Basketball isn’t often referred to as a game of inches, but the final game of the Brooklyn Nets’ 2020-21 season will certainly be remembered as one.
Kevin Durant‘s jumper in the final seconds of Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks could have sent the Nets to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Durant’s size-18 sneaker grazed the three-point line and Brooklyn’s first season with its new and improved “Big 3" ended in an overtime home loss to the eventual champions.
Don’t feel too bad for the Nets, though. They were shorthanded last postseason after injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden and have reloaded this offseason for another run at a title in 2022.
Perhaps the best bit of business was signing Durant to a four-year extension, but Brooklyn also kept Blake Griffin on a veteran’s minimum deal, welcomed back LaMarcus Aldridge after he had left the team with health concerns, and signed veteran guard Patty Mills, who led Australia to a bronze medal at the 2020 Olympic Games.
After watching his team struggle on the defensive end last season, GM Sean Marks brought in veteran wing Paul Millsap, who will slot in nicely after Jeff Green departed for Denver, and notable defensive stoppers in James Johnson and Jevon Carter.
In its second season under head coach Steve Nash, Brooklyn is the odds-on favorite to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022.
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Nets Win Total Prediction 2021-2022
Nets Under 56.5 Wins (-105) at DraftKings
Look, there’s no doubt it’s highly tempting to take the over. The Nets are going to be one of the most fun teams to watch this season and are arguably the most talented team in the NBA. However, it’s hard for me to trust the Nets to get to 57 regular-season wins, especially after watching what happened last year. Brooklyn finished the shortened 72-game regular season with a record of 48-24, which means it would have had to win nine of 10 missing games to hit the over in a normal 82-game season.
In the last 82-game season (2018-19), only three teams won 57 games or more. Milwaukee finished 60-22, Kawhi Leonard’s Toronto Raptors were 58-24, and a Golden State Warriors team that featured Durant finished 57-25.
Not only is that necessary win rate concerning, but the availability of the Nets’ Big 3 is as well. Of the two stars that started last season with Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving played 54 games while Durant appeared in just 35. Harden was a consistent presence after coming over from Houston, but suffered a hamstring strain in Game 1 of the Bucks series and wasn’t the same after that.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the dreaded phrase “load management" will find its way to Brooklyn this season, as the only goal for the Nets this year is to be healthy and prepared when the postseason arrives. Add in the potential for non-injury related absences — Kyrie Irving is already missing Media Day due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols — and it gets harder to see this team winning 57 games.
Nets Make NBA Playoffs Prediction 2021-2022
Brooklyn Nets to Make the Playoffs (-10000) at Caesars
If the Nets don’t make the playoffs, even with the post Play-In Tournament stipulation, something has gone catastrophically wrong. Brooklyn showed last year that it can win plenty of games even if only one or two of Durant, Irving and Harden are on the court.
This is a no-doubter, but at a return of $1 for every $100 invested, it’s not exactly a good use of your money either.
Nets To Win NBA Championship Prediction 2021-2022
Nets to Win NBA Championship (+240) at BetMGM
If I had to pick one team right now to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022, it would be the Brooklyn Nets. The keys to success in the NBA Playoffs are having a substantial amount of postseason experience and the best individual player on the court.
The Nets have both.
When healthy, Kevin Durant is the best basketball player on the planet in my opinion, and he showed it last postseason and again this past summer at the Olympics. The Nets have done well to surround him, Harden and Irving with more capable veteran pieces that will be invaluable in April, May and June.
While I’m confident that the Nets will likely be there in the end, I would be hesitant to invest too much at this point in time. Brooklyn is the favorite at +240, but we still haven’t seen the Big 3 play a lot together and the NBA Finals are still eight long months away.
There’s certainly no shame in getting your money down on the Nets now, but I’d be surprised if we don’t see a +300 or longer number pop on Brooklyn at some point during the regular season.
Nets & Player Prop Predictions 2021-2022
Patty Mills to Win Sixth Man of the Year Award (+1600) at Caesars
In a backcourt dominated by Kyrie Irving and James Harden, you might not expect a guard like Patty Mills to make much of an impact. But if you were watching the Olympics this summer, you know what the Aussie is capable of.
Mills led Australia to a bronze medal, averaging 23.3 points per game and shooting near 40% from three. He’s going to get a lot of open looks in this offense, and like Joe Harris, should benefit from the extra attention paid to Durant, Harden and Irving.
Mills is certainly capable of putting up numbers and if he’s given enough of a role in Brooklyn, he could be a decent value at 16-1.
Kevin Durant to Win the NBA Scoring Title (+3000) at Caesars
This number is only 30-1 because Durant is expected to share the scoring wealth with Harden, Irving and others, but last season the Nets showed that there’s plenty of points to go around, as they averaged 118.6 points per game, the second-most in the Association.
Durant averaged 26.9 points per game last year, 5.1 points per game shy of Steph Curry‘s league lead, but KD saw his scoring skyrocket to 34.3 points per game in 12 postseason games. Sure, injuries certainly played a part in that, but we can’t predict how available Irving or Harden will be this year.
It may not be the most likely outcome, but we all know he’s capable and I like the value here.
Nets to Win the Eastern Conference (+105) at Fanduel
While I’m generally not a huge proponent of season-long bets with short odds, I don’t mind getting in on the Nets to win the Eastern Conference.
As I said in the win-total section, I don’t really want to bet on Brooklyn’s regular-season motivation given that 2021-22 is certainly championship or bust for the Nets. This bet, while still early and could improve odds-wise, at least takes out the requirement of beating one of the Los Angeles teams or any other threat from the Western Conference.
While we have seen teams make it back to the Finals after winning, I do feel like Milwaukee will have a tougher time given the condensed schedule of the past few seasons. Philadelphia could be a threat but has the Ben Simmons situation to address, and I don’t think Miami has enough talent to compete with a full-strength Brooklyn squad.