Brooklyn Nets: 3 Reasons Why The Future Is Bright
The Brooklyn Nets have been one of the bigger laughing stocks in the NBA over the past few seasons. This due in large part to that infamous trade made a few years ago by former Nets General Manager Billy King. That trade sent the team’s first-round picks for the next three years to Boston along with other players. In return, the Nets received Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, and we all know how that turned out. After a complete front office and coaching staff overhaul, the tide is turning in Brooklyn and clear skies are present.
Coaching Staff/Front Office
The biggest difference in the Nets now as opposed to a few years ago is a stable structure throughout the franchise. Since the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012, they have had five head coaches including current coach Kenny Atkinson. Atkinson will actually be the longest tenured coach since the move to Brooklyn going into the 2018-19 season. He came from Mike Budenholzer’s coaching staff and is known for his development of guards. Although it was only a small sample size, you could see the difference in D’Angelo Russell‘s play as well as the break out action of Spencer Dinwiddie.
You also see what he did in helping Brook Lopez develop a consistent three-point shot. He’s changed the style of play for the team too. The Nets run a very shot friendly system which includes a heavy amount of threes. In fact, they set a franchise record for three-pointers with 1041. They also made 24 three-point field goals in a game which was one shy of the NBA record.
The biggest takeaway though is how competitive they play. Throughout the season countless coaches such as Greg Popovich, and Mike D’Antoni praised Atkinson for having a competitive group of guys. The Nets were very rarely were blown out of games and were among the league leaders in games decided by 3 points or less. Sometimes Kenny does stick with guys too long and has had some questionable lineups at times. However he has a good head on his shoulders and is a coach Nets fans can believe in.
Arguably the most important person in the entire organization now though is GM Sean Marks. Formerly the Spurs assistant GM, Marks took over for Billy King who just about buried the Nets’ future. But Marks has slowly but surely been able to pull the team out of the grave. The biggest plague to the Nets the past few years has been their draft picks or lack thereof.
Brooklyn has seen their picks used by the Celtics to draft guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. What Marks has been able to do is get the Nets a plethora of draft picks. He’s completely flipped the roster in a way that is a true rebuild. Getting rid of quality players (Bojan Bogdanovic, Trevor Booker etc.) for first and second-round picks.
The biggest flip was dealing fan favorite and longtime Net Brook Lopez to the Lakers for Russell, Timofey Mozgov and the 22th overall pick which turned out to be Jarrett Allen. He has also done a good job of making the Nets available to be big spenders when the time is right. As well as being a great negotiator Marks is a very active scout. He can be seen scouting at colleges in America as well as Euro and Chinese leagues. It’s been a complete culture shift over the past two years in a good way. Fans who have suffered watching the team make boneheaded signings and trades can finally rest easy now.
Although the talent on the Nets roster hasn’t been the greatest over the past few years, injuries have played a big role in the team’s misfortune. Last season the Nets lost Jeremy Lin to a season ending patella tendon injury in the first game of the season. This was the second time in as many years that Lin would miss significant time due to injury. With Lin looking like he’ll be ready for training camp, Nets fans should be excited.
Although “Lin-Sanity” is long gone, Lin is still a solid point guard in this league. His veteran presence and easy-going demeanor plays well on a young team. In 2016 with the Nets, Lin averaged 14.5 ppg along with 5.1 apg in the 36 games he played.
Aside from Lin, the Nets hopefully will have a healthy D’Angelo Russell for the whole season next year. Russell, who came to the Nets from the Lakers via trade, missed 34 games last season due to knee surgery. In the 48 games, he did play, Russell averaged 15.5 ppg, 5.2 apg along with 3.9 rpg. One thing that can’t be denied about him is his scoring ability. Russell put on some very impressive scoring outings last season including a 24 point quarter in which he made 7 three pointers.
Since coming into the league Russell has been known as more as a scoring guard. However, he showed last season that he has the ability to run an offense and set up his teammates. Defensively he can still struggle at times but trust that Atkinson will work with him this off season.
Hands down the most exciting thing heading into next season is the plethora of young talent on the Nets roster. Guys such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead and Jarrett Allen have all proven they belong in this league. For Hollis-Jefferson, the big improvement this year was on the offensive end. Although he did miss 14 games, his scoring was up almost 6 ppg from 8.7 to 13.9. His assists, rebounding, free throw percentage and shooting percentage all saw increases.
Overall, RHJ just looked more comfortable on the offensive end. His defense has been solid since he’s been in the league as he uses his speed and length to block shots and hassle ball handlers. There’s no doubt that RHJ can become a top wing player in the league on ce he develops a consistent jumper.
Along with Hollis-Jefferson, the next best young player on the squad is Caris LeVert. Caris, like Rondae, has missed his share of games early in his career. In his rookie season, he missed the first 25 games as he came back from surgery on his left foot. In the 57 games, he did play he performed pretty well for a rookie.
Although he did miss 11 games this season, you could tell he was more comfortable on the court. His scoring increased from 8.2 to 12.1 per game and his play on the defensive end improved as well. LeVert also seemed to have good chemistry with his teammates and his court vision was a nice surprise. He increased his assists by three and one would think that number will increase next season. LeVert’s length allows him to get to the basket as well as get his shot up over defenders. If his jump shot becomes more consistent, then he’ll be quite a scoring threat for the Nets.
Related Post: Los Angeles Lakers: 3 Questions After The 2017-18 Season
Jarrett Allen was arguably the most exciting of the young talent from last season. The 6’10 center was drafted with the 22nd pick out of Texas. He progressed slowly at first but soon started making waves around the league especially for his impressive dunks. His most well-known dunk came against the Bulls when he posterized fellow rookie and seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen.
Aside from throwing down vicious dunks, Allen also played very well on the defensive side of the ball. He led all rookies in blocks with just over one per game and a season total of 88 blocks. His chemistry with Caris LeVert on the pick & roll is also something fans should look forward to next season.
Allen needs to do two things this offseason. The first is put on weight. Allen is tall put very lanky so some added muscle will help him bang down in the paint. The second is improve his hands. There were countless times in games where he would fumble a pass. Once his catching gets better he’ll be able to finish around the rim easier.
The biggest surprise on the season for Nets fans and others around the league had to be the breakout of Joe Harris. The 6’6 combo guard out of Virginia was acquired by the Nets in the dismal year that was 2016 for the franchise. Harris played in 55 games and had pretty solid numbers coming off the bench.
However, he truly skyrocketed this past season. His stats were up in just about every statistical category. He shot almost 50% from the field, 41% from three-point range and just under 83% from the free throw line. Harris also had one of the best field goal percentages in the league on drives to the basket. What Harris did was provide a great spark off the bench for the Nets and was the three-point threat. He has garnered attention around the league but has expressed his interest in staying in Brooklyn.
Although the Nets still have ways to go before they become a serious contender, there is a hopeful buzz. Currently, the Nets have three picks in the upcoming draft with one in the first round and two in the second. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nets were active in moving up in the draft either.
Along with the players selected in the draft, the Nets should be active players in this upcoming free agent market. Brooklyn has become a place players have expressed interest in playing which should excite fans. It has completely shifted their culture. Players look more engaged and genuinely look like they’re having fun and actually trust in Atkinson.
The organization is gaining more respect around the league which should translate to more respect among the fans. Soon people won’t just be rocking Nets gear because it looks cool. They’ll be doing it because it’s a team worth representing.