The Brooklyn Nets made the biggest move of the season by trading for a 3-time scoring champion and former MVP James Harden. Harden joins a spectacular superstar duo in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and there is no doubt that Brooklyn is the team to beat in the East. The Nets currently hold a 22-12 record, which is good for 2nd in the conference, and are the favorites to make the NBA Finals and perhaps win it all.
But there are two teams that can manage to upset the Big Three in Brooklyn and win an NBA title, and they happen to reside in the Western Conference in native Los Angeles. The only two teams that can realistically defeat the Nets in a 7-game series are the Lakers and Clippers, and here are the reasons why.
The Los Angeles Clippers Have Superstar Defenders With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, And Are Hungrier Than Ever
The Los Angeles Clippers were a laughing stock last season after they choked away a 3-1 lead and a chance to make it to the Western Conference Finals in the second round of the Playoffs. A Los Angeles showdown was expected, but the Clippers had no team chemistry and an inability to close the important games. In many cases, they simply didn’t show up.
But this season, changes were made. Paul George is playing his best basketball again after a horrific season, Kawhi Leonard is still arguably the best 2-way forward in the game, and the entire team is focused on one goal. With Doc Rivers and Montrezl Harrell out the door, the Clippers know that it is a title or bust this season. Luckily, they have 2 superstar forwards who can do the best possible job of defending Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Leonard is averaging 27.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.7 SPG while George is averaging 24.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.2 SPG. Together, they have a shot at minimizing the impact of arguably the game’s 2 best scorers over the past decade in Durant and Harden. Durant is back to his best, averaging 29.0 PPG and a stronger player like Leonard can do the best job of making him uncomfortable by remaining physically.
With James Harden, it is a different story. Harden can score or pass every time down the court, but he often does not play his best basketball in the postseason. If George can attack Harden on defense and then do his best to force Harden to pass rather than score, the Clippers have a legitimate shot of defeating the Brooklyn Nets.
The Los Angeles Lakers Have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, The Best Duo In The World
The Nets are a problem because they have 3 guys who can get 40 points every night, and completely take over the game. Together, they have the most talent on one team in the NBA. Especially with guys like Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan backing them up, the only way to beat the Nets is by playing smart and efficiently. Luckily for the Lakers, they have the smartest player in the world in LeBron James.
LeBron James controls the pace better than anyone else in the league, including James Harden. Harden is an offense on his own thanks to his passing ability, but he does not possess LeBron’s think-ahead-of-the-game mentality and physicality. James can control the pace of play, set up his shooters, and even allow Anthony Davis to dominate inside.
Anthony Davis will be the key in the series because he forms the best and most accomplished duo with LeBron James. By looking at their title-winning season last year, James and Davis lead the pack for a dominant offense and defense. James has zoned in on defense this season, and he can do a good job at bothering Durant or Harden with his size. Similarly, Davis is one of the best paint-protectors in the NBA and he has the athleticism to defend the perimeter as well which is key for when Irving gets him “on an island”.
James is at his best again, averaging 25.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 8.1 APG in his 18th season while Anthony Davis is putting up 22.5 PPG and 8.4 RPG. With Davis back and fully healthy, he will be LeBron’s most talented teammate and their championship confidence will be a massive boost in their battle with the Brooklyn Nets.