3 things to like, dislike early on in Nets' 2021-22 season

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Kevin Durant James Harden cropped 11/12/2021
Kevin Durant James Harden cropped 11/12/2021

The Nets currently sit at 11-5, good for second in the East following their home loss to the Golden State Warriors. Most would characterize these results as good-not-great, with much to be excited about and some things fans could do without.

Here are three things we like and three things we dislike about Brooklyn’s start to the season.

Like: Kevin Durant’s MVP campaign

Durant quickly put any concerns about his post-injury production to bed last season, but this year he’s made it hard to remember he ever tore his Achilles at all. KD is putting up historic numbers, with 28.6 points per game on a career-high 56.7 percent shooting from the field.

That level of output on such efficient shooting is normally unheard of. Durant would be competing for the 50/40/90 club if his free throw shooting was up by his career averages, all while carrying this Nets team to a solid record without Kyrie Irving. He’s contributed 7.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists a night as well.

There’s sure to be ups and downs ahead for Brooklyn, but so long as Durant is playing at this level there’s little to be alarmed about.

Dislike: James Harden’s shaky start

After assuring fans he was 100 percent coming off last year’s hamstring injury during training camp, Harden got off to a rough start in 2021-22. He cracked 20 points in under half of his first 10 games, shooting just 43. 2 percent from the field and regressing defensively back to meme levels.

Without Irving in the lineup, Harden’s struggles hurt the Nets early, leading to a 2-3 record before the schedule softened up. It’s clear he’s still working his way back from the hamstring and the new officiating rules are playing a role in his performance. That being said…

Like: Harden returning to form

In these past five games, we’ve seen an improved Harden. He’s got more burst in his legs, leading to a higher clip from two-point range and more free throw attempts. Last week in New Orleans, Harden dropped 39 points and 12 assists, easily his best outing of the early season.

Seeing Harden work his way back into elite shape is good news for Nets fans, starving to see Durant get some help. Brooklyn hasn’t beat any of its tougher opponents in recent weeks, but getting Harden right is a big step in turning that around.

Dislike: All-bench lineups

As this team is built, head coach Steve Nash can’t afford to run full bench units. Obviously some experimentation with this rotation is warranted, but without Durant or Harden on the floor, we’ve seen some horrid results.

Brooklyn’s sixth-most played lineup features none of the starters and clocks in at 22 total minutes of game time, getting outscored by 7.1 points per 100 possessions. It appears this futility has led to more staggering of Durant and Harden into bench lineups, so we shouldn’t see much more of this going forward.

Like: Contributions from LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills

While much of Brooklyn’s supporting cast has stepped up in Irving’s absence and Harden’s struggles, two have been especially awesome.

Aldridge was devastated after having to retire last season due to a heart condition before he could help the Nets in their postseason race. Thus far into his second go-around, he’s looked closer to his former All-Star self than to retirement, nailing mid-range jumpers en route to 12.8 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field.

Mills was Brooklyn’s big offseason acquisition and is playing his role as well. He’s averaging 10.9 points off the bench on an incendiary 47.9 percent clip from three.

The Nets entered this season with any rotational questions and are sure to need guys to step up when injuries or other circumstances arrive. Knowing Aldridge and Mills can contribute like they have is a nice luxury.

Dislike: Irving’s situation

There doesn't appear to be any positive developments in the latest Irving saga. In fact, the opposite is true.

Newly elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently stated he won’t be changing the city’s mandate to accommodate Irving, leaving his future in flux indefinitely. So long as Brooklyn isn’t willing to employ half a player and Irving won’t get vaccinated, we’re in this standstill for the long haul.