Jeremy Lin, Retooling Brooklyn Nets, & the Steve Nash Connection

Jeremy Lin, Brook Lopez

The changing-in-motion Brooklyn Nets might look very differently by the time the dust from the free agency period settles down. One thing is clear: This team will go as far as Jeremy Lin takes them, and it’s an interesting situation he’s been put in.

Lin arrives, as we mentioned yesterday, at the end of a process for the Nets, that included quickly building a record-breaking team in its costliness based on veterans, and then tearing things down with boring, hard to watch basketball. The result, in the end, without too many draft picks to offer immediate change, and finally getting some sort of cap relief, is one All-Star in Brook Lopez and a bunch of young players around him, in what feels like a team that needs a direction and guiding hand. Not just on the sidelines (Kenny Atkinson) or in the front office (Sean Marks), but on the floor as well.

And that’s what Lin is here for. This wasn’t some favor by an old coach to give his buddy a starting spot on a team going nowhere. There’s thinking behind all of this. Team the Nets have right now is based on the link between Lin and Lopez (what some are already calling Brooklin) as the offensive anchor of this team, but more importantly, on how Lin can make all the misfitting pieces around him work. Remember Steve Nash during his first years in Phoenix? No one did a better job at making those around him better, including the season of helping everyone around him reach career highs in scoring.

Lin isn’t Nash. He’s not as good of a shooter. He’s a much better defender. But the comparisons where there before, and Lin probably has his best chance in a very long time to show he can be that type of player. Over the last three seasons (2nd in Houston, one in Los Angeles, one in Charlotte), Lin changed. From point guard, to playing a lot without the ball. It forced him to change a bit, and worry about scoring and me-first, even if it’s against his nature. The transformation wasn’t complete; Lin simply isn’t that kind of player. At his best, he’s a point guard who scores, combining his ability to attack the rim and hit step back jumpers. Confidence, like with a lot of players, but it’s evident with Lin, plays a huge role in how the shooting works out for him. And from there, he makes basketball look easy with graceful fluidity.

So how’s it going to work in Brooklyn? The Nets don’t have any outstanding sharpshooters, but they guys who can shoot. Caris LeVert was one in college, hitting 44.6% of his 3-pointers for Michigan during his senior year and 40.1% of them in four years. Isaiah Whitehead likes to shoot 3’s, making 36.5% of them for Seton Hall last year. Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough are both above 38% shooters from downtown. Sean Kilpatrick (could keep improving this season, developing into something special) made 36.2% of his threes last season. The Nets didn’t have a passer and penetrator at Lin’s level last season. That can change a lot, in a good way. Tyler Johnson (38.6% from three) might be coming. Donald Sloan (38.4% from downtown last season) might be staying.

The addition of Trevor Booker also gives Lin another strong finisher at the rim, and maybe more importantly, a team to run with. The Nets were 21st in the NBA when it came to pace. They’re going to move that number upwards with Lin playing 30-34 minutes a night. It might be difficult for Lopez to keep up at times, but don’t be surprised if we see lineups without a traditional center (we’re going to need to see what other signings arrive), but there’s a lot of athleticism and youth on this team. Speed is good for Lin. It’s good for the Nets. Combine that with a better opportunity to utilize shooters, and this might be a pretty fun team to watch.

We focused on most of the good things in this post, and why not? It’s the offseason, the time for dreams and optimism. Defense might need time before it’s sorted. Overall there’s not too much talent beyond Lin and Lopez. But the Nets are moving in the right direction. Not some tanking randomness, but what seems like logical thinking in an attempt to build something that lasts, and doesn’t crumble the moment they fail in one playoff or two, like their previous attempt at greatness.

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