Nets Are Looking For Shared Interests

I mean, there's no way to avoid it. This week, the NBA world craned their necks in unison with the implementation of a huge trade. A few weeks ago, I highlighted some league headlines as the season got underway. Now, two of the stories are melding into one supernova of hype and wonder.

After a loss on Tuesday, James Harden didn't hold back on his feelings of the direction the Rockets were heading. The post-game presser appeared to be the final straw in a weeks-long saga that gave the former MVP his wish. Not only did he work his way out of Houston, he ended up in a destination that was reportedly desired.

With the four-team, blockbuster trade complete, the Brooklyn Nets expanded their top-end talent capacity to include the "Big Three" combination that's all the rage in today's Association. The franchise also traded away three players on last season's playoff roster (Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs) and another that would have contributed heavily off the bench (Taurean Prince) had he not tested positive for COVID-19 and opted out of the Orlando bubble. Add in Garrett Temple leaving in free agency, and only Joe Harris remains from the starting five that lost to Toronto in the first round of the postseason.

So, basically, the question will be "Is it worth it?" One reason that fans and media were high on the Nets this season was due to the roster's growing depth of talent. Now, a chunk of that talent (along with a load of future draft picks) was mortgaged to produce the current top-heavy roster. We know that James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant are a trio that needs your attention. But how far into contention can they carry this roster? Did the Nets trade away too much supplemental help to make a deep playoff run in the spring?

The constructed "Big Three" strategy has worked before. It's even worked with players that "need to have the ball" for their effectiveness to be at its peak. In 2007, the Boston Celtics gave forward Paul Pierce a couple of stellar running mates when they brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The season before that, Pierce ranked 10th across the league when it came to ball usage percentage (30.7). Allen and Garnett never reached that percentage over their entire careers. Allen's highest rate of 29.5 was achieved in the 2006-2007 season prior to going to Boston. Garnett's high of 29.6 came during his MVP campaign of 2003-2004 (in '06-'07, the rate was 27.4).

In 2010, Pat Riley wooed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. That teaming up with established star Dwyane Wade led to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two titles. And it all came together as a result of a reduction of ego, so to speak. During the 2009-2010 season, Wade (34.9), James (33.5), and Bosh (28.7) were respectively 1st, 2nd, and 9th in the NBA for ball usage rate. The first year these three walked on the court together, the trio's rate dropped to 31.6 (Wade), 31.5 (James), and 23.5 (Bosh).

The new trio of the moment have no issues holding on to the rock. Irving has been on and off with his usage rate. But last season, when he was clearly the on-floor leader, the point guard reached the highest usage rate of his career (32.6). Durant's biggest number came in a league-leading 33.0 rate for the 2013-2014 campaign. Over the first 10 games of this year, the 32.2 rate is approaching his career high.

Then, there's Harden. The reigning three-time scoring champion holds three of the top 13 usage rate seasons since the stat starting being recorded during the 1977-1978 season. That includes the second highest percentage of 40.5 in 2018-2019. These are guys who know how to be effective while hold on to the ball. They've also been able to show willingness to share. All of them average over 4 assists per game during their prolific careers. But will that selflessness overtake the habitual need to be "The Man" of this group?

As this new trio comes together, there's no comparison. The attitude baggage of these three has been dragged around much more than any other "Big Three" constructed in the era. Durant has the least baggage, but people still hold the move to Golden State over his head. Harden had an interesting 2020, especially after the pandemic shutdown. Whether it was arriving to the Orlando bubble separately from his Rockets teammates, partying maskless at a club, or maneuvering to get out of Houston, the new addition is stacking up some head-scratching moments.

Then, there's Irving. He's burned bridges with two franchises. He called out the former teammate most responsible for adding a ring to his resume. He called out the league for playing while marches and social unrest were gripping the nation. He's trolled the general public with sentiments that haven't been popular for centuries. And he's about to return from a personal hiatus, including, well, partying maskless at a club. Where will his head be in two weeks? The All-Star Break? The playoffs?

The buzz that I talked about last month will only grow as the season roll along. Will this new "Big Three" result in a shower of confetti or in a train wreck of ego and emotion? Either way, we're all ready to crane our necks again when that happens.

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