Brooklyn Nets Preview
Are the Nets finally seeing the light at the end of their Celtics-made tunnel?
The Nets endured a 20–62 campaign in their first season in the post-Billy King era. While there were some positive moments such as the development of Brook Lopez’ three-point shot *Lionel Hollins shutters* (134 makes on 34.6% shooting after 3 total three-pointers made prior to this season), and promising play from swingmen Caris “Lil Uzi” Levert, acquired from the Thaddeus Young trade, the tumultuous times were aplenty. Jeremy Lin provided above average point guard play when healthy but his nagging hamstring injuries limited him to 36 games, and main backup to start the year Greivis Vasquez was released after proving to be ineffective. With rookie Isaiah Whitehead and D-league call up Spencer Dinwiddie running point, the Nets struggled with turnovers and the young roster lacked cohesion. Kenny Atkinson ushered in a new modern offense that focused on drives to the baskets and threes. Despite having arguably the least offensive firepower in the league, the Nets finished 16th in team True Shooting Percentage at 55.1%, showing that Atkinson’s system can maximize the most of the team’s limited talent. The Nets took a gamble by trading franchise stalwart Brook Lopez and a late first round pick, which turned out to be Kyle Kuzma, to the Lakers for Timofey Mozgov and neophyte point guard D’Angelo Russell. While there are legitimate questions about D-Lo’s on-court quickness and off-court decision-making, he is the blue chip young prospect that the Nets have been robbed of pursuing thanks to Billy King refusing to protect a draft pick.
Draft From The Past:
When the Nets selected Texas center Jarrett Allen and his plush ‘fro at #22, they acquired an athletic and long center that has the potential to be a prototypical rim-running and shot blocking center in the ilk of DeAndre Jordan. Allen must improve his motor and strength, but he has the tools necessary to be a long-term starter in the NBA. Allen reminds me of former Net big man, Josh Boone. While that comparison may not curry much favor with Net fans, Boone was an athletic forward-center hybrid who was a good rebounder and could finish around the rim. Boone was out of place as a tweener in the late 2000’s but could have thrived manning the 5 position in the modern NBA. Allen possesses similar size and mobility to Boone, and both of them lack a perimeter game. In the modern era that places so much emphasis on the pick and roll, expect Allen to have a more fruitful career than Boone did.
Free Agency Tinder Superlike
The Nets have been linked to Otto Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the whole season but with KCP’s recent DUI and OPJ’s reliance on John Wall to get him open looks, Marks may decide to pass on the 3-letter initial wings whose original teams will likely match any offer. Brazilian big man Cristiano Felicio was effective in his limited playing time with the Chicago Bulls, but never carved out more than a bench role with the team. Felicio has excellent mobility for someone his size, allowing him to defend guards post-switches. He is an excellent offensive rebounder and has soft hands and good touch around the rim. He may become exposed with more playing time but the Nets should take a chance on as many upside plays as they can afford, and Felicio has the ability to be a high-level role player. The soon-to-be 25-year-old should improve away from the toxic situation occurring in Chicago, and the Nets staff can help Felicio further harness his tools on the defensive end. A 3-year, $20 million contract seems fair for Felicio who would benefit from playing with capable playmakers like Lin and Russell, as opposed to project point guards such as Kris Dunn and Cam Payne.
One Defining Stat:
The Nets led the league in pace last season at 103.6 possessions per game after finishing 20th in the category the prior season (97.4 possessions).
How Far Away Are They?
…All you need to know is that I’ve been watching a lot of highlights of High School Freshman and Sophomores.
The Up & Under:
The Up: Best case scenario, Levert takes a leap and realizes his destiny as Nicolas Batum with better scoring instincts, Lin stays healthy the whole year and meshes with Russell, who improves his efficiency and effort on defense under a coach who trusts him, while other project players contribute as the Nets finish 34–48. Sean Marks finds a few athletic big men that can provide serviceable rim protection and provide toughness to sure up the defense. Overall, the future looks brighter as the team shows signs of life and the draft pick obligation to Boston ends after the 2018 draft, ushering in a new hope for the franchise.
The Under: Worst case scenario, morale suffers once Timofey Mozgov attempts to fill Brook’s vacancy by arranging team outings to Disneyland and Disney World, which go horribly wrong once Mozzy is revealed to be a fraud regarding his Disney knowledge. On the court, the Nets struggle to score efficiently without Brook being a mainstay as a legitimate inside-outside scoring threat. In addition, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s shooting doesn’t progress further and either Lin or Levert’s injury woes resurface. Jarrett Allen proves to be extremely raw and Nets fans watch 82 games of Mozgov at center. Kenny Atkinson cannot capture his previous player development magic, and after another season of watching Trevor Booker A) throw the ball away or B) miss a layup after going coast to coast following a rebound, the Nets finish 18–64, once again giving the top lottery odds to the smarmy Celtics.