“The way Harden is playing isn’t going to be enough if Kyrie doesn’t come back”

It is no secret that James Harden is not playing his best basketball and is failing to provide much-needed scoring for the Brooklyn Nets. Granted, they are missing a third member of their big 3, but Kevin Durant and Harden could still wreak havoc for the Nets.

James Harden’s unimpressive run of form has not gone unnoticed, as pundits are beginning to question the Nets’ ability to contend for the 2022 NBA championship. In the “Point of Contention” podcast on The Athletic NBA Show, basketball analysts came together to discuss several topics, including the state of the Nets.

After discussing the Golden State Warriors and Jordan Poole, show host Zach Harper asked Boston Celtics reporter Jay King about the Nets, and he had this to say:

“I’m worried about the Nets. That offense has to be otherworldly for them to win. James Harden has not been James Harden.”

He added:

“He’s not moving the same way, he’s not commanding the same calls. Certainly, I think he’s had four games with at least six free-throw attempts this whole season which is not James Harden even with the new rules.”

“I’m just saying he’s not the same as he was. I don’t know whether it’s because he’s not in shape, I don’t know whether it’s because of the hamstring from last year, I don’t know if it’s just aging. And if it’s aging they’re in trouble, if it’s not aging they’ll be fine, and I’ll look like an idiot. But I do think that Harden, the way he’s playing just isn’t going to be enough if Kyrie doesn’t come back,” he argued.

Jay said it was panic time for the Nets. On a scale of 1-10, he chose five as a degree of panic for the New York-based team.

Do the Brooklyn Nets stand a chance given James Harden’s poor run of form and Kyrie Irving’s absence?

James Harden #13 and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets
James Harden #13 and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets

With Durant on your team, winning is almost guaranteed, which is why the Nets still have a decent shot at winning the 2022 NBA title, even without Kyrie Irving. But James Harden needs to channel his MVP-winning campaign.

Factors like the ball change, most especially the rule change on players initiating contact to draw fouls, have affected James Harden so far this season. Although he’s starting to make more trips to the line compared to his first five games, he is still not playing at his highest level.

So far this season, James Harden is averaging 20.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 8.8 assists while shooting 43.2% from the field (lowest since rookie season). While these may seem like great numbers, they are not Harden numbers.

Since the 2016-17 season, if Harden was not averaging 30+ points per game then his assists average hits double-digits. Unfortunately, he is not performing at the efficiency rate.

The Nets undoubtedly have the tools to clinch a title without Irving. But they desperately need a spark right now, and Kyrie might be the answer.

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Q. Can the Nets go all the way without Kyrie?