It’s crazy to think that Kevin Durant and Kyrie joined the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019. It’s crazier to think that a little over a year ago, the Nets acquired another superstar in James Harden. The craziest thing to realize is that since the Brooklyn big three formed, they have played less than 20 games together. Two weeks after Harden’s trade, Durant suffered from a hamstring injury, missing 23 games. Harden and Irving faced injuries during playoff games before the team’s second-round exit in the 2021 NBA playoffs. Irving missed the first half of the 2021-22 season due to his personal choice regarding vaccines. Not too long after Irving’s return this season, Durant suffered an MCL sprain, sidelining him for 4-6 weeks, meaning he most likely won’t return to the court until late February or early March at the earliest. Now here we are.
With the combination of the Nets planning to not offer Irving an extension as well as the recent reports of Harden not being happy living in Brooklyn as well as being unhappy with Irving being a part-time player, there are a couple of scenarios that could happen for the team the rest of this season and offseason. If Durant comes back in March, it’s highly likely that the Nets will finish the season as a top-4 seed and have the home-court advantage going into the NBA playoffs. This is automatically a problem because Irving would miss all four home games. A worst-case scenario would be a first-round series against the Knicks, meaning Irving would miss all seven games. The Nets will make it out of the first round though, that’s almost a given. The team could easily reach the conference finals at full strength. The second round is where it will get tricky. They could run into Miami, Chicago, or Milwaukee in the second round and conference finals. Milwaukee already beat this team in seven games last season. It’s possible they could do it again.
Another scenario that’s possible is that the big three don’t survive past the deadline. The odds are extremely low, but anything is possible in the NBA. With Durant out, Irving out half of the time, and Harden frustrated with Irving and the city of Brooklyn, Harden could request a trade out of Brooklyn. Harden has been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers since the beginning of the season. Daryl Morey is holding off on trading Ben Simmons in hopes he could reunite with Harden in the offseason, but the right package could get Harden now. A proposed Harden for Simmons, Danny Green, and potential pick swaps might intrigue both teams to make a move. Brooklyn would have Simmons locked up for a few years and needs more defense. Philly needs a superstar guard next to Joel Embiid and Harden would be a perfect choice. If he were to opt-out of his contract for the 2022-23 season, the Nets could lose Harden for nothing. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, they could see Irving leave as well with the league and New York most likely not changing protocols and regulations for those who are unvaccinated.
When it comes down to it, the Brooklyn Nets will do whatever they can to please Kevin Durant. He’s the only one signed for an extended period and without a doubt the most important superstar of the three. This season is now do or die for Brooklyn’s big three. Easily one of the best big threes of the “big three era,” if not the best big three, the trio of Durant, Harden, and Irving has been a failure, with some of that being out of their control and some being in their control. It’s highly likely that the big three will not make it past the 2021-22 season. When it’s all said and done, the Brooklyn big three will be one of the biggest “what ifs” of the modern era of the NBA.