As another NBA chapter nears, it’s time for our season previews. What can we expect from the Nets this season?
Expected Conference Ranking: 10th
Best Move of the Offseason: People thought Chauncey Billups was a bust after two years. I could make a whole team of players who were drafted in the lottery, didn’t show much in their first two seasons and eventually became stars. Tracy McGrady. Mike Conley. Gordon Hayward. James Harden. Emeka Okafor won Rookie of the Year over Dwight Howard.
You shouldn’t be able to pluck players talented enough to be drafted No. 2 overall off of teams in exchange for salary cap relief. D’Angelo Russell might turn out to be a bust. But he might turn out to be James Harden. That is a bet every team in the NBA should try to make the moment it is offered. The Nets were the team to make it.
Worst Move of the Offseason: So a Portland team that just entered a draft with three first round picks (even if they only made two of them) wasn’t prepared to give up anything of value to move Allen Crabbe’s contract? Seriously? Due to luxury tax concerns, moving Crabbe in the deal that they made saved the Blazers $44 million this season. The Nets could’ve held out for a pick.
Their Offense: Is surprisingly promising? Think of the conditions Russell spent his first two seasons under. His rookie year was essentially Barnum and Bailey’s Kobe Bryant Retirement Circus. Byron Scott ridiculed him in public. He made a stupid mistake on social media, and lost the confidence of everyone around him because of it. And then he played his second season with all of that on his back, plus the team’s desire to draft Lonzo Ball. It doesn’t help that he was on Nick Young’s team. Or Lou Williams’ team. Or Jordan Clarkson’s team.
Now, he has the Nets all to himself. Crabbe doesn’t dribble, he catches and shoots. Same with DeMarre Carroll. Jeremy Lin can offer secondary playmaking when necessary. Or, he could be trade bait if the pair can’t play together. Timofey Mozgov isn’t good for much anymore, but he can still roll to the basket credibly.
And Kenny Atkinson is one of the most progressive coaches in basketball. The Nets will space the floor well by taking a ton of three-pointers, and they’ll find interesting uses for all of their players on offense. This whole organization is currently tailored towards making Russell a star. I’m somewhat bullish on their ability to do so.
Their Defense: Is why they won’t seriously contend for a playoff spot. Their best defensive player might be Carroll, and the words a�?besta�? and a�?defensivea�? haven’t been used near the word a�?Carrolla�? since 2015. Russell and Crabbe are defensive disasters. Playing defense with Mozgov is about as close to playing 3-on-5 as it gets. Yes, 3-on-5. We’re well past 4-on-5 where Mozgov is concerned.
Their Bench: Every player on this bench is interesting in some way, shape or form. That’s how a bad team should build their bench. The players are either undervalued youngsters, or specialists, or have something to offer beyond being a warm body.
Watch out for Sean Kilpatrick in particular. He’s about as streaky as it gets, but when he’s on, he’s got some J.R. Smith in him. He’s too small to ever be more than a rotation player considering his defense, but he’ll stick in the NBA and make a big play for someone at some point.
Best Case Scenario: A decent year continues to show free agents that this organization is competent. Russell becomes a star that people want to play with. They hand the Celtics a pick in the late lottery.
Worst Case Scenario: They hand the Celtics the No. 1 pick. Again. Not only does that look bad, but it means Russell didn’t turn out to be the player that they’d hoped.