When James Harden was traded to Brooklyn in January 2021 to join forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets looked destined for a series of championship runs. The dynamic trio won 81% of their games when they all played; unfortunately, that was just 13 wins out of the 16 total games they all played together. Harden is now with the 76ers, Irving is with the Mavericks, and Durant is with the Suns.
Kevin Durant has received a lot of criticism, notably from Charles Barkley lately, but I still believe he has the least to prove. Durant is a four-time scoring champ, won a regular season MVP in 2014, and is also a two-time NBA Finals MVP. Even with several critics coming down on him for joining the Warriors in 2016 after the franchise went 73-9, Durant was the X-Factor in ensuring the Dubs got revenge on Cleveland in the 2017 and 2018 Finals.
What Kyrie Irving is looking for from a basketball standpoint is a complex question that I wonder if he even has the answer for. Still, Irving does have a World Championship under his belt, but unlike Harden or Durant, he has never won an MVP award or scoring title. Even if the Mavericks fail to reach the postseason in 2023, Irving has had limited time to mesh with Mavs star Luka Doncic and head coach Jason Kidd. Still, how much blame is fair to put on Irving for the team’s shortcomings?
I believe James Harden has the most to prove. Harden is a three-time scoring champion and won the MVP in 2018, but he has never won an NBA championship, and he has not been to the finals since 2012 when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although Harden had a dynamic career with the Houston Rockets, he did not lead that franchise to a Western Conference championship but still has a good situation now paired with MVP candidate Joel Embiid in Philadelphia. The 76ers will have a tall task in the Eastern Conference playoffs, with the Bucks and Celtics favored above them, but the opportunity is still there for Harden to take his legacy to another level.
With each former Nets member now on a different franchise, which superstar’s legacy do you believe is under the most pressure to prove himself as the 2023 postseason approaches?