The Brooklyn Nets are taking over the Eastern Conference. They’re closing in on the 1st seed and have their eyes on an NBA Finals appearance.

The Brooklyn Nets have won seven on the bounce – including wins over the Lakers and Clippers – to be just 0.5 games back of the Philadelphia 76ers for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Nobody is surprised to see the Nets surging up the standings. Adding James Harden to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will do that to a team. But just how quickly they’ve developed this level of chemistry should worry the rest of the NBA.

At $4.60 at the beginning of the week, the Nets are into $4.20 to win the championship and closing in on the Los Angeles Lakers.

They are a juggernaut on offence

Brooklyn’s 120.0 offensive rating is the best in the NBA and getting better. They’ve played with a mind-blowing 126.2 offensive rating over the last fortnight. Opposing teams simply can’t guard three players with the scoring ability of Durant, Harden and Irving.

Durant is putting in a case for NBA MVP in what has been an incredible comeback from injury. He’s averaging 29 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 52.4% from the floor and 43.4% from deep.

Harden has changed up his game a little bit since leaving the Rockets, and few would argue against him being a lot better to watch. He has scored 24.9 points per game as a Net while pulling in 8.3 boards, dishing out 11.4 assists and shooting 41% from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Irving is filling any gaps in the offence to perfection. His 27.7 points per game are flying under the radar with so much focus on Durant’s return and Harden’s arrival.

Depth became an issue after the trade. Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince would all still be productive players in this rotation. Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury hasn’t helped either. But with Tyler Johnson showing flashes and Joe Harris more than happy to be the fourth man in an elite starting five, the Nets are slowly starting to get an idea of who they can rely on in the playoffs. If there is one thing we already know, this team will score on any opposition.

Improving Defence

Questions around Brooklyn’s defence following the trade were fair. They still are, really. Overall, the Nets rank 23rd in the NBA, allowing the opposition to score 114.2 points per 100 possessions. They certainly don’t fit the “defence wins championships” mould right now.

However, they are slowly improving.

Durant can turn it on defensively when required. If nothing else, his length is a nightmare for offensive players. Harden, meanwhile, is far from a defensive powerhouse. But he isn’t the meme-level defender he was three or four seasons ago either. There is a switch Brooklyn can, and will, flick later in the season. Whether or not it triggers enough of an improvement to beat the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers remains to be seen.

Prediction

This team is coming out of the East.

They simply have too much talent on the offensive end for the contenders in the East (Bucks – $3.60, 76ers – $6.50, Celtics – $10, Heat – $15 and Raptors – $15) to match defensively.

However, the Lakers are back-to-back champions. While they’re not playing their best basketball overall, they still have the best defensive rating in the NBA, allowing just 106.5 points per 100 possessions. We all know what LeBron James can do to lead an offence when he flicks his own switch, too.

The Nets at $4.20 to win the NBA Finals is an appealing prospect, but their $2.40 to get out of the East is the best bet.

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