The Brooklyn Nets reached the postseason for the fifth straight year in 2022-23, matching the second-longest streak in the franchise's NBA history. But it was a tale of two seasons in Brooklyn. The first saw them at 33-22 and six games out of the lead in the Eastern Conference on Feb. 9. That was the day Kevin Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns, three days after Kyrie Irving was sent to the Dallas Mavericks.
The second season was their 12-15 finish after acquiring Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson in the Durant trade and getting Dorian Finney-Smith and bringing Spencer Dinwiddie back to Brooklyn in the Irving deal. The season ended with a sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, making four opening-round exits in five seasons.
The high point, such as it was, for the superteam Nets was a seven-game loss in the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks, a series that ended in an overtime defeat after Durant's toe was on the line on what would have been a series-clinching 3-pointer.
Expectations are much lower in Brooklyn, but there are reasons to believe they can still compete for a postseason bid and match the six-season playoff run by the New Jersey club from 2002-07 that included two NBA Finals appearances.
Why the Nets can compete this season: 3. A full offseason with Mikal Bridges as the No. 1 option
Upon arriving in Brooklyn last February, Mikal Bridges was cast into the unfamiliar role as the top scoring option and he responded by averaging 26.1 points on .475/.376/.894 shooting splits. Now Bridges comes to the Brooklyn Nets training camp with a full offseason program under his belt in that role.
Unlike the departed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Bridges has one of the most important abilities in basketball — durability. Since being taken by the 76ers with the 10th overall pick in 2018, Bridges went to the Suns in a draft-night trade and began what is now the longest active streak in the NBA, appearing in 392 consecutive games.
He struggled in his first postseason series as a marked man, shooting .429/.400/.783 in the sweep against Philadelphia while averaging 23.5 points per game. But he has the tools to transition from role player to team leader, provided he shoots his shot better than he did with Las Vegas Aces star A'ja Wilson earlier this week.
A full training camp with point guard Spencer Dinwiddle and the rest of the new-look Brooklyn squad can't help but build chemistry that was absent at times late last season.