Small Ball 2016-17 Season Previews: Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets
21-61

Additions: Trevor Booker, Randy Foye, Justin Hamilton, Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Anthony Bennett, Yogi Ferrell
Departures: Wayne Ellington, Willie Reed, Thaddeus Young, Jarrett Jack, Andrea Bargnani, Caris LeVert

Many Nets fans probably tuned out for the year in about November last year. Brooklyn even ended it’s season on a 10-game losing streak for the loyal Nets fans that stuck it out. It was an abysmal year overall for the Nets and head coaches Lionel Hollins/Tony Brown.

Kenny Atkinson has his work cut out for him with this essentially star-less team revolving around All-Star Brook Lopez. However, the Nets made a ton of moves so far this offseason and are shaping up to be a far less pathetic team then they were last year. On top of that, on draft night they made a trade with the Utah Jazz to draft guard Isiah Whitehead out of Seton Hall. He’s a 6’5, 210 pound defensive animal who plays on the ball and will give guards in the league like Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose some frustrating nights. He’s also a very good scorer who averaged 21.9 points per 40 minutes in his Sophomore year while shooting 52%. He’s most certainly not the next Russell Westbrook or Steph Curry, but he could be the start to a hopeful future for the Nets.

Returning Players: Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Sean Kilpatrick, Brook Lopez, Chris McCullough, Henry Sims, Markel Brown, Shane Larkin, Sergey Karasev, Thomas Robinson, Donald Sloan

This Nets team will have a completely different look this year. General Manager Sean Marks still has a long way to go, as he likely has the worst looking roster in the NBA. If the Nets have another miserable year, it will only be made worse as a result of the 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics in which they sent 3 first round draft picks to Boston. Even after all the signings and the trades they just made, the Nets still just have a bunch of average players filling up their 2016-17 roster. They did make some good additions in guys like Luis Scola (1 year deal, TBD), Trevor Booker (2 years, $18 million) and Randy Foye (TBD). But Scola is 36 and getting older, Trevor Booker is a barely above-average player, and Randy Foye is a bench player on any other team.

Lets see how they compare…

G– Like I said earlier, it’s never easy matching up a guy like Rondae-Hollis Jefferson against other Atlantic Division guards like Lowry, Thomas or Rose. The Nets only acquisition through the draft was Isiah Whitehead, who I touched upon earlier. He was drafted to give guys like these–scoring guards–tough nights every time they play Brooklyn. Unfortunately, they just have no one at the guard position that can really compete with the other star guards in the league.

Adding Randy Foye and Jeremy Lin will provide some much-needed veteran guard play to accompany Hollis-Jefferson and Whitehead. Guys like Sean Kilpatrick, Greivis Vasquez, Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan also add depth to the guard play. Hollis-Jefferson only averaged 5.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game last year, so the Nets need Lin’s 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists to help on the offensive side.

F– The one bright spot for the Nets this offseason; the Forward position. They went out and got Trevor Booker, Luis Scola, and former #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett to replace star big man Thaddeus Young. Replacing Young’s 15.1 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game with Booker’s 5.9/5.7/1.1 and Scola’s 8.7/4.7/0.9 will call for a big season out of the ex-Jazz bench player and the aging ex-Raptor.

If Foye and Lin are in the game, the Nets could go small with Hollis-Jefferson at the 3, but he has a hard enough time guarding guys like DeRozen and Bradley–nevermind having him try to play a Melo or Crowder type. The Nets hope Scola can be one of those Atlantic Division grinders who works hard on the boards and on the offensive side of the ball, much the way that Thad Young did for them last year.

It will be interesting to see how Booker plays because he has a lot of talent, even though he was behind the likes of guys like Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward in Utah. His stats weren’t the greatest last year (5.9 points, 5.7 rebounds 1.1 assists) because of limited time and Rudy Gobert being so good at the center spot. That, along with two stars in Favors and Hayward at forward, and Booker wasn’t left with much to work with. Guys like Chris McCullough, Thomas Robinson and Sergey Karasev will add the depth at the forward spots, and will all be locals in the city I like to call Struggle Town, USA this year.

C-Brook Lopez can give a little rest to the anger and anxiety most Brooklyn Nets fans have been experiencing over the last few years. He holds down the center position night-in and night-out, averaging 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last year. He’s a huge body at 7’0, 265 pounds, and can get physical down low against other centers in the division like Valanciunas or Okafor. Lopez is just a freak on the boards, and down low offensively Lopez makes people forget that his twin brother ex-Knick Robin Lopez even exists.

Besides Brook Lopez; the Nets gave Justin Hamilton a contract worth 2 years, $6 million. Hamilton will be the guy leaned on to give Lopez a rest and some quality minutes, unless Scola/Booker can move and prove they can play the 5. As good as Lopez is, he can’t be playing 42 plus minutes per night, running up and down the floor and trying to guard at an elite level like he would have to. It will be up to guys like Hamilton, Scola and especially Trevor Booker and his 6’9, 240 pound frame, to try and back up Lopez when he needs rest or is having an off night.

Overall

The Nets will absolutely struggle this year. There’s no question about that. Actually, there’s a good chance the Nets are the worst team in the NBA this year. The Nets saw what the Celtics did in 2008 by assembling Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo to win a Championship, and in response they traded their future to get the aging Pierce and KG to use with Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. This turned out to be the worst thing that has ever happened to the Brooklyn Nets, because not only did they not get their Championship like the Celtics did; they also gave the Celtics basically all their future picks and it’s been really killing them.

Even if they have another one of those awful seasons, there is no light at the end of the tunnel such as a lottery pick, because the Celtics have the rights to pick swap with the Nets in 2017. It’s too bad for the Nets franchise, as next years draft is supposed to have 4-5 franchise-level players. For now, they will still have to wait and struggle for the next few years as they wait for 2019 when they will have their own first round pick to utilize.

Prediction: 19-63

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