The Brooklyn Nets are the biggest basketball failure of the 21st Century

The Brooklyn Nets are the biggest basketball failure of the 21st Century


See, what had happened was …
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With Kyrie Irving dominating the news cycle in recent days, now seems like as good a time as any to remind you that even if you take all the Brooklyn Nets’ off-court issues out of the equation, they’re still a really bad basketball team.

I don’t think it’s the least bit hyperbolic to say that over the past few years, the Nets have proven themselves to be the biggest disappointment — the biggest failure — in the NBA of the 21st century, and maybe of all time. No matter what team of yesteryear failed to live up to the hype, none has done it with quite the pizazz of Brooklyn.

The Nets have severely underperformed so much that the disappointing Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol Lakers team that earned the No. 7 seed and was swept in the first round of the playoffs, or the ringless Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-James Harden Thunder squads — with three eventual MVPs on the roster — don’t even come close to this unmitigated disaster.

It seems like an impossibly long time ago, but think back to how concerned you were for the rest of the league when you found out that Harden was traded to the Nets to join Irving and Durant. Many believed that a team with two of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen and one guy with nice handles wouldn’t just win one championship, but several. They might’ve been the next NBA dynasty.

Three years into Kyrie and KD’s tenure in Brooklyn — with seemingly dozens of controversies under their belt and Harden swapped for Ben Simmons — there’s only a single playoff series win to show for it.

So far, the Nets are 3-6 in their first nine games to start this year, have the worst defensive rating in the league, fired their coach, suspended their mercurial point guard, and at best are a play-in team for the second year in a row — if they’re lucky.

Even if you focus on just the basketball aspect, no team has ever done less with more.

“But if Kevin Durant was a shoe size smaller.” Well, he’s not. That’s the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard and one that for some reason people only apply here. You’ve never heard, “Well if Lebron James’ wingspan was a little bit shorter, Andre Iguadola would’ve made that layup.”

“Well if New York City didn’t have a vaccine mandate for most of last season, Kyrie would’ve played the whole year and the Nets would’ve been a higher seed with better team chemistry.” But it did, and it was Kyrie’s decision not to get vaccinated. Plus it’s far from guaranteed they would’ve actually been good enough to get past the Eastern Conference champion Celtics, who swept Brooklyn.

This team is completely broken, from top to bottom. The Nets have accomplished nothing since this particular group of stars was brought together, and they will accomplish nothing in the future. Harden was able to get out, and now the Nets have Simmons who looks even worse to start this season than when we last saw him playing basketball, passing up dunks in the playoffs.

It doesn’t matter how good the individual players are, they’re just not a good team. When Irving comes back from suspension, I’m sure he’ll continue to score 26.9 points per game on 21.5 field goal attempts until the All-Star break when he decides to move to Belize to start a religion. Durant will get his 30 as well, but it will come during an awful lot of losses.

There’s no clear path for how to move on from this particular iteration of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant has already requested a trade that didn’t happen, seemingly because he’s worth more than any team is willing to give up. He’s not a free agent until 2026. Simmons isn’t a free agent until 2025, and I can’t imagine any team that isn’t rostered with a Harden who wants to leave would trade for him.

There have been rumors about Irving to the Lakers, but it seems increasingly unlikely because what team would want that distraction? The silver lining is that he’s a free agent this offseason, so Brooklyn could always let him walk. The Nets have two first-round picks in this upcoming draft and then don’t have another until 2027.

This team’s present looks pretty bleak and the future doesn’t look much better. They did it to themselves by assembling this group of talented but ill-fitting pieces like a toddler defiantly trying to make the triangle fit into the square-shaped hole.



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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.