Well, the Brooklyn Nets made it to the NBA playoffs somehow. After trading away their top stars, the “new hires” did their best to keep the team afloat. They fended off the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks to clinch the sixth seed and a spot in the playoffs. Now, they face an incredibly tough task, as they need to fend off Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers as the lower-seeded team.

The Nets will need a big break in order to punch through the tough Sixers team. To do that, they'll need to get some high-level plays from their top stars. Let's evaluate their roster and see who can be their X-factor for their series.

Mikal Bridges

At first glance, one might be drawn to Nicolas Claxton as the Nets' X-factor in the first-round of the playoffs. Claxton is one of the best shot-blockers in the league, and he was being considered as a potential DPOY. However, matching up against Joel Embiid is not going to be easy for him. Claxton's frame isn't exactly built for defending burly centers like Embiid.

There's also other intriguing pieces on the Nets that can be considered as their X-Factor. Spencer Dinwiddie has a chance to prove his worth as a tertiary option for a playoff team. Cam Thomas is a flamethrower that can potentially light up the Sixers for a couple of games. You can even make a case for the wily Yuta Watanabe as their X-factor!

Hell, there's a good argument for Ben Simmons to be the Nets' X-factor. It's unclear yet whether the star point guard will be able to return from his back injury this season. Already, he's not travelling with the Nets for the road portion of their playoff series. However, if Simmons decides to play through his injury, he could be a game changer for Brooklyn. His defense against James Harden will be immensely valuable. And even if Simmons' scoring is non-existent, his playmaking and transition offense will help them greatly against his former team.

Live and breathe the NFL?

🚨 Get viral NFL graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

However, the Nets' chances against the Sixers in the playoffs rest solely on one man alone: Mikal Bridges. Ever since he was traded to Brooklyn, Bridges has morphed into a completely different player. In Phoenix, Bridges was mostly used as a three-and-D threat. That made total sense: he is one of the best perimeter defenders, and Phoenix already had two dominant ball-handlers in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Bridges only needed to catch and make his threes, which he did so admirably.

However, when he joined the Nets, Mikal Bridges showed off an area of his game that no one expected. Highly touted as the prototypical 3-and-D player in college, Bridges evolved into a shot creator who can consistently be a threat from all levels. He was able to maintain his defense while playing well on offense too! Mikal went from a “3-and-D” player to a “two-way player” in the span of just a few months.

If the Nets want to contend against the Sixers (and potentially against other playoff opponents), they will need Bridges to maintain his scoring streak. Outside of Mikal, Brooklyn does not have any other elite shot-makers on their roster. The last few players proved that isolation scorers become more valuable in the postseason: when offenses bog down, you need a guy who can manufacture his own shot. Bridges holds the key to doing exactly that for the Nets.

Mikal will have a fire under his butt for this series, too. Bridges (a Philly native) was selected by the Sixers during the 2018  NBA draft. However, Philly traded him for Zhaire Smith just moments after he was selected. It was a gut punch for Bridges, who was excited to work with Philly (and his mother, who worked for the team at the time). He's expressed his thoughts on this perceived slight over the last few years.

The series will be the toughest fight the Nets will experience this year. Can they muster up another rally behind Mikal Bridges' revenge-fueled offense?