The Brooklyn Nets were one of the best surprised in the ’18/’19 season. They played team basketball, good defense and had breakout performances from a lot of players. If that wasn’t enough to make it an amazing season, they signed KD and Kyrie and seemed like an instant playoff team. They are currently in 8th place in the East with a 5 – 7 record and a negative point differential.
This begs the question – does Kyrie make teams better or worse? He left Boston and they seem rejuvenated, he came to Brooklyn and they seem worse off. I’m not even talking about his character and off the court stuff. We have never seen a team reach it’s expected success when Kyrie Irving was their best player.
Here’s one stat that describes playing with Kyrie – last year the Nets were 8th in passes per game, this season they are 28th in passes per game. That’s the cascading effect of playing with Kyrie. Players don’t see the ball as much when he is on the court, so when they do – they’re not passing it as much either.
That’s where the chemistry part comes in. Teams have been able to succeed with ball-dominant players, but then that player has to earn the respect and trust of his teammates for it not to backfire. Kyrie seems to struggle in that department. It’s not even they don’t like him, but just thinking he’s OK isn’t enough for his style of play not to reflect on his teammates.
Jalen Rose predicted that without KD the Nets will have a similar record to the Knicks. That’s a harsh comparison, especially after the firestorm the Knicks season has been so far. But his prediction may prove to be right in this regard. As flashy and instagramable Kyrie’s game is, it chips away at some of the fundamentals of team building. A very good team that adds Kyrie is not a top seed, but more of a playoff hunter.
Not to mention we’re talking about the Eastern Conference.