Will Kevin Durant Come Back as Great as He Was?

Over the next few weeks The Crossover will be examining one big-picture question for every NBA team. Today we take a look at the Brooklyn Nets, who were 30–34 when the season was suspended.
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2020 was always going to be something of a holding pattern for the Nets. Last summer’s free-agency coup quickly gave way to the fact that Kevin Durant would miss this entire season as he recovered from a torn Achilles. But what was supposed to be a year in place turned into a little more of a rollercoaster. Kyrie Irving played in only 20 games. Kenny Atkinson mutually agreed with the team to leave his position as head coach. And the Nets were winning fewer games than a season ago.

As bumpy as Brooklyn’s season was up until the suspension, none of it matters if Durant comes back healthy for the next one. Until his injury in the 2019 Finals, KD had become the most powerful force in the NBA. He shifted the entire league by signing with Golden State, then backed up his decision with two straight Finals MVPs. As much as Durant may have clouded what made the Warriors unique, playing with so many great players also stopped him from being fully unleashed. A version of Durant playing with only one other superstar and a stable of solid role players theoretically puts him in the position to do the most damage he can as an individual.

So with all that said, it matters less what the Nets end up doing in their coaching search, or how they ultimately figure out the logjam in the backcourt. Brooklyn’s title hopes rest on Durant. The history of players returning from Achilles injuries is checkered, but if Durant is even able to come back as 90% of the player he was in Oakland, the Nets will be in a great spot. A healthy Durant instantly makes your NBA team a title contender. That’s why signing him was a no-brainer. I don’t want to imagine a world in which KD can’t still be the scoring champ. For his, ours, and the Nets’ sake, hopefully he’s able to pick up where he left off.