NBA: 3 predictions heading into the push for the playoffs

NBA Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant James Harden (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
NBA Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant James Harden (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

NBA predictions for the playoff push: The Brooklyn Nets will make the NBA Finals

James Harden first suited up for the Nets on Jan. 16, against the Orlando Magic. Since that time, the Brooklyn Nets are 21-7, in large part to the play of Harden and Kyrie Irving, who are keeping the Nets in the hunt for the one-seed in the Eastern Conference, even without Kevin Durant.

Durant, who hasn’t played since Feb. 13, is likely to miss another two weeks with a hamstring injury. The 27-13 Nets are a half-game out of first place in the Eastern Conference and both Harden and Irving are playing like MVPs right now. Unfortunately for both of them, the media won’t be giving the MVP award to any Nets’ players this season.

Irving has a bad history with the media, Harden forced his way out of Houston by purposely being out of shape and making incompetent players (that sideline pass he made to John Wall should be in his Hall of Fame induction video), and Durant has missed too much time to injuries this season.

But, all three players could be named MVP without those biases.

Since joining the Nets, Harden is averaging 25.1 points, 11.3 assists, and 9.1 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 49-39-87. He is a top-five player in the league this season. Combine those numbers with 27.6 points and 5.8 assists per game from Irving, and that in itself is a championship team.

What’s that though? They also have arguably the best scoring forward in league history? Don’t forget about Durant, a 7-foot all-around superstar who can shoot from anywhere on the court or crossover a defender and dunk on them with ferocity.

Durant is averaging 29 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game on 52-43-87 shooting splits. With both Harden and Irving showing they can carry the load, look for the Nets to rest Durant as long as possible to ensure his health for the championship run.

The Nets have the best offensive rating in the league, and the main trio of Durant, Harden, and Irving are surrounded with capable players like Joe Harris, Jeff Green (I swear I’ll never give up on him and my James Worthy comparison when he was drafted), Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, and newly acquired Blake Griffin.

It’s unusual for a team with a “Big Three” to have such competent supporting pieces.

Once it’s playoff time and this team is fully healthy, there’s no one in the Eastern Conference who can match the scoring output that the Nets are capable of. The only notable opposition is that of Embiid and the Sixers, who can rule the paint and defend the perimeter. But now that matchup is in jeopardy since Embiid’s injury.

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The Nets will be in the NBA Finals, and will likely be the champions in June.