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Contender comparison: Dallas Mavericks vs Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are heading into the 2021-22 season as one of the favorites to win the title. How do they stack up against the Mavericks?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are simultaneously a super team and a dumpster fire. Do their strengths outweigh their weaknesses? How do they compare to the Dallas Mavericks? Let’s get into it.

Best Player: Luka Doncic vs Kevin Durant

This one is weird and not as easy as it may seem. When healthy, Kevin Durant is the best player in the NBA. He’s an otherworldly efficient scorer from all three levels of the court who is literally unguardable. He’s also a switchable defender and a savvy passer. When healthy, Kevin Durant is better than Luka Doncic. But will KD be healthy?

Obviously, there’s no way to know that right now. But would I feel comfortable betting on Durant staying healthy for a full season and then four playoff rounds? I definitely wouldn’t feel good about it.

Still, I have to give the Nets the advantage in the Best Player category. KD is healthy, so the conversation is done (for now). But if the Mavs and Nets faced each other in the Finals, it’s not unreasonable to think the Mavs might have the best player. If KD is out (or even limping a little), Luka Doncic overtakes him.

Sidekicks: Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway, Jr. vs James Harden and Kyrie Irving

This is one of the weirdest comparisons I’ve ever done. How do you compare a 7’3” unicorn who is hurt half of the time and a future Hall-of-Fame level point guard who might not be able to play in home games this season because of his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Who would you bet on playing more games this season: Kristaps Porzingis or Kyrie Irving? Neither answer feels safe.

The other two guys in the mix are Tim Hardaway, Jr. and James Harden. This one isn’t close. Obviously, Harden is the much better player.

Since KP and Kyrie are both massive question marks heading into this season, I suppose I have to make my choice based on the ceiling, assuming everything goes well for both guys. That means the Nets are better in the Sidekicks category than the Mavs.

When Kyrie Irving and James Harden are on the court, they’re better than Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Depth

This one goes to the Nets without much of a contest. The Nets are a super team; they have the luxury of surrounding their three stars with tons of good help, including Joe Harris (who seems like he was built in a lab to play next to the world’s best hoopers), a revived Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Brown, Nicolas Claxton, Patty Mills, Cam Thomas, and more.

Yeah... it’s pretty much impossible to even consider giving the Mavs the edge here.

Swag

Kevin Durant is a cool guy with a lot of swag. That’s the only nice thing I have to say about the Nets’ swag department.

Kyrie has done some less-than-swaggy things more times than I can count (getting the COVID vaccine is swaggy, by the way), and James Harden is just... James Harden. I’m over both of them.

Nothing the Nets have can compare to Luka’s smile, Frank Ntilikina’s nicknames, or Jalen Brunson’s vibes.

Overall advantage: Brooklyn Nets

Look, I can joke about swag and how Kyrie Irving might not play this year, but ultimately, the Nets are still the title favorites and the Mavs are a sleeper contender. Would I be absolutely shocked if the Mavs were a better team than the Nets this season? Nah. Luka will probably continue to take steps forward, and the Nets have some reliability issues. But would I bet money on the Mavs being a better team than the Nets? Absolutely not. The Nets’ ceiling is just too, too high.