When Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the Nets two years ago, the ultimate goal was to win an NBA championship. With James Harden added into the fold, that goal is even closer within reach as the three march into this next season as favorites.
Bringing a chip back to New York won’t be the only legacy this team potentially leaves. With three of the greatest scorers we’ve ever seen, a stud surrounding cast and some time to build real offensive chemistry, it’s possible the Nets end up as the most potent offense in basketball history.
First, some context. There are a couple of ways to determine the best offense in NBA history. One is via the classic points per game, or straight output of scoring.
The highest points per game recorded by a team in one season is 126.5 by the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets, led by Alex English, Dan Issel, Kiki Vandeweghe and David Thompson. They dropped 140-plus points in a game 10 times, including one 154-point outing in regulation, and never dipped below 105.
Most squads atop these rankings are from the ‘60s and ‘80s, with increased pace and different rules leading to higher scores. The first modern (‘90s or after) team to appear is the 2020-21 champion Milwaukee Bucks at 22nd with 120.1 points per game.
Last year’s Nets are a bit further down with 118.6 points. If we extrapolate specifically when their Big Three was on the court and spread it over 48 minutes, we get 121.4 points per game.
Another measure is Offensive Rating, or points scored per 100 possessions, which is less concerned with output and more with efficiency. Possession tracking only goes back to the early ‘70s, leaving this method somewhat incomplete.
It also favors today’s teams that emphasize efficient shots, namely at the rim, from three or the free throw line. In fact, the top seven teams on this list are from this past season, with Brooklyn leading the pack.
The Nets put up 118.3 points per 100 possessions in 2020-21, a half-point ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers. With the Big Three on the court, that number bumped to 119.6.
Despite the Nets’ Big Three appearing together in only eight regular season games, their squad boasted the most efficient offense in NBA history. That is, until we get to see this year’s.
Brooklyn made some changes to its core rotation this summer. Two specific new additions are sure to add to their offensive repertoire: Patty Mills and Cam Thomas. The former is a tried and true vet that can light it up from the point guard position, and the latter dazzled college basketball and Vegas Summer League with his shot-making ability.
On top of this, the Nets have Blake Griffin for a full season after picking him up midway through last year. Griffin was key to Brooklyn’s attack as its small-ball five, able to stretch the floor, create for others and finish as a roller or in the short corner even past his prime.
Championship or not, this Nets team is going to make a mark on the NBA. Returning the league’s most efficient offense healthy, with a full year of Harden and a postseason run under their belt is a recipe for lots and lots of points.
Even if all else fails this year, Brooklyn may very well be the most unguardable team to step onto a basketball court.