Could Nets star Kevin Durant be healthy for the postseason?

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever the NBA returns, could Kevin Durant be on the court for the Brooklyn Nets? It sounds like it’s a possibility, but general manager Sean Marks won’t be rushing his star free agent acquisition. The executive told Newshub (via ESPN.com) that he’s not putting any pressure on Durant to take the court when the NBA returns from its hiatus.

“That’s a $110 million question,” Marks said. “In all seriousness, we’ve tried not to talk about his timeline a lot.

“He knows his body better than anybody. Our performance team and training staff have done a tremendous job getting him to this point, but I just don’t know how coming out of this pandemic will affect anybody, let alone Kevin.”

Back in February, Durant’s business partner, Rich Kleiman, said it’s “definitely a possibility” that the forward could by ready for the Tokyo Olympics, which were originally scheduled for July. While the basketball landscape has certainly changed since that time, Durant’s timeline likely hasn’t. In other words, if Durant could have been ready for July’s Olympics, he could also be ready if the NBA resumes this summer.

It’s been almost a year since Durant ruptured his Achilles during the NBA Finals. The 31-year-old hasn’t seen the court since that time, but he has switched teams. After winning multiple championships with the Warriors, Durant joined Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn last offseason.

With Durant out and Irving limited to only 20 games, the Nets were an underwhelming 30-34 at the time of the NBA’s shut down. Fortunately, that’s good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference, and adding Durant and/or Irving to the lineup would certainly add some intrigue to the Nets heading into the postseason.

There are obvious benefits to having Durant return following the hiatus. For starters, the former MVP obviously boosts the Nets’ ceiling, even if he is a bit rusty during his first few games. Since the Nets will presumably be able to avoid the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, you could also make an argument that a KD-led Nets squad could top the Raptors, Celtics, Heat, or Sixers. A run to the Eastern Conference Finals is benefit enough.

Furthermore, even if the Nets don’t make any noise in the playoffs, it could be good to give KD some playing time after sitting out for more than a year. Assuming the 2020-21 season doesn’t kick off until late 2020, it could be close to 18 months since Durant played in an NBA game; giving him some reps in the playoffs could only help boost the Nets’ chances next season.

Of course, there’s obvious downsides, as well. The Nets are currently operating without a full-time coach after firing Kenny Atkinson several months ago, and Durant hasn’t had any time to play alongside his brand-new teammates. It may be too late to truly put it all together. In that case, what’s the point of forcing it? The Nets have always seemed to have an eye towards 2021, and doing anything to compromise that plan would be shortsighted.

Just the smallest hint of a Durant 2020 return means we’re probably putting something on Brooklyn’s +6600 championship odds. In reality, the Nets will probably play it safe with their star player, in which case you’re better off saving that money for 2020-21 futures.

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