The Brooklyn Nets had the NBA’s worst record at 20-62, but they didn’t feel like the NBA’s worst team. Injuries to Jeremy Lin essentially tanked their season, but the year ended up being a positive one because of the way they competed. They experimented with the young talent on their roster, and seem to be on the upswing from a culture and momentum standpoint.
Here to talk about the state of the Nets is Nicholas LeTourneau of Brook-Lin.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @nick_lt, and the site at @Brook_Lin_Com.
ND: Before we dig in, you’re aware that the Heat fan base will never forgive you, right?
NLT: Haha, I know. Everyone, including former NBA Commissioner David Stern, had a hot take about this when the season ended but there really isn’t a story to the sitting players controversy.
For starters, the Nets didn’t rest six players. Quincy Acy, Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick were all various degrees of injured. Harris had been shut down with a concussion and a shoulder injury well in advance of that game. I understand the frustration of everyone for sitting healthy players like Jeremy Lin, Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker but try to see this from Brooklyn’s perspective.
This was a lost season due to Lin’s injury. When he returned following the All-Star break, this became an entirely different squad. If he re-injured his hamstring in a meaningless game in Chicago, there would have been riots outside of Barclays.
Brook, on the other hand, has been someone that has struggled with staying healthy his entire NBA career. The fact that he made it through this season unharmed is a miracle in and of itself. Breaking a bone in his foot would’ve been just our luck; any trade value or momentum he had this season is gone.
I’ll accept the hate and defend the move without hesitation. I thought it was really irresponsible of former Commissioner Stern to take the stand he did and use such strong words, but I also believe the 2002 Western Conference Finals were rigged *shrug*.
Rigged, you say? Cue the Bill Simmons “WHOA!” clip! Anyway, it’s well documented how bad the KG/Pierce trade turned out for you guys. But do you think people outside of the Brooklyn fan base are underrating Brooklyn’s future? I like the culture being established there, and they’ve quietly done well accumulating young talent.
I definitely think people are underrating what is cooking in Brooklyn. The Nets were almost .500 after the All-Star break. They had a better record in the month of March (8-10) than the Cleveland Cavaliers (7-10) and could’ve easily finished around the .500 mark on the season if Lin stayed healthy. Thankfully the lost season let the Nets truly experiment with the roster and see what they have.
Brook Lopez has extended his range beyond the three-point line, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was able to experiment playing out of position after moving from the three to the four, Caris LeVert was able to slowly acclimate to the NBA and ended the season looking like one of the best players of the 2016 draft class, and Brooklyn was able to find some diamonds in the rough via the D-League in Spencer Dinwiddie, Quincy Acy, and Archie Goodwin.
In addition to the roster development, first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson has done wonders for this offense. He has completely transformed this team from one that didn’t do anything particularly well to one of the fastest paced, most three-point shooting offenses in the league. A team that featured mostly D-Leaguers, rookies and no true point guard for most of the year ended up sixth in three-pointers made, fourth in three-pointers attempted, and led the league in pace.
This team is just a few pieces away from making some noise in the Eastern Conference and could sneak into the playoffs next season if they have a good offseason. They need to target another point guard, some shooting, defense on the wing and find a legitimate power forward in their the draft or free agency.
Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson are dead-set on building this thing the right way. I can appreciate that after the previous school of thought was to mortgage the future on aging stars in an attempt to win now. They should keep Brook on the roster and keep moving in the right direction.
Couldn’t agree more, and I really think Brooklyn has something with LeVert. On to the draft, you’ll still be drafting towards the end of the first round. Who do you think Brooklyn should target with their pair of picks?
You’d be surprised at the value still available in that range.
If Hamidou Diallo remains in the draft and is still available come the end of the first round, which he should be if he stays, I think the Nets should without a doubt gamble on him.
I like what he brings as an athletic, rebounding, scoring two guard that has the tools to be successful on defense. He has a 6-foot-10 wingspan and is incredibly exciting to watch. The only downsides are his lack of experience and limited jump shot. He shot roughly 16 percent from deep at the Nike EYBL showcase, which is very concerning from a Brooklyn point of view, but his jumper isn’t broken. If he got around a coach like Atkinson, who is known for developing shooters, I am sure good things would happen.
Another player I am very high on is Isaiah Hartenstein. He is a young seven footer that is the fourth best European prospect in the 1998 class according to DraftExpress. He is a little bit of a work in progress, but the Nets could get in on the ground floor of another dynamic, European big man that can do it all.
I watched his first game for Zalgiris International during a Business Law lecture (sorry, mom) and have been keeping an eye on him since. He has steadily improved in just about every area of his game when given time on the floor. He needs to get his weight up and work on consistency, from both an offensive and defensive standpoint, but you could say that about every teenage prospect.
Who would you like to see Brooklyn target in restricted free agency?
It seems like every single 3&D player under RFA has been linked to the Nets, and rightfully so. Brooklyn was abysmal when it came to perimeter defense, and despite shooting and making a ton of threes, they finished near the bottom of the league in three-point percentage.
Two players I would love the Nets to target are Otto Porter Jr. and Tim Hardaway Jr.
It’s no secret that Porter had a big coming out party this season. He ended the season shooting 43.4 percent from deep and he is extremely lanky, exactly what Brooklyn is missing from their starting lineup.
The Eastern Conference should tremble at the thought of his 7-foot-1.5 wingspan and sharpshooting paired with Lin’s leadership and ability to run an offense, LeVert and all his upside, Hollis-Jefferson (or an upgrade there too) and a healthy, three-point shooting Brook Lopez.
Hardaway would fill the same role as Porter but offer less on the defensive end. He shot 35.7 percent from deep and ended the season averaging 14.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Within Atkinson’s fast-paced system, someone like Hardaway stands to have a lot of success and really blossom into a good player.
Of course, both of these players would be difficult to get. Porter is a virtual lock for a max deal, from Brooklyn or elsewhere, while Hardaway could be had for the right price. My only hope is that Brooklyn doesn’t start overspending on mid-level guys just to swipe them away from teams.
What about unrestricted free agency? Swing for the fences for second tier guys like Paul Millsap or Danilo Gallinari, or try to find more value guys?
The only UFA that moves the needle for me in any way is Serge Ibaka. I know a lot of other teams will probably be after him but I think he could fit nicely in Brooklyn if they don’t overpay for him.
He would solve their issues with rebounding and he could thrive in an offense like Atkinson’s, but I don’t think the Nets will want to get into a bidding war with anyone from this free agency class.
It is no secret that Brooklyn has been looking overseas and have a legitimate shot at landing Serbian magician Milos Teodosic. That is Plan A as far as free agency goes. Don’t be shocked if August rolls around and the Nets roster looks distinctly more European.
Several other names from overseas have been linked to Brooklyn, like former Pitt great Brad Wanamaker and the 6-foot-9 Italian forward Nicolo Melli.
The major plan this offseason is to find a backup plan/complement to Jeremy Lin, upgrade the perimeter defense in a major way, and find a power forward that has range that extends to the three-point line and doesn’t give up the farm on defense.
The days of mindlessly spending money are over, so expect this team to be very calculated in their approach. If they don’t get the players they want or get into a bidding war that they feel isn’t worth it, they have no problem sitting on their hands and waiting for the right deal.