Our third team under the spotlight in the season preview series are the Brooklyn Nets, who made plenty of changes this offseason, including bringing in a new head coach (Kenny Atkinson), while adding plenty of pieces to Brook Lopez and perimeter youngster, the most notable of them is Jeremy Lin, becoming the most important player on the team.
The Nets are coming off a 21-win season, their worst since 2009-2010. After three consecutive years of making the playoffs, the Nets realized it’s time for something new, and the deterioration that began the moment they failed to beat the Heat in the 2014 conference semifinals carried on into last season, which was always going to be a holdover for different things. It’s hard to put a finger on how the Nets will be because of so many new pieces and young players, but maybe the best way to describe it will be: They know where they want to go, already having some of the key pieces to get there, but they need to test drive the thing this season and find out what needs fixing.
The basic premise is this: Jeremy Lin is being given his first full chance to be a starting point guard without anyone bothering him or taking the ball away. He’s going to need and make his pick and roll with Brook Lopez become a deadly play, while also helping a horde of players who can play the 2 and 3 spots open up the floor, all this with a questionable situation at the ‘4’. The fan base of the Nets itself seems to be quite split about how well or badly this season could develop. One thing is quite sure: The basketball is supposed to be a lot faster and fun to watch than before.
Additions: Lin, Trevor Booker, Justin Hamilton, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Anthony Bennett, Randy Foye and Joe Harris arrived in free agency. Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead are the rookies.
Subtractions: Thad Young was traded away, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed left in free agency. Marcus Paige was drafted but traded away.
Best Case Scenario
The Nets will swap first round picks with the Celtics in 2017, which means not a very high one. And so, with two second round picks as well, there’s no reason to tank, and missing the playoffs or not coming close to it isn’t something the franchise will be trying to do. The Nets winning close to 40 games or more is probably the best they can hope for, including a 6-8 playoff seeding. If Lopez stays healthy, and Atkinson figures out his 2-3-4 rotation (lots of small ball probably) quickly, and maybe more importantly how the team defense can be effective, the Nets are going to be just fun to watch, they’re going to be good. Sean Kilpatrick, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, LeVert. There’s talent and size to fill a number of positions. Maybe Bennett can finally make himself useful on an NBA level. Chris McCullough could become a meaningful piece with his range and size.
But the most important piece is here is Lin. To make this unit work, it’ll be up to him to run Atkinson’s game plan the right way. If you’ve read some of the articles on here before, you know we believe he has what it takes to get the job done, but it’s his ability that’s probably the most important thing in this jigsaw puzzle, because Lin playing well and putting up nice point and assist numbers means good things for the Nets, and every player on the floor next to him.
Worst Case Scenario
There are those who fear the Nets are going to have an even worse season than in 2015-2016, but I find it hard to believe things will be that bad. I think anything below 30 wins, which means there’s a lot of work, and more changes that need to be done, will be something of a failure, or a disillusioning season. Maybe Lin shows Byron Scott and Kevin McHale were right. Maybe Lopez continues to operate in a vacuum. Maybe no one from the young roster develops right. Things happen, even with the best made plans in mind.