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Stephen A. Smith Has High Expectations For The Brooklyn Nets: "They Need To Beat Everyone In The Playoffs With The Exception Of The Milwaukee Bucks."

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant

Even with all that happens over the past few months, Stephen A. Smith believes the Brooklyn Nets are the team to beat in the East.

On "NBA Countdown" Sunday night, the ESPN analyst explained his stance and why Kevin Durant's team could be poised to make some serious strides in the postseason.

"[Nets need] to beat everyone in the playoffs with the exception of the Milwaukee Bucks. That is the only team, as far as I’m concerned you have an excuse to lose to. If you get out of the first round, you advance to the second round and you obliterate the Philadelphia 76ers. But you run into the reigning, defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks and you lose late in the Eastern Conference Finals, like a 6 or 7 game series, that would still suffice somewhat as a successful season considering all the drama and dysfunctional and the unavailability of Ben Simmons. If Ben Simmons is there, there's no excuse."

The Eastern Conference is loaded this season. Besides the defending Champs, the Heat, Celtics, 76ers, and Bulls all pose a real threat to any team standing in their way.

Still, the Nets have something all of those other teams do not: the duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Last season, KD almost carried the Nets to the Conference Finals by himself. With no Kyrie and a one-legged James Harden, he pushed Milwaukee to 7 games in Round 1 before being eliminated. Had his feet been just an inch shorter, the outcome might have been completely different.

Put him alongside a healthy Kyrie Irving, and it suddenly makes the Nets an incredibly tough team to beat. Not long ago, those two alone were enough to call Brooklyn the favorites to win the title.

So, expectations are high -- but that's because they should be. Whenever you have two of the best players in the world (who both happen to be Champions already) excellence is no longer a possibility, it's a requirement.