Last season, a young Brooklyn Nets team faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the playoffs. Although the series was won in only five games by the Sixers, the Nets made most of the games very close.
Now with the additions of stars Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, and the injured Kevin Durant, every game Brooklyn and Philadelphia play will be must-watch.

Philadelphia and Brooklyn will face-off four times this regular season. The Nets have changed drastically this off-season. They said goodbye to All-Star D’Angelo Russell while they welcomed stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan and other new members of the team. Exactly half of this year’s roster for the Nets are newcomers. That is seven out of fourteen players.

Sunday, December 15th @ Nets—Wednesday, January 15th @ 76ers

Monday, January 20th @ Nets—Thursday, February 20th @ 76ers

The main new guys are (as mentioned above) Durant, Irving, and Jordan. However, Durant will not play the upcoming season due to an Achilles injury he suffered in Game Five of the NBA Finals while with the Golden State Warriors last year. The other four are; Tauren Prince, Garrett Temple, former Sixer Wilson Chandler, and rookie Nicolas Claxton.

Returning for the Nets is some of the core of their playoff team that faced Philadelphia last year, minus Russell. They are; Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa, and Theo Pinson.

Figuring Out the Starting Lineup

The Nets are one of the deepest teams in the league, but after Irving, there are not any other players that separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Arguably their 2nd best player, Dinwiddie, prefers being the 6th man. That means Dinwiddie can be crossed off the list. The players fighting for the starting role alongside Irving would most likely be; LeVert, Allen, Jordan, Prince, Harris, Kurucs, Temple, and Chandler.

Caris LeVert

LeVert is the guy who has the best chance of being a starter. He had a breakout season last year before he got injured early in the year. He was able to come back at the end of the regular season, but he was still shaking off the rust and did not continue to perform at as high a level he was earlier. During the playoffs, however, LeVert did come back to his early-season form. Even then he still only started two of the five games. Unless he prefers coming off the bench, like his teammate Dinwiddie, I would fully expect LeVert to be a starter.

DeAndre Jordan vs Jarrett Allen

The Center position is either going to be two guys: DeAndre Jordan or Jarrett Allen. Jordan is the new guy, but he is not new in the NBA. The veteran is entering his 12th season in the NBA. Jordan was an All-Star in 2017 and was on the All-NBA 1st-Team in 2016 when he played for the “Lob City” Los Angeles Clippers. He is still pretty young for having such a long NBA career at just 31 years old. However, he is no longer the All-Star he once was.  Allen is entering his 3rd year in the league. He has established himself already as one of the best shot-blockers in the league, coming in the top 20 in blocks in each of his first two seasons despite playing 23 minutes per game during that time.

Head Coach Kenny Atkinson in an interview with Michael Scotto of The Athletic said: “As far as starting, not starting, Jarrett Allen said, ‘Hey, I want to be the starter,’ which I love,” he said. “It’s great. I think we embrace competition. I think that’ll play out. I do think it helps us matchup-wise. If it’s Joel Embiid, maybe Jarrett gets two quick fouls or something (and) we do have a heck of a player to support him and potentially starting different guys, too. I think that’s possible. I think it’s a great tandem to have.”

Atkinson seems to indicate that Allen will be the starting Center for most games. But when it comes to someone like Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Jordan may be seeing more playing time. It is unclear whether Allen or Jordan will be starting against the Sixers, but since Allen is going to be starting against most of the other teams in the league, we will put Allen in the starting role.

Shooting Guard

With Irving at the Point and Allen at the Center, we have our one and five. LeVert is capable of playing both Shooting Guard and Small Forward, so there is some flexibility with what can be done with the last two starters. Joe Harris was unknown by the casual NBA last year until he ended up winning the 3-Point Contest at the All-Star Game. He actually starting all 76 games he played in the regular season and starting all five playoff games, despite struggling mightily during the post-season. Although starting the season prior does not make you an automatic starter, Harris should still find himself in the starting lineup.

Power Forward

With Harris being a Shooting Guard, that will move LeVert to the Small Forward position. That leaves one position left, Power Forward. Temple is not big enough to play the four, leaving Prince, Chandler, and Kurucs. Kurucs is the only returning Net out of the group, but he easily lacks the same experience as the other two. Kurucs was just a rookie last year but did end up starting 46 games despite averaging 20 minutes a game. Chandler bounced around a lot this year and last year. He played the first half of the season with the Sixers, before being traded to the Clippers in the Tobias Harris trade. Chandler started 32 games for the 76ers. He is entering is 12th NBA season and brings veteran leadership and defense.

Prince is entering just his fourth season. He played three years with the Atlanta Hawks before coming to Brooklyn. Two years ago, Prince showed lots of promise, starting and playing in all 82 games. But injuries hampered his season last year. He still started 47 of the 55 games he played last season. Although Chandler has more experience, Prince has upside and is more athletic. Making Taurean Prince and Joe Harris the final two starters.

Starting Lineups

Brooklyn                                                        Philadelphia

Point Guard: Kyrie Irving 6’3″                            Point Guard: Ben Simmons 6’10”

Shooting Guard: Joe Harris 6’6″                         Shooting Guard: Josh Richardson 6’6″

Small Forward: Caris LeVert 6’7″                        Small Forward: Tobias Harris 6’9″

Power Forward: Taurean Prince 6’8″                    Power Forward: Al Horford 6’10”

Center: Jarrett Allen 6’11”                                 Center: Joel Embiid 7’0″

Offensive Matchups

Embiid vs Allen/Jordan

Much like Joe Spinelli’s Matchup Series, We are going to take a look at how the 76ers and Nets matchup on both offense and defense. The Sixers have a size advantage over every single team in the league. With Brooklyn, the size difference is clearly evident. The one place the Nets will not be giving up much size is at the Center position. Allen and Embiid are an inch away from each other. If you include Allen’s afro, then Allen might even be taller than Embiid. But Joel is much stronger than Allen and has the best post moves in the NBA. As Coach Atkinson said, Allen may pick up some quick fouls against Embiid. Unfortunately for the 76ers, if Jordan comes in to guard Embiid, the Nets will not lose any defensive quality. Whether it is Allen or Jordan, Embiid will still have an advantage. But the fact the Nets have two of the league’s best defensive Centers means Embiid’s impact offensively may not be as large when playing against the Nets.

Horford’s Size Advantage

One can argue that the Nets could be better off with starting both Jordan and Allen, having one cover Embiid and the other on Horford. Defensively, that would be the best option. The Nets’ offense would take a major blow by playing Jordan and Allen at the same time. Both Centers are limited offensively. Neither one can shoot and are both at their best when around the rim. Having Jordan and Allen playing together would clog up the paint and give the Nets limited spacing. That leaves the undersized Taurean Prince to cover Horford.

Prince is no slouch on defense. Quite the opposite really. But Horford still has a huge (no pun intended) advantage on Prince, regardless of Prince’s defensive abilities. Horford is less athletic than Prince, but Al is very savvy on offense. Whether he is in the post or facing up on the outside, Horford can find a way to either score or create for his teammates while being guarded by a smaller defender. Horford also has the ability to shoot mid-range shots and three-pointers. Prince will have trouble guarding the very versatile Horford.

Who Guards Simmons?

If you haven’t noticed yet, the 76ers are tall. Ben Simmons is also tall, and very fast. Prince would probably be the best person to guard Simmons, but since he is stuck on Al Horford, that leaves Caris LeVert. Simmons is in a very special category of players who are both bigger and faster than anyone who guards them. That exclusive list includes; LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant. All three of those players are MVPs. LeVert is very athletic in his own right, but Simmons is on a whole nother level. The only thing going for LeVert is Simmons’ lack of a shot. Even with that, LeVert is still at a disadvantage guarding Simmons.

Harris on Harris

Harris definitely has the advantage on this one, Tobias that is. Joe is not that good of a defender in the first place, and he has to give up size to Tobias as well. Tobias should be able to feast on Joe and show off his plethora of moves and ways to score. Tobias will assert his dominance as the better Harris and prove why he was given that big contract.

The Kyrie Mismatch

Irving does not exactly have the reputation of the best defender. His defensive problems are a bit overexaggerated though. Richardson will have a great opportunity to score against Irving. Richardson also has three inches on Irving, making it even easier for Josh to create offense on Kyrie. On the Celtics, Irving would often have Marcus Smart guard the better of the two opposing guards. Now on the Nets, Irving does not have that luxury, and the 76ers’ giant lineup certainly does not help him.

Offensive Summary

Although this will be one of the tougher teams 76ers’ leader Joel Embiid will face, the Sixers still come out with a mouthwatering offensive advantage. Embiid will most likely not play up to his usual standards, but everyone else has the opportunity to go off against the Nets. Look for Simmons and Horford to create a lot of offense for their teammates. Harris and Richardson will both have an opportunity to score in bunches.

Defensive Matchups

Embiid’s Help Defense and Alley-Oops

Allen or Jordan getting the ball on Embiid is not something you have to worry about. Neither one has the ability to score against Embiid. This allows Joel to go into “help defense” mode. Embiid can allow himself to slightly slip away from his man while on defense. He can have a good eye on the ball and his man, allowing him to contest shots in the paint from other opposing players besides Allen and Jordan. The only problem is Embiid has to watch out for the alley-oop to his man. The Nets frequently did this against the 76ers last year with Jarrett Allen.

This video is an excellent example of Allen alley-oop. This was during game four of the playoffs as well. Caris Levert, being guarded by Jimmy Butler, drove to the basket after Allen set a screen on Butler. The screen allowed LeVert to get away from the trailing Butler. This forced Embiid to help and guard LeVert. With Embiid focusing on LeVert and not on Allen, this allowed Allen to run in for the easy alley-oop.

Embiid has to be aware of both his man and the ball-handler. As long as he does not lose track of where his man is and stays close enough to prevent the alley-oop, Embiid will be able to stop a lot of inside shots from going in.

How to Stop Kyrie Irving

In a sample answer: you don’t. You are never going to fully stop Kyrie Irving, but you can force Irving into missing a good bit of his shots. Irving averaged 23.8 PPG last year and averaged 27.7 PPG against the Sixers too. Josh Richardson will have the unwanted task of defending Irving. Richardson is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, but there may not be anyone on (flat)earth who would have an advantage guarding Kyrie. Irving did score a lot of points against Philadelphia last year, but he also took a lot of shots. Irving shot 40.8% from the field against Philly. You can live with Irving scoring a lot as long as he is shooting in the low 40s or below. Richardson is one of the best options a team can have to defend Kyrie, but you should still expect at least 20 points from Irving.

Prince’s Athleticism VS Horford

While size is a luxury to have, Horford will be forced into covering the quicker Prince. At 33 years old, Horford is surprisingly agile, especially for a big man. That being said, he will still have to figure out a way to prevent Prince from getting by him. Unfortunately, Horford cannot sag off of Prince, since he was a 39% 3PT shooter last year. All hope is definitely not lost though. Just two years ago Horford was on All-Defensive 2nd-Team. Horford is one of the best defenders in the league. Prince will present a challenge for Horford, but Al has an exceptionally high basketball IQ. Despite the athletic advantage for Prince, the matchup will be pretty even.

Stopping the 3-Point Champion

The 76ers will match up on defense exactly as the Nets matched up to the Sixers on defense. Tobias Harris will be guarding Joe Harris. Tobias is the 76ers’ worst defender, but luckily he has a one-dimensional player he has to guard. Unluckily, Joe Harris is one of the very best at the dimension he specializes in, three-point shooting. If you want to stop Joe, you have to stay with him at all times. This means a lot of running around for Tobias. As long as Tobias is able to keep up with Joe, he should be able to properly defend him. This is obviously much easier said than done, as there will be many screens for Tobias to have to run around and stay with Joe.

Containing LeVert

That leaves Ben Simmons on LeVert. Simmons is underrated on the defensive side, he has already established himself as one of the league’s top defenders. LeVert is no easy cover though. Caris is a very good isolation player and proved that in the playoffs against the Sixers. LeVert, however, did the majority of his scoring against 76ers not named Ben Simmons. LeVert went into the series under the radar and made the Sixers pay for not preparing for him. When Simmons was on Caris though, LeVert’s offensive game was much less effective. Replacing the bad defense of J.J. Redick with the great defense of Josh Richardson allows the Sixers to have great defenders on all of the other team’s top scorers.

Defensive Summary

While the Nets have a very versatile Offense, the 76ers have a very versatile defense as well. While this will be one of the tougher offenses for the Sixers to defend, they should be able to keep the Nets relatively in check. Just do not allow one of the Nets to get going, especially Kyrie. If Kyrie gets hot, the Nets offense will be able to expand much more.

The 76ers and Nets will be a fun and exciting matchup to watch. While the Sixers do hold an advantage over the Nets, do not go in expecting an automatic win. The Nets are a very good team and will want revenge after their playoff loss to Philadelphia last year.

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