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Brooklyn Nets

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Can Kyrie Irving elevate the Brooklyn Nets as their leading man?

#Irving
(NBA Getty Images)

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Brooklyn Nets.

2018-19 season record

42-40 (6th in Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

43-39 (7th in Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Kyrie Irving (free agency)

Kevin Durant (sign-and-trade)

DeAndre Jordan (free agency)

Taurean Prince (trade)

Garrett Temple (free agency)

Wilson Chandler (free agency)

David Nwaba (free agency)

Notable departures

D'Angelo Russell (sign-and-trade)

DeMarre Carroll (free agency)

Jared Dudley (free agency)

Ed Davis (free agency)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (free agency)

Shabazz Napier (free agency)

Allen Crabbe (trade)

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Kyrie Irving Spencer Dinwiddie Jaylen Hands
SG Joe Harris Garrett Temple Dzanan Musa Theo Pinson
SF Caris LeVert Wilson Chandler* David Nwaba Kevin Durant**
PF Rodions Kurucs Taurean Prince Lance Thomas Nicolas Claxton
C DeAndre Jordan Jarrett Allen

* Suspended 25 games for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

** Expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season with a torn Achilles.

3 key storylines

A fresh start for Kyrie Irving

For the first time in his NBA career, Kyrie Irving got to choose where he wanted to play basketball.

Following his underwhelming stint with the Celtics, Irving has a chance to get what he wanted in Boston and be the leading man - for this season at least.

In Brooklyn, he finds himself alongside a strong core of role players who have proved they can compete. And with the likes of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris earning valuable playoff experience last season, the stage is set for Irving to pull the strings as the lone All-Star talent on the team this season.

At his best, Irving is one of the most unguardable scorers in the league and the gravity he commands from the perimeter will create plenty of opportunities for his teammates to thrive. In Kenny Atkinson's system, the Nets' supporting cast have defined roles and on paper have the building blocks to unleash the best version of Irving.

With his leadership in Boston heavily scrutinised, Irving will be focused on proving the doubters wrong, showing he can be the No. 1 option on a winning playoff team, within the strong culture the Nets have built in recent seasons.

Exceeding expectations

The Nets lost D'Angelo Russell and replaced him with a better player in Kyrie Irving, however, the expectations for this season have them pegged to be worse off than 2018-19.

With so many new faces on board, it will no doubt take time for the squad to gel. And yet, underestimating them before we've seen them play a regular-season game seems like a mistake.

While Russell was selected as an All-Star last season, for stretches of the season Caris LeVert was the Nets' best player and he showed as much during their playoff campaign, leading them in scoring against the Philadelphia 76ers with 21 points per game.

LeVert is the player to watch for the Nets this season and with Kevin Durant set to miss the entire campaign, the 25-year-old has a real chance to emerge as Irving's co-star.

The 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks will likely fight for the top two spots in the conference, but from there, the Nets, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will battle for playoff positioning. Despite the logjam of teams, the Nets have a real opportunity to build on last season's campaign and make some noise in the East.

Will Kevin Durant return this season?

The official stance from the Nets is that Durant will miss the entire 2019-20 season as he recovers from an Achilles injury suffered in the NBA Finals.

General manager Sean Marks expressed that the franchise is taking a long-term approach with Durant's rehab and with the 31-year-old inking a four-year, $164 million deal, the Nets have a bigger vision for Durant beyond this season.

Given the circumstances in which he suffered the injury, rushing him back makes little sense for either party. However, once March/April rolls around, the storylines will no doubt go into overdrive once we have a clearer picture of his recovery.

If the Nets find themselves in a strong position late in the season, an early return for Durant takes them from a playoff team to an immediate title contender.

5 games to watch

Nov. 25 at New York Knicks

Knicks fans convinced themselves Irving and Durant were coming to the Garden in free agency and now with the city's basketball power balance firmly in Brooklyn, Irving's first game at MSG will only add fuel to the local rivalry.

Nov. 28 at Boston Celtics

Following his acrimonious departure from Boston, Irving is likely to receive a less than loving welcome on his return to the TD Garden.

With reports of locker room tension plaguing the Celtics throughout last season, question marks over his leadership and his below-par performance in their second-round playoff exit against the Bucks, all eyes will be on Irving with his new squad.

Dec. 16 vs Philadelphia 76ers

Last season's playoff matchup sparked a budding rivalry in the Eastern Conference, with no love lost between the two divisional rivals in a chippy five-game series. Expect them to pick up right where they left off.

Jan 19 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

After the Bucks ended Irving and the Celtics' season in the second round of the playoffs (4-1), expect the Nets point guard play with a point to prove against one of the best teams in the conference.

Feb. 6 vs Golden State Warriors

While Kevin Durant is likely to still be sidelined, this game will be all about D'Angelo Russell, who will no doubt be motivated to show out against his old team at Barclays Center.

The Kyrie Irving x Stephen Curry matchup will also be worth tuning in for.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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