2017-18 Preview: Brooklyn Nets

By Josh Eberley #41

The Brooklyn Nets are on the up-and-up, it’s hard to believe but it’s irrefutably true. It’s a special thing to reach the pinnacle, to exit a season knowing the whole team left it all out on that floor. Alternatively, even fewer teams reach the basement, the cellar of despair. You’ll often see writers talk about NBA purgatory and its relation to non-playoff teams that are low in the lottery. If you buy the metaphor, the Nets have been to hell and are clawing their way out one greasy deal at a time. Nets GM Sean Marks has been a magician in his short time in Brooklyn. He has been dropping poison pills and aiming high with every acquisition. The Nets still reeling from the Billy King trade with Boston (three first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 for the short-lived championship duo of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett) and had no plausible way to add a high-end lottery talent like D’Angelo Russell, but Marks found a way. Other new additions DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe are far from star players, but they’re proven NBA contributors and adding talent like that into the mix is going to help this team rise up the standings. The Nets reclamation project is fascinating because they truly are starting from the bottom with no immediate hope in the lottery.

Nets 2017-18 Ballhandlers Wings Bigs
Returners Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Quincy Acy Trevor Booker
Newcomers D’Angelo Russell Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll Jarrett Allen, Timofey Mozgov, Tyler Zeller
Gone Randy Foye Bojan Bogdanovic Brook Lopez, Justin Hamilton
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Offense: It’s a new day for head coach Kenny Atkinson’s Nets, especially on offense. Last year the story was all about Brook Lopez and his new-found range from deep. If you’re a Nets fan, don’t feel too bad, the 28th ranked offense getting broken up isn’t worth lamenting. Obviously, Lopez is now a Laker and the Nets must find a new go-to scorer. Enter the man with ice in his veins. Russell gets a second chance in Brooklyn after things not exactly going right from day one in Los Angeles. While his talent was never in question, everything else was. Russell doesn’t have to feud with an old-school coach, he doesn’t need to carry on the legacy of Kobe Bryant in Brooklyn, he doesn’t have to alter his game to appease Magic Johnson. There are clear freedoms being offered to Russell this season that simply weren’t available in his first two NBA seasons. It’ll fall on Russell and Jeremy Lin to create for themselves and others as the Nets attempt to paint a new picture of the Brooklyn basketball scene.

At first glance, Crabbe’s contract is high for a three-point specialist, but the money won’t be an issue by the time the Nets are competitive. In the short term, Crabbe gives the Nets a lethal weapon from the outside (.444 in 2016-17). The only player to knock down a higher percentage from deep, on three or more attempts a night last season was Kyle Korver. Lin, Russell, Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson form a solid shell for the Nets to build around. If Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert pan out, the Nets could be further ahead than most realize. LeVert slid in the draft last year due to injury but he has size and can do a little bit of everything, Allen, who is coming out of Texas had a strong finish to his college career, averaging 15.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and shooting 55 percent from the floor over his last 15 games. Mozgov, who was the bitter pill to swallow in order to attain Russell, will start early on, but if Allen stays healthy, he should be pushing for minutes quickly.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Defense: While the offense should be able to put points on the board, the defense is going to be a problem with no clear solution. The Lin/Russell backcourt should pack a punch on offense, but they are going to get clubbed just as hard on defense. The Nets had the 23rd ranked defense last year and awarding players like Russell and Crabbe major roles isn’t going to help them climb out of that hole. Carroll will be asked to play both forward spots for Brooklyn and if he can regain some of the motor and skill he displayed in Atlanta, it would go a long way in bringing some stability to an otherwise shaky unit defensively.

Spencer Dinwiddie and Hollis-Jefferson are probably the two best returning players defensively and it’s likely both will have large roles this season for that reason. The Nets DRTG rose 3 points when either of them sat and while that doesn’t sound like much, it’s a substantial shift relative to their other teammates last season.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Upside: The upside is that this team might be fun and should have an identity outside of 15 guys trying to find a home in the NBA. The Nets aren’t good but they shouldn’t be a scheduled win for every other team anymore. Progress is progress. Russell and Lin both command passionate fan bases for a reason. There’s youth with undefined ceilings and enough veterans to keep the team at a competent level of play.

Durability: Lin missed a lot of time last year. To Atkinson’s credit he did a great job of preserving most of his squad while making time to look at the platoon of guys to wear the uniform. No Net played more than 30 MPG last year and while that might not be the case this year, the minute load getting shared is a positive in this category.

Synergy: There are a ton of newcomers set to handle big roles this year. Trevor Booker appears to be a good glue guy, Sean Kilpatrick has battled his way into the rotation but on a whole this team still has plenty of guys with something to prove. That should speak positively for the compete level on a nightly basis but with a good chunk of the team battling for key roles, the chemistry could suffer.

Experience: Carroll and Mozgov lead the team in the experience department and neither is likely to be a major contributor on a playoff team. Having grizzled veterans in the locker room is never a bad idea but in reality, the Nets shouldn’t and likely aren’t too worried about playoff insight at this moment.

Win Frame: 25-30 wins

2017-18 HOOP Season Preview

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