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New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets
New York Knicks: 110.0 Points, +330 ML, Brooklyn Nets: 118.0 Points, -440 ML
What Do We Make of Kyrie’s debut?
Has there ever been a free agent signing to score 50 points in their debut with their new team? Without looking it up, I would make a major bet on the No. What a way for Kyrie Irving to kick off his career in Brooklyn!
Alas, missing that last-second shot in overtime renders Irving’s performance essentially moot. We knew he can shoot. We knew he can play. Statistically, the 2018-19 season was one of Kyrie’s best. The question is: can he win as the lead guy?
Let’s define terms here. Can he win? People often stretch this to ask the question can he win a championship as the lead guy? The answer is yes. Chauncey Billups did. Dennis Johnson did. Although rare – every 25 years are so – there are several teams to win it all in history without any player better than B+. Kyrie is better than B+.
Is he likely to win a championship as the lead guy? No. Kawhi Leonard is the league. With equal to lesser talent than Kawhi, of course, Irving will be a major underdog.
No player can reasonably contend without another all-star on his team. No player is likely to win a championship without another Hall of Famer by his side. That has always been the case. The only All-Time great to win a championship without another even B+ player on his team was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994. Olajuwon for my money is the 2nd greatest player in the history of basketball. Kyrie Irving is not that.
So what should we reasonably mean when we beg the question: Can Kyrie win as the main guy? (We could have a whole other conversation deconstructing the whole “main guy” myth, but that’s a conversation for another day. Kyrie on First Take once said “I have no idea what ‘lead Banana’ means. None.” I appreciate that puzzlement and share it.) I think the Nets should win around 50 games and be a 4 seed in the east. Kind of like the 2017-18 Cavs..or the 2018-19 Celtics. A B+ team. Yes, I think Kyrie can “win” as the main guy.
Knicks = Bad, Nets = Better than Average
The Brooklyn Nets as currently constructed are a slightly better version of last year’s team in my opinion. Kyrie Irving brings an ounce more dynamism and a ton more shooting ability to the table than the departed De’Angelo Russell.
The New York Knicks I have priced as one of the worst teams in the league. The only teams behind them in my power ratings are the Charlotte Hornets and the Memphis Grizzlies. While New York has several interesting pieces that I have hope for – such as Julius Randle and Franky the Frenchman – nobody on the roster has any experience driving wins in the NBA. It’s going to be tough sledding.
Conclusion: Even if we throw out Home-Court Advantage because of the proximity of the Knicks, I still think there is value here on the Nets to cover the number. I have the Knicks about 8 points worse than an average team, and the Nets a couple of points better. Both teams have a lot of new pieces and lack cohesion. I think the favors the more overall talented team to find consistent offense. Lay the points and prepare to sweat the 4th quarter. Take the Nets -8. Odds available at FanDuel.