- Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has officially been ruled out for the rest of the season and will undergo shoulder surgery
- The Nets are currently sitting as the seventh in the Eastern Conference
- Irving’s absence has seen their title odds slip further, and makes them an ideal first-round opponent
Kyrie Irving’s shoulder issue has resulted in him being ruled out for the rest of the 2019-20 NBA regular season. Back in August, the Nets were hovering around the +2500 mark to win the NBA title in 2020. Their NBA Championship Odds have consistently lengthened throughout the campaign, while now bottoming out at +10000 following Irving’s injury news.
Irving’s most recent absence, which began on February 3rd, saw their odds lengthen once again. The Nets, as the table shows below, are massive outsiders as the playoffs approach. Their price is significantly longer than even the Portland Trail Blazers, who are far from guaranteed a postseason berth.
2019-20 NBA Championship Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+275|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+350|
Odds taken Feb. 21th
Better Off Without Kyrie?
Superstars, which Irving certainly has the talent to be, are meant to make their teammates better. They can win games individually, but they’re supposed to help their colleagues. Evidence from his time in Boston suggested Irving might not do that, and the same theme has continued in Brooklyn.
The Nets are 17-17 in games without the 2016 champion, including wins over the Sixers, Nuggets, Celtics and Heat. With Irving, they are 8-12. Some of those 12 losses have been abysmal.
Irving’s net rating is 0.6. Brooklyn are a markedly better offensive team with him on the floor (114.9 compared to 105.7), but that gain is almost entirely wiped out by how much worse they are defensively.
He ranks 25th among point guards in real plus-minus, as only New Orleans’ Frank Jackson and Trae Young rank as worse defenders by the same metric.
Impact On Brooklyn
This is where it becomes hard to evaluate the Nets. They have been better without Irving when it comes to picking up the W’s. Spencer Dinwiddie was a fringe All-Star candidate, and Irving’s curious comments in the media clearly have an impact on locker room chemistry.
At the same time, there’s no doubt he’s the most talented player on that roster with Kevin Durant sidelined.
He’s the one player there that could catch fire in a playoff game and take over. In that sense, he’s comparable to Damian Lillard on the Blazers right now. Portland are scary because of Lillard alone. Brooklyn – albeit to a lesser degree – would have been like that come playoff time.
It was never really about this year for the Brooklyn Nets, but they paid $69,941,000 in 2019-20 for 20 combined games from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Almost $3.5 million per game played.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 20, 2020
Facing the Milwaukee Bucks or one of the other top teams in the East, the Nets’ chances of an upset were tiny anyway. They are almost non-existent without Irving. Their floor might be higher, but their upside is lower – the fear factor is lessened.
Not Much Change
Brooklyn are going to be an interesting team to follow for the rest of the year. How they play without Irving will lead to hot take upon hot take. Suggestions that they should trade the six-time All-Star will start to appear (that is incredibly unlikely for at least 12 months).
They could be a good value team to back down the stretch, considering the performances they have put in without Irving at times this season. There are a lot of good players on this roster, as they showed by forcing the Sixers to overtime on Thursday night.
A strange Nets season could have a few more twists and turns in it. The pressure is off, and that might bring the best out of Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and others. Irving’s injury has a lot of knock-on effects, but a playoff upset is unlikely to be one of them. Any of the top six will fancy themselves to beat the Nets in four or five games.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.