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Most talented team... ever?!? With great talent comes great expectations. On the pressure that awaits Brooklyn’s Nets

Billy Reinhardt takes a look at how the ‘21-’22 Nets stack up with other historically great teams and the pressures that come along with being the league’s hunted.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets have amassed arguably the most talented roster the league has ever seen. It’s not just us who’s saying it. It’s a topic of discussion across the league

In less than six years from the time he was hired in February of 2016, Sean Marks has transformed a post-apocalyptic Nets roster — not even hyperbolic considering the Boston trade and its aftermath — into an absolute juggernaut.

At guard, ‘Brooklyn’s Backcourt’ (still ‘Yormarked’) is the most devastating in basketball and maybe the most talented guard duo ever with James Harden and Kyrie Irving. The addition of Patty Mills gives Brooklyn a professional spark plug off the bench, one who’s oozing with big game savvy. That’s not all, though, as rookie Cam Thomas — the Summer League Co-MVP and leading scorer — has the potential to step in and drop 20 points with ease on those load management nights. And the Nets have quietly updated his height from 6’4” to 6’5”. The kid is still growing at 19. There’s also Jevon Carter; a useful 3&D depth piece known for his excellent defense all the way back to his days playing for Bob Huggins at West Virginia.

Brooklyn’s assortment of wings has deepened this offseason as well. Obviously, there’s Kevin Durant — arguably the best player in the entire league. Forget that — the best player in the entire league.

You know who he is.

Alongside Durant is the returning Joe Harris. Harris has much to prove as a big game performer following his playoff disappearance against Milwaukee, but the sniper from rural Washington is the same guy who has led the league in 3-point percentage in two of the last three seasons — He commands the most heightened level of respect from defenses. For the purposes of organization, we’ll slot the position-less Bruce Brown with the wings. Brown was a revelation in his first year as a Net, serving as Brooklyn’s best perimeter defender, a unique short roller, and gritty rebounder — Brown truly did it all. If Brown can make a leap as a shooter, especially in the corners, then “Scary Hours” will really be upon us.

Rounding out the group are new additions James Johnson, DeAndre Bembry, Sekou Doumbouya, and two-way Kessler Edwards. While it remains to be seen if both Bembry and Doumbouya stick — Brooklyn has to trim its roster down 15 by the time the season begins — that quartet of wings should bring a welcomed defensive intensity and versatility to Steve Nash’s squad.

The frontcourt is where Brooklyn has improved most, filling the few holes the team previously had, and allowing them to enter the discussions on most talented team ever. The late-stage free agency addition of Paul Millsap and the unexpected return of LaMarcus Aldridge gives the Nets big men depth like never before in franchise history. Blake Griffin is back and still very much productive following a rejuvenating first season in Brooklyn. Nic Claxton looks to make a third year leap from defensive wizards into all-around force.

Rounding out the big men is rookie Day’Ron Sharpe. Sharpe has potential to wreak havoc on the glass, but more likely down the the line. It’s expected he spends much of his first season developing on Long Island with new development guru Adam Caporn. Jahlil Okafor is currently on the roster, but his chances of sticking for second tour with the Nets seem slim. Then again, Marks did not move immediately to waive him.

Here’s a look at a current potential depth chart...

Impressive to say the least. Steve Nash will have a plethora of options to lean on. Brooklyn is potentially 11-to-12 deep with proven playoff capable talent. There are very few teams in NBA history that could match Brooklyn’s star power and of those teams, few to none had the depth to match this current Nets superpower.

Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, only a few teams stick out as comparably talented in regards to this discussion. The 2017-2018 Golden State Warriors (Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, Cousins), 2012-2013 Miami Heat (James, Wade, Bosh, Allen, Battier, Miller), 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers (O’Neal, Bryant, Payton, Malone, Fisher), 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Kukoc, Kerr, Harper), and 1985-1986 Boston Celtics (Bird, McHale, Parrish, Johnson, Ainge, Walton) are the teams that warrant consideration, (Honorable mention to the 2015-2016 San Antonio Spurs (Leonard, Aldridge, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Green, Mills, West, Diaw) and 2021-2022 Los Angeles Lakers (James, Davis, Westbrook, Anthony, Howard, Gasol) — we need that Finals matchup.)

Reminder that this discussion is purely about talent on paper. Notice that a few of the teams mentioned above did not actually live up to expectations and win a title.

The 2021-22 version of Brooklyn will roster players with a cumulative total of 44 career All-Star selections and 29 All-NBA taps. While that metric isn’t necessarily indicative of a roster with players that are currently good (see 2021-22 Lakers), Brooklyn is a case where its big three is composed of players all in their primes.

The other former All-Stars, Griffin, Millsap, and Aldridge aren’t completely over the hill either. If healthy, that veteran trio has shown in their most recent play that they could still be valuable contributors for a title team. Then there’s Mills, Harris, Brown, and Claxton. Even Thomas and Johnson could play roles. Marks’ offseason has provided the Nets with the versatility to play any style — big or small, slow or fast, perimeter oriented or even old school inside out. Brooklyn is beyond stacked and it’s hard to say they’re not the most talented team to ever grace an NBA court.

As always, having a tremendously talented roster means that the pressure to win will be astronomically high — everyone outside New York (and some inside, too) will be rooting for Brooklyn to fail. The Nets will be the league’s villains and every night another team will come hunting them — circling the matchup on their schedules in red sharpie months in advance.

As the late great Stan Lee famously quoted in Marvel’s Spider-Man comics, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

With a little poetic license, let’s stretch that proverb to “with great talent comes great expectations” — quite applicable to this year’s star studded Brooklyn squad.

For the Nets, it will be important to embrace the expectations and be transparent about the objective publicly, but have the heightened level of focus necessary to tune out the outside distractions and become maniacal about the day-to-day work that contributes to the process of cultivating a title winning season. So far, so good. Marks and his “Big Three” has all talked openly about the goal in very specific terms.

With a veteran-laden roster comprised of players that have “done it” before, Brooklyn is as prepared as can be for a championship pursuit. Then there’s that chip on their shoulder: if only they’d been healthy. If only KD had a smaller shoe size.

The time is now for Brooklyn to reach the top of the mountain as the talent is there for the Nets to turn ‘most talented team ever’ into ‘best team ever’ and champions — Brooklyn has that potential. That’s the new standard.