The Brooklyn Nets were named favorites to win the NBA title in 2022 right after the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns to lift it earlier this year. The Bucks have since faded from the conversation but should be discounted at one’s own risk.
As for the Nets, they remain the favorites for championship glory despite what the league has put on display these last few months. The State Warriors are certainly making a case as they appear to be intent on dominating the Western Conference and, by extension, the NBA again. The Suns appear primed to make some noise in the playoffs too after making it to the finals at the end of the 202/21 season. In fact, they only just toppled the Warriors to go 17 games unbeaten.
There are other teams who are tipped for contention, the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz among them, yet no team has been able to knock the 13/5 Nets off the top of the favorites ladder. The Lakers have seen their odds widen and are now 6/1 after a worrying start. And, while the Nets were shaky to start the season as well, they’ve since reinstated themselves as the top dogs in the East, leading the pack at 15-6.
The Nets won’t be breezing through the East either but are 13/10 to come out on top of all chasers in the conference. Bets on sportsbooks like BetMGM that is offering a bonus code of $1000 can also be had on the regular season MVP and Kevin Durant is 9/2 on that front, behind only former teammate Steph Curry, who is the outright betting favorite for the award at 7/5. Durant is also 9/4 for this season’s scoring title, again led by just Curry, with the Warriors point guard at 7/4 with the bookmakers.
For all of their success so far, Brooklyn has been without one of their big three. Kyrie Irving is yet to play this season, having refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Nets are sort of a special case for the time being as they’re one of a few teams in the NBA who need to have all of their players vaccinated as New York State law requires it.
Irving could have played all of the away games, barring appearances in San Francisco but the team opted not to have a part-time player. They will pay him for the away fixtures but will not allow him to play or practice with his teammates. It’s hoped that the All-Star point guard will walk back on his decision not to take the vaccine and that the Nets will be whole again by playoff time. But who knows?
The team has gone along their business of winning games without Kyrie in the mix but, should he return this season, their chances of winning the title will be a lot better.
Irving’s absence isn’t the only issue the Nets are facing at the moment. James Harden has also been struggling and is averaging the lowest points total of his career since he left the Oklahoma City Thunder. Back then, Harden was a bench player, with Durant and Russell Westbrook the primary stars. All of that changed when he left for the Houston Rockets, where he averaged over 30 points for three straight campaigns.
The league’s rule change as it pertains to fouls leaving Harden less likely to go to the free-throw line and it appears his whole game is suffering as a result. He’s currently averaging 21 points a game – his lowest in Houston was at 24.6 – but it is expected that he will improve as the season moves along. He did score 34 against the New York Knicks on Tuesday for a statement win.
In the meantime, Durant continues to flourish and remains one of the premier players in basketball. The forward is averaging 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists a night for the Nets this season. He and Harden combined for 61 against the Knicks, scoring 27 to hand Brooklyn the bragging rights.
Prior to the game, Knicks star Julius Randle branded Durant the best player in the game.
“He’s the best player in the league, for sure,” Randle said on Monday. “[I’ve] never seen a 7-footer that skilled. [He can] do anything, everything, on the court. No weakness. That’s him. He’s tough. Great player, but I love competing against him.
“Kyrie is another one that’s really, really good. Probably haven’t seen a player like him in the league before. So he offers like a whole other dynamic to their team. But what I’ve seen, KD has been playing great, James [Harden] has been the point guard kind of steering the ship and their other guys are contributing nicely and filling in their jobs. … But I think we’ll be up for the challenge.”
The Nets will have a tough Eastern Conference to go through en route to what would be their first NBA title. The Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards are putting good campaigns together at the moment while Miami will continue to be a threat. Of course, the defending champs would like to have their say too. But things are certainly looking up for Brooklyn even without Kyrie and an inconsistent James Harden.