And head coach Steve Nash knows as much.
"We'll see," he told reporters regarding Brooklyn's defensive potential following Tuesday's 124-120 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. "The No. 1 goal is to be on the same page and to be solid. If we can be fundamental with our approach and solid with our schemes, that's No. 1. Or No. 2, really. No. 1 is just the pride and competitive spirit."
Granted, the team's defensive shortcomings haven't exactly hurt them yet. Since acquiring Harden, the Nets have gone 7-3. Yes, they are giving up 124.1 points per game. But hey, when you are averaging 127 points per game in the 10 contests since Harden arrived, you get away with it.
Will the Nets get away with it in the postseason, however, when defenses clamp down and the game tends to become more physical? That's another question.
The issue for the Nets is they don't have either a particularly good rim protector—neither DeAndre Jordan nor Kevin Durant are bad in that regard, combining to average 2.8 blocks per game, but nobody is going to confuse them for Rudy Gobert—or strong perimeter defenders. One or the other will surely be a priority for the front office either via a trade or in the buyout market.
After Tuesday's win, however, Durant told reporters he believes in Harden's perimeter defense:
The trio of Durant, Harden and Irving is devastating on offense, and adding Harris as a perimeter sniper around them only further opens up the floor. That core group will win the Nets a lot of games on the offensive end alone.
But the old adage that defenses win championships exists for a reason. Come June, the ability to get a stop late in a close game is almost as important as the ability to hit a big shot. More than a few talented offensive teams in NBA history have learned that lesson the hard way.