The NBA season has been off to a thrilling start as teams across the association have been adjusting to the revamped fan-less schedule and safety protocols. To save travel time the NBA has incorporated more home and home games so teams can have more proper rest, something that really enhanced the team’s overall play in Orlando. This season feels as if it’s the first time since the late 2010s that there’s no clear cut predicted NBA champion as super teams and talent are leveled out evenly across the association.
Where is Iso Zo?
Allonzo Trier was a highly touted scoring guard at the University of Arizona but failed to hear his name called on draft night back in 2018. Recently the former standout Wildcat entered the G-League Draft seeking another chance at the NBA. Trier was drafted by the Iowa Wolves, the G-League affiliate of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. The two-time All-Pac-12 member received a Summer League invitation from the New York Knicks and his outstanding play earned him a two-way contract. Trier’s went on to earn respectable rotation minutes off the bench and became a go-to guy down the stretch for the Knicks. Trier went on to average 10.8 points off the bench on 45/40/80 shooting splits his rookie year. Trier’s promising campaign allowed the Knicks to grant him a contract offer where he inked a two-year deal.
In year two Trier saw his playing time plummet only appearing in 24 games taking only attempting four field goals a night. It’s quite puzzling to see an organization not hesitate to move off a young promising offensive player like Trier especially when you decide not to utilize him right after signing him to a two-year deal. It’s not like the Knicks have a great track history of Knicks possessing offensive scoring threats at the guard position in the first place. As he’s not well known for his defensive ability given his “Iso” nickname and slight frame Trier is definitely a guy that can give any organization a spark off the bench similar to the likes of Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson or Clippers’ Lou Williams.
Trier’s ability to create in the half-court is something of a lost art nowadays especially in an era where more and more players who can score at all three levels on the court are prioritized. Trier’s arsenal of counter dribble moves, hesitations, solid footwork, and a quick first step leaves defenders at mercy as they try to anticipate his next move at all times. Not to mention he’s a catch and shoot threat from beyond the arc, deadly from any spot in the midrange area, and can be a ball-handling threat in the pick and roll. Even though Trier may have a higher upside on the offensive end as opposed to the defensive side we’ve seen countless players with supreme talent not have the opportunity to establish themselves until they’ve found the right situation to progress and develop into the NBA player they’re destined to be.
When it was first rumored that Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were recruiting former MVP James Harden this past summer many speculated how the Nets would be able to pull off such a lucrative move that would only exist in fantasy basketball leagues. Especially when one of the biggest chips that would be a part of the deal; Spencer Dinwiddie partially tore his ACL the idea of Harden being in a BK uniform with Kyrie and KD started to become a fantasy itself. Fast forward a couple of months and the big three of Durant, Irving, and Harden just finished their fifth game together defeating the heavyweight Los Angeles Clippers 124-120. The Nets held the Heat to 45% shooting from the field which isn’t saying much but for the “Make It Take It” Nets it’s a sign of optimism to build on. Since the Harden trade, the Nets are dead last in the NBA in points allowed and defensive efficiency. Given how talented of a team the Clippers are, the Nets could not afford to display the same defensive effort they have as of recent including the abysmal defensive performances against the Cavaliers, Hawks, and Wizards.
Kyrie Irving continued his career year showing pouring in 39 points & five rebounds on 15/23 shooting with six makes from the three-point line. Kevin Durant ended up with 28 points and nine boards on an insane 11/13 shooting from the floor. NBA assist leader James Harden delivered his fourth triple-double as a Net posting 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 assists. Throughout the game and more so down the stretch the Nets Big 3 each took turns on Kawhi Leonard as the Clippers were looking to make a run late in the fourth. For someone that doesn’t have much of a defensive reputation, James Harden is quite the post defender. Harden who is listed at 6’5 220 pounds isn’t the most ideal size you look to take advantage of in the post and he was up for the challenge whenever Kawhi was looking to operate down there near the elbow area. Taking that into account as well as the 7-foot Durant looming over you the Nets made it as difficult when it mattered most. This is what everyone has been looking for from the Nets. “Can they get a stop when the game is on the line?” We all know with three of the most gifted and skilled scorers this league has ever seen offense was never going to be the problem especially with assistant coach Mike D’Antoni and his successor; first-year head coach Steve Nash at the helm. At the end of the day even though there is one basketball amongst three guys that are at their best with the ball in their possession, there’s a path to turning this team into one of the best teams to ever be assembled.
What makes the backcourt of Kyrie Irving and James Harden so lethal and something we’ve never seen before is their versatility being able to score in isolation, creating for others, and being prominent threats at both the three-point line and charity stripe. Harden may be the more superior playmaker to Irving but Irving’s ability to play off a dominant ball-handler and heat up during crucial stretches dates back to his earlier days with Lebron James. It’s almost like a perfect puzzle pieced together because that’s how Harden first made a name for himself; coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder and serving as primary ball handler even with both Durant and Westbrook on the floor. Harden being one of the most elite pick and roll maestros in the history of our league makes even more sense to maximize Nets center and former Lob City member DeAndre Jordan on downhill drives to the rim. For Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni to get the most out of their All-Star backcourt without either of them feeling out of the loop on offense they should stagger their minutes. This would be something familiar for Harden who has had his playing time staggered with his co-back court mate each of the past two seasons with Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook and neither of them had any sort of impact on Harden’s offensive volume. Either Harden or Irving can run the show with the second unit for substantial stretches. As for Irving’s who is leading the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (9.1 points per game) he can find when to make his imprint on the game and then take over when necessary just like he did in Cleveland. As for Kevin Durant who’s pouring in 30.4 points a night which is good for second in the association behind Bradley Beal we’ve seen no sign of slowing down from the two-time Finals MVP since his egregious Achilles tear suffered in 2019. Kevin Durant is going to be Kevin Durant as long as he’s being himself you’ll be in a great position to win no matter who’s alongside him.
The main worry is that Durant may have to take on a bigger responsibility on the defensive end than he ever has in his illustrious career. Durant definitely has the intangibles and ability to be an impactful defensive player. He showed it in Golden State but also had security blankets in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green alongside him who are All-Defense caliber players themselves. Durant is averaging 1.4 blocks a night thus far this season, but asking a guy who is just now getting back into the swing of things on the court to be the best offensive and defensive player in year one post Achilles tear may be a bit much to ask for. There’s a possibility with how gifted Kyrie and Harden are they’ll relieve Durant of such a heavy offensive load that he can preserve his energy for the defensive end. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Jaylen Brown, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, and Pascal Siakam. That’s a list of players Durant himself will have the task of defending at some point in the future.
The biggest concern for the Nets is unquestionably their defense and rebounding. The Nets rank 24th in the league in defensive rating and 25th in points allowed. They shipped a big chunk of their defense and frontcourt depth out such as Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince in order to acquire Harden. Even though it doesn’t sound like a lot on paper for a team that’s mainly top-heavy with stars that are offensive-minded there has to be a balance for an organization with championship aspirations especially since they’ve has mortgaged their immediate future. The Nets recently signed free agent center Norvel Pelle who posted 8.7 points on 63.5 percent shooting from the field, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks in 18.1 minutes per contest for the G-League Delaware Blue Coats. Pelle was also named to a G-League All-Defensive team back in the 2018-19 season. It’s been circulating that if the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t find a trade target for their star center Andre Drummond they’ll reach a buyout ultimately making him a free agent and the Nets will be top of the list of NBA teams that he’ll look to join. Until then the Nets are remaining with three roster spots to help bolster their frontcourt and defense as the season goes.
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