2020-21 Brooklyn Nets, 2018-19 Boston Celtics are eerily similar

Photo of a Boston Celtics game
Benoît Prieur/Creative Commons

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Historically, NBA teams with deep rosters on paper have always been favored by oddsmakers, casual NBA fans and even “experts” to win it all. Although teams such as the Warriors proved this notion right, there have been many instances in which this has not been the case (enter the 2019-20 Los Angeles Clippers).

As the bubble winds down and we look ahead to next season, on paper, the Brooklyn Nets look to be the incoming superteam next year. Many experts have pinned them as favorites to win the championship, but as currently constructed, the team is eerily similar to the disappointing 2018-19 Boston Celtics.

Expectations

The 2018-19 Boston Celtics were flooded with high expectations because of their results in the previous season. They were playing without their two star players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, yet they still took LeBron James’ Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Although the 2019-20 Brooklyn Nets did not get nearly as far in the playoffs, they were able to exceed expectations in the bubble with a 5-3 seeding games record while missing key bench players such as Spencer Dinwiddie and having only one true starter play.

While the team will likely get many other key role players back, adding Irving and Kevin Durant to this mix alone gives the Nets squad a high ceiling. Furthermore, many analysts had predicted them to take the East next season — this was before the Bucks’ massive failure in the bubble.

Roster build

Like the 2018-19 Celtics, the Nets, as currently constructed, are a double-edged sword because of their depth.

First, the point guard situation. The Boston Celtics had Terry Rozier, who was brilliant in the playoffs the season before. They also had Irving, an established superstar and champion. Obviously, Irving was not going to come off the bench, but Rozier felt he was too good to be just a backup point guard. This led to locker room issues, as Rozier did not get enough touches, and it was one reason why both players went to separate teams the next season.

The Brooklyn Nets have a similar dilemma between Dinwiddie and, once again, Irving. Dinwiddie averaged more than 20 points per game and 6.8 assists per game this year. Although these stats are phenomenal, he will likely just be a backup point guard due to Irving simply being the more experienced and established player. Like Rozier, Dinwiddie will see a drop-off in most statistical categories due to a smaller role.

Next, the wing depth. The Celtics had three elite wing players: Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Each needs the ball in his hand to be his most effective self, but this was simply not possible. As a result of fewer touches and a different offense, Tatum’s shooting percentages dropped from the previous season, Hayward had one of the worst scoring seasons of his career and Brown saw a drop-off in all major statistical categories from the previous season.

The Brooklyn Nets face a similar problem. Caris LeVert solidified himself as a future star, posting averages of 25 points, 6.7 assists, five rebounds and 1.5 steals in the bubble. Sharpshooter and 2019 3-point champion Joe Harris averaged just more than 19 points per game in the bubble. Although these players have proven that they are capable of handling big roles, they will have to defer to Durant. This is very reasonable, as Durant is arguably the greatest scorer in NBA history, but do not be surprised if we see some stagnancy from both LeVert and Harris.

Coaching

Although Brad Stevens had more head coaching experience than Steve Nash has, Nash compensates for this with two league MVPs and being one of the best floor generals of all time. What Nash and the 2018-19 Stevens do share in common is their youth (relative to other head coaches) and their inexperience with coaching loaded teams.

Although Stevens had coached the Celtics since 2013, he never had a team with so much talent, nor a star of Irving’s caliber. Meanwhile, Nash has never even coached an NBA team, and being the head coach of Irving, Durant and the rest of the Brooklyn Nets’ personalities will be no easy task.

Justin Kim covers the NBA for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].