The Brooklyn Nets were flat out bad once again last season as they finished with a 20-62 record, the worst in the league. They won the draft lottery, but the pick only went to the Boston Celtics as part of the infamous Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade which was a big reason for the franchise’s current struggles.
However, the Nets made some proactive moves this offseason and acquired some assets who figure to help them this season.
Arrivals: D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Jarrett Allen, DeMarre Carroll, Timofey Mozgov
Departures: Brook Lopez, Randy Foye, Archie Goodwin, Justin Hamilton, KJ McDaniels, Andrew Nicholson
After two horrific years in which they were one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets have pushed their chips on the table in an effort to return to respectability. They used the massive amounts of cap space they had this offseason in three separate trades.
Their first trade was undoubtedly the most notable, as they picked up former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov’s disastrous contract from the Los Angeles Lakers, with Brook Lopez going the other way. With Russell, the Nets now have a promising young piece they can build around.
Their second and third trades were less inspiring, though. In exchange for Justin Hamilton, Andrew Nicholson, and their cap space, they picked up the Toronto Raptors’ 2018 first and second-round picks, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe, whom they signed to an offer sheet last summer.
It’s probably fair to be a bit skeptical of the haul the Nets ultimately got for all their cap space. While Russell has a lot of upside, he’s not a sure-fire star. They’re also unlikely to get that star from the Raptors’ first-rounder, which likely ends up in the 20s. Meanwhile, Crabbe has been pretty mediocre over the course of his career.
This is the team the Nets have built, though, and they figure to be somewhat better compared to last year.
It’s tough to find too many strengths on a team that had the worst record in the league last season. But to the Nets’ credit, they now have two bona fide starting-caliber NBA guards along their backcourt in Russell and Jeremy Lin.
Lin missed most of last season with hamstring problems, and his side missed him dearly. The Nets were clearly at their most competent when he was on the court. Both he and Russell can handle the ball and playmake for others, and are capable of scoring themselves. They are also versatile enough to play alongside one another in certain situations.
The Nets also have some young and athletic wings in Crabbe and Caris LeVert, who showed flashes of being a solid NBA player, to help play head coach Kenny Atkinson’s fast-paced offense.
The worst team in the league just lost their best player in Lopez, which is a big deal. Lopez was the team’s most consistent scorer and his transformation into a capable three-point shooter last season really helped the Nets with their spacing.
But with Lopez gone, the Nets are stuck with Timofey Mozgov, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Trevor Booker along the frontcourt. None of those four are starter caliber nor can they shoot a lick.Meanwhile, defense will continue to be a problem. Mozgov can still defend the post fairly well, but he’s pretty immobile and will get burned on switches. Allen has the athleticism to handle those switches much better, but he’s still very raw and likely won’t be good on D this soon.
And on the perimeter, Brooklyn added two subpar defenders in Russell and Crabbe, who will now play big minutes for this team. To be fair to them, though, they likely won’t be much worse than who the Nets were throwing out there last season when they finished 23rd in defensive efficiency.
Player to Watch – D’Angelo Russell
Russell’s time in Los Angeles was a rocky one, to say the least. From the pressure of playing for the Lakers to questions about his attitude, his inconsistent play during his first two years, the unfortunate video saga involving Nick Young, and the nagging knee injuries, Russell seemed like he needed a fresh start.
He has exactly that with his trade to the Nets, where he will now be the centerpiece the franchise hopes to build around for the future. But aside from being more consistent with his game, he also needs to show more maturity in his third year. It’ll definitely be interesting to watch whether DLo can finally start to tap into his true potential in his first year in Brooklyn.
With a healthier year from Lin and more firepower from Russell and Crabbe, the Nets do indeed take a sizable step up. However, their awful big man rotation will keep them in contention for a high lottery pick. They finish the season third worst in the East at 28-54, a nice eight-win improvement from last year.
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