After a colossal trade, and a recent stretch of victories, Brooklyn basketball has become a threat to the title.

At the beginning of the 2020-21 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets weren’t much to look at. They had two superstars on their team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but something wasn’t working. Their record was 7-7 at the start of January, and while they were likely going to make the playoffs, it appeared they had no real chance at winning the championship.

That all changed when the Nets announced they would pick up James Harden, who was playing with the Houston Rockets prior to the trade. Now, with the trio of Harden, Durant and Irving, the Nets have become one of the latest contenders for the NBA Championship Title.

The Nets are currently ranked second in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the entire league, with their record at 21-12. This statistic means that their record since Harden has joined is 14-5, greatly improving upon their former win-loss ratio.

If you’re thinking the recent improvement isn’t because of Harden, think again. A change of jerseys hasn’t slowed down the three-time scoring champ. He’s still averaging 25 points per game and 48% in field goal attempts. Harden is all business — no matter who he’s playing with, he delivers.

Of course, it does help to have some extra talent. Former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Durant and Harden reunite after eight seasons of being apart, and they picked up right where they left off. Combined, their stats proved crucial in the Nets victory against the Milwaukee Bucks in January, who they have now surpassed in the Eastern Conference rankings.   

NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash has also done well in coaching the Nets. The two-time MVP began his coaching career this season. His focus was on the defensive side of the court heading into this season, but it was his offense that proved worthwhile as his side currently owns the highest offensive efficiency rating in the league.

Bottom line? The Nets weren’t a bad team before Harden was in the picture, but now they’re an even better one.

The Nets now have the possibility of being the Eastern Conference representative in this season’s NBA Finals, but just how realistic is that? There are only two other teams that pose a real threat to them: the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Yes, the Nets —with Harden on their roster — beat the Bucks earlier this season. One thing to keep in mind is that they only won by two points. Just a single basket separated a win and a loss, meaning it truly is anyone’s game.

The 76ers are a slightly different story. In their first matchup, the Nets won by 13 points. At that time, Harden wasn’t on the team. When the teams had a rematch on February 6, it was the 76ers who walked away with the win, this time with Harden playing for the Nets.

The two Eastern titans aren’t set to face each other again until April 14, which is the only scheduled matchup between these two teams for the rest of the regular season. This means that both teams will have a lot of time to work on chemistry and skill, but also face the risk of having their roster shaken up. Injuries are a large part of basketball, and there’s no telling what will happen to players at any given moment. 

The Nets, 76ers and Bucks will most likely remain as the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. The playoffs, specifically the Conference Semifinals, will be a true test of which team wants it more. If all three teams win their first-round matchups, mathematically speaking, two of these teams will have to face each other. 

Regardless, the Nets and their new piece in James Harden will bring their A-game when it becomes playoff time. And if their recent seven-game winning stretch proves anything, it shows that this team is capable of greatness down the stretch.