Updated: Dec 26, 2022
The Brooklyn Nets' expectations for the 2022-23 NBA season were a huge question mark. No one knew if the Big 3 of Simmons, Durant, and Irving would work.
And rightfully so.
Things did not go well for James Harden as a member of the Nets last season, so what are the odds that trading Simmons for Harden would make a difference?
Not to mention head coach Steve Nash who never really lived up to the expectations with a team built around superstars. After a 2-5 start to the 2022 NBA season, the Nets decided to part ways with Nash and hire longtime assistant coach Jacque Vaughn as head coach.
Since Vaughn's hire, the Nets have been a red-hot 19-7 and riding an eight-game win streak. The streak is tied for the longest winning streak in Brooklyn Nets franchise history.
The Nets have also surged from one of the worst teams in the East to only two games behind the first-place Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.
Durant Credits Defense During For The Nets Success
The Nets are not known as a defensive team. Their lack of size in the post and rim protection on the roster does not threaten teams in the league. In many instances, Durant guards the opposing team big, which is a lot to ask from the thin-framed forward.
However, under Coach Vaughn, the Nets' defense has improved, and Durant highlighted how Vaughn challenges his team to be better on defense.
"I want to say a month ago, Jacque put up the box-out stats for us, and a lot of guys didn't like where they were as far as a percentage for boxing out. Not even grabbing rebounds, just putting a body on someone," says Durant.
"I think since then we've been making a conscious effort to just try to touch somebody up when they're running to the glass, and all of us trying to gang rebound as well. The last few games have been solid for us, and I think everybody is locked in on that side of the game, and that's something we can't have slippage on. We have to be there every possession."
Offensively the Nets are a problem for any team. The combination of Durant and Irving provides the offense. Along with complimentary role players who can make plays on both ends of the court, this helps the Nets to a balanced attack.
Since November, the Nets seem to have found their identity and look like legit contenders who can compete for an NBA title. Credit coach Vaughn for getting his players to buy in and holding each and every one of them accountable.