It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
Far-Fetched Friday: The Nets Win More Games Than Suns in Next Two Seasons
By: Jake Lofgren
Whenever a trade goes down in any sport, people are quick to try and figure out which team got the better end of the deal. Very rarely do we see a deal that contains equal value. NBA trades usually look like those offers you get in fantasy sports from the guy in the league that nobody really likes. They'll offer you a bunch of guys who maybe shouldn't even be on a fantasy roster for a bonafide superstar, but deals like that can make sense for a franchise that is beginning to plan for the future.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at two NBA teams who risked it all.
The Nets shocked a lot of people by blowing up a team with a winning record with the Kyrie and Kevin Durant trades. When considering the tension between these parties, the only real surprise is that they would do this to a team that many considered a real contender. Especially giving away Durant so early in his new contract when they likely would have found a better deal during the summer.
Most sportsbooks have the Suns with the second or third-highest odds to win this season's NBA Championship. Rightfully so, they have built a fantastic roster that would be my most confident bet to get out of the West. Kevin Durant is a superstar and has not slowed down despite being 34 years old. He is the prototypical number one option a team would need on a championship contender and potentially a top-10 player all time. This article is more about my belief in the Nets. Despite getting significantly worse, I think there is a path forward for them to win games.
Suns Question Marks
The Suns have assembled a group of players that can be called "divas." Sometimes groups like that work out well and seem to fit better than in other circumstances, but sometimes it flames out. I think the Suns may fall in the flaming out category.
Chris Paul has tended to wear his invitation short in many of the organizations he has played for as of late, and it was less than a year ago we were all sure that DeAndre Ayton would no longer be a Sun. Ayton's rim protection is going to be very important for the Suns' title odds, but if he gets ignored on offense in a similar manner that has rubbed him the wrong way in the past, maybe Ayton puts his foot down on trying to get to a place where he can look like the All-NBA caliber center that he can be.
Staying healthy is just as important as talent in this league. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant only played together in 87 of 280 games. Now, a lot of this was due to a vaccine mandate, but KD also had multiple long term injuries in that period. It could become a similar tale with the new duo of Chris Paul and Kevin Durant. Getting them the necessary rest during the regular season is a must.
The Nets Talent
The most surprising thing from the Durant and Irving trades is that they were already on a team built to win now. The team already has a defensive anchor in Nic Claxton in the midst of a breakout season. Along with valuable role players in Patty Mills, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Royce O'Neale, and then they had T.J. Warren, who also joined Durant in Phoenix. They also added Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith in return for Irving, two more great role players.
On top of the role players, the Nets have seen Cam Thomas break out to become the youngest player in NBA history to score 40+ points in three straight NBA games. Then you have Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges from the Suns for Durant, two young wings who are impactful on both sides of the court. Mikal Bridges is talented enough that some anonymous organization reportedly offered three first rounders to the Nets for him, but the Nets rejected.
Oh, sorry, and perhaps the biggest wildcard of all, Ben Simmons. NBA fans have been interested in seeing what a team built around the strengths of Simmons could look like after that fantastic rookie season he had. Things could get real interesting in Brooklynn if we can get Ben Simmons back to the All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year candidate version of himself.
Many people associate the Nets with tanking now that they no longer have Kyrie or KD. But that doesn't make much sense at all. The Nets gave up most of their draft capital to the Rockets in a deal to acquire James Harden, so there is not much incentive to lose games. The Nets also acquired five first-rounders and four second-rounders via the Durant and Irving deals. It is more likely that the Nets move those firsts for talented players, than add to their draft pick collection.
West First Round Matchups are Harder
The best two teams in the league are the Bucks and the Celtics. Although besides those two, I feel pretty confident in the ability of the Nets to potentially win a matchup against the 76ers, Cavs, Knicks, Heat, Hawks, Wizards, or Raptors. The biggest obstacle is avoiding that deadly first round matchup against the Bucks or Celtics.
The Suns can easily beat everyone in the West but also lose to just about everyone. Besides the Kings (who are still good), the Suns exist in a Western Conference with a long list of teams you don't really want to play. From the Nuggets, Grizzlies, Clippers, Mavericks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Warriors, and Lakers. That conference can easily be a first round exit for any team involved. Ja Morant corrupted many people's view of the West when he claimed, " I'm fine in the West." The claim made no sense considering that the Grizzlies are only 17-16 against the West but 18-7 against the East.
I feel confident that both of these teams complete their current missions. The Suns will likely walk away with another Conference Finals to show for their courage this year, but I think the Nets will walk away a lot more positive from this deal than people think.
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