The Brooklyn Nets are imploding right before our very eyes. It seemed like a complete catastrophe had been avoided when Kyrie Irving opted into the final year of his current deal, but the bombshell was dropped yesterday afternoon when it was announced that Kevin Durant had officially requested a trade out of Brooklyn. With Durant heading out the door, that all but assures that Irving will also be traded.
The Nets drama had been bubbling on the surface for the past few days before it finally exploded yesterday, and now the NBA is in a frenzy. Teams are scrambling to try to put together trade packages for Durant and Irving while also balancing the unofficial start of free agency yesterday. Lost in the shuffle, though, is the demise of the Nets and how this may go down as one of the biggest failures in the history of the NBA.
Tim Legler believes the Brooklyn Nets failed superteam is one of the biggest failures in NBA history
Tim Legler of ESPN certainly believes that the Nets' failure to win with Durant, Irving, and James Harden will go down as one of the biggest failures in the history of the NBA. Despite having three of the most talented players on their roster for the better part of two seasons, Brooklyn only managed to win one playoff series during that time.
"This has to go down as one of the most epic failures in the history of this league, does it not? That was a surefire championship on paper when those three guys came together. It was the most unguardable offensive trio in the history of the league at the top of any roster. And look what they have to show for it now as they break it up."
Tim Legler, ESPN.
Is the Brooklyn Nets superteam the biggest failure in NBA history?
It's clear as day that the Nets superteam is a failure. As Legler noted, the Durant, Irving, and Harden trio was one of the most deadly offensive groupings the league had ever seen. The problem is the results rarely made their way onto the court. Instead, the trio only played 16 games together, and the fractures began to form when Harden demanded a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline this past season.
Even with Durant and Irving still on the court this season, Brooklyn couldn't figure things out. Irving missed most of the season due to his refusal to receive the COVID vaccine, and even when he came back, the Nets had to battle their way out of the Play-In tournament, only to get swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round. Little did we know that Boston's sweep of the Nets would be the end of their superteam era.
In terms of failures in NBA history, this Nets implosion must be at the top of the list. Never had a team had the offensive talent that Durant, Irving, and Harden possessed on the court at the same time. Each guy can score on their own pretty much whenever they want. Defenses couldn't stop them when they were on the court together. The problem is they never played together consistently enough for it to work.
In terms of other superteams in the history of the league that failed to win a championship, the 2009-12 Oklahoma City Thunder offer a similar tale involving Durant, Harden, and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder ended up with all three of these guys at the beginning of their careers on their team and progressively got better with each passing year. They made it to the 2012 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, but they lost in five games, and Harden was traded that offseason.
During the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan heyday, the Los Angeles Clippers also had a ton of talent on their roster, but they never made it past the Western Conference semifinals. Their playoff struggles were over a more prolonged six-year stretch from 2011 to 2017, but they certainly didn't have the same problems the Nets had. Paul, Griffin, and Jordan excelled playing alongside each other; they just couldn't put all the pieces together in the postseason.
Those two teams are the most comparable, but it's clear the Nets, for their lack of on-court success and complete organizational dysfunction, are in a league of their own. They had three of the best offensive players in the league, at the peak of their careers nonetheless, on their team at the same time and failed to win more than a measly playoff series. That's as big a failure as we have seen in the league, and it will be a while before fans forget about the superteam that never was.