Goodbye Steve Nash, hello Ime Udoka?
It’s been no secret that the Brooklyn Nets have struggled throughout the Kevin Durant era. When Nash took the reins of a franchise that just signed Durant and star guard Kyrie Irving, the team was expected to compete for rings once Durant came back from injury. After a series of seasons that included the acquisition of James Harden and a trade that sent Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for guard Ben Simmons, Nash is now out of a job just seven games into the 2022-23 season, a short span that saw Brooklyn go just 2-5.
But here comes a potential savior in Udoka, a coach that has had his own troubles off the court, but has been successful on it. He was suspended by the Boston Celtics after the organization found out that he was having an improper and intimate relationship with a female Celtics staff member. Definitely not the news you want to hear, but here comes a potential second chance for Udoka. While the problems with Udoka are certainly nothing to sweep under the rug, I have much reason to believe that an opportunity in Brooklyn could raise his stock tremendously.
One of the key parts of this Nets roster that has notoriously been their Achilles heel has been team defense, as signified by bottom three rankings in defensive efficiency, defensive rebounds, and points per game allowed this season. Even after bringing in a massive defensive upgrade in Simmons, the team still struggled. The firing of Nash due to the team’s underwhelming finishes and offseason drama felt almost inevitable, especially with how Nash’s system has limited the impact that Simmons can make on the defensive end.
Enter Udoka, who not only led the Celtics to a finals appearance, but was also one of the top defensive teams during the regular season. With Brooklyn being in the bottom half of the NBA in terms of defensive rating last season, I expect Udoka to completely flip the switch. While Brooklyn may not have the number of defensive personnel that the Celtics have, especially at the center position, I believe his defensive schemes could take the Nets far.
I use the Celtics first round playoff series vs. Brooklyn in 2022 is an example of how much better Brooklyn can potentially be. Playing against Durant, the team took advantage of the team’s limitations and locked up the Nets throughout the series. Udoka’s clever defensive schemes made the Nets offense, the 11th best offense in the NBA last season, look unnaturally poor as the team struggled to get their superstar the ball.
The team was also able to balance offense and defense tremendously well throughout last season’s playoff run and while Boston flourished, it’s been one of the biggest problems with Brooklyn. It’s clear they have the talent to be much better, especially defensively, than they have been this season, but the team made a tremendous amount of defensive mistakes under Nash. Corner shooters were left open. Defenders couldn’t stick on their man. Adjustments weren’t made under Nash and it’s a primary reason as to why he was let go.
With Udoka, he’ll be able to come in and get more out of guys like Simmons, a player who is known for his defense and playmaking but hasn’t looked his best out of the gate this season, especially on the offensive end. While I attribute his struggles due to coming back from his absence and the poor system run by Nash, Simmons is one of the players who will benefit most under a system run by Udoka.
Overall, the signing of Udoka should allow Brooklyn to rise tremendously both offensively and defensively. Durant and Irving have both looked great to start the season with averages of 32.6 and 30.1 points per game respectively. If Brooklyn is able to stick to the process that Udoka sets for this team, the results could certainly be promising.