up slowly, surely. Great talent evaluator. Knows the game very well, feels the game, feels the players, and has a clear view of what he wants to do.”

Hollinger, never one to ignore the role of personalities and injury, took a shot at Irving as well in his analysis of who might de-throne the Lakers and cited injury concerns as well. He put the Nets in his fourth tier of contenders those with a “puncher’s chance.”

“I think this team probably isn’t good enough,” wrote the former ESPN writer and Grizzlies executive. “But I can’t deny that their high-end outcomes are pretty tantalizing. Injuries are the biggest impediment: The Nets have Kevin Durant recovering from an Achilles injury, Kyrie Irving recovering from a shoulder injury, and 15 other players recovering from spending a year with Kyrie Irving.”

Like one of the agents, Hollinger also suggested that the Nets might make a move on Bradley Beal, despite Beal and his ownership’s comments to the contrary. Hollinger added that the Nets have pieces to look beyond Beal.

“The Nets have talented young players like Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie dotting the roster, which could put Brooklyn in a great position to make a godfather-type offer to Washington if and when Bradley Beal comes available,” he said.

“Setting Beal aside, the Nets also have the type of middle-class contracts that are conducive to putting deals together. In addition to the players above, Taurean Prince and DeAndre Jordan fit this profile, although Jordan’s BFF status with Durant and Irving may serve as a de facto no-trade clause.”

Still, Hollinger wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that the Nets may gel and become a serious contender when the playoffs roll around.

“Sum it all up, and this team might not look like much out of the gate. Yet Brooklyn has a chance to be a contender by the end of the season if everything breaks right. There are a lot of disparate pieces here that would need to come together, so the odds of it all happening aren’t great … but if we’re talking about best-case scenarios, Brooklyn’s is higher than most.”