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2017-18 Season Preview: The Brooklyn Nets

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are a basketball team that will be playing this season.

The Brooklyn Nets are a basketball team that will be playing this season. 

As far as hooks go, perhaps that best encapsulates the energy, excitement, and expectations surrounding the Nets this year — as in, close to null. While Brooklyn fans have endured three consecutive losing seasons thus far, they prepare for yet another as they continue to suffer the repercussions of the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever.  

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This, of course, refers to Mikhail Prokhorov’s blockbuster deal with the Celtics in the summer of 2013. In return for 35-year-old Jason Terry, 35-year-old Paul Pierce, 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, and two 2017 draft picks, Prokhorov sent Boston a package of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, and Kris Joseph. Oh, yeah—and the Nets’ 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018 first round picks. 

Despite scrapping their way to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Nets’ 2013-14 regular season record was actually a five-game regression from the previous year. Terry was flipped for Marcus Thornton at the deadline, Pierce jumped ship for Washington that summer, and Garnett was traded for Thaddeus Young after just 96 games as a Net. At the end of the day, Brooklyn had sacrificed a decade of relevance for a single 44-win season. 

Without a lottery draft pick until at least 2019, tanking is unfortunately not an option for the Nets. Instead, they will continue to try their best this season, aiming to win a few more games and sell a few more tickets as they await their chance to rebuild.

Bailing Out The Competition… For A Fee

Unlike many despairing Nets fans, GM Sean Marks has shown he is far from content to idly wait out these gloomy years. In fact, he was among the most active executives this summer, craftily pulling strings by advertising his team’s unique situation among the NBA: a bleak short-term future combined with coveted cap space. Starting at roughly $25M under the limit, Marks succeeded in turning the 2017-18 Nets into a graveyard for the league’s most atrocious contracts in return for young and future assets.

The Nets made their first splash on Draft day, trading franchise favorite Brook Lopez along with the 27th pick to the Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. With only one season left under contract, the Nets avoided losing Lopez for nothing next summer and instead came up with a solid return. Russell averaged 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.4 steals last year, though he’s been harshly scrutinized by advanced metrics and questions of maturity since his 2015 debut. However, at just 21 years old, the former No. 2 pick could reset and flourish into a young starting block for Brooklyn’s eventual rebuild. In addition, the Nets received a big body and an even bigger contract with the 7’1” Mozgov, whose 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds come with a price tag of $48M over three years.

Soon after, the Nets turned backup center Justin Hamilton into Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll, who delivered a lackluster 2016-17 campaign upon his return from knee surgery. Despite 72 starting appearances, Carroll averaged just 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.1 steals across the season. In exchange for taking on his ridiculous two-year, $30.2M contract, the Nets received not only a serviceable veteran, but also both of Toronto’s 2018 draft picks. Hamilton was meanwhile waived via the stretch provision. 

Lastly, the Nets added Portland swingman Allen Crabbe, who recently averaged 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists behind C.J. McCollum. Brooklyn had been eyeing Crabbe for some time, having offered him a hefty four-year, $75M deal as a restricted free agent last summer. Though Portland matched the proposal, a case of buyer’s remorse soon granted Marks a second chance in return for Andrew Nicholson, whose remaining $19.9M contract was promptly waived by the Blazers via the stretch provision. While Crabbe’s production disappointed last year, the Nets hope he can justify his worth as the team’s highest-paid player this season.

These new additions will give coach Kenny Atkinson a variety of options to mix-and-match into his starting lineup along with Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Sean Kilpatrick and Spencer Dinwiddie will once again lead the second unit, while former Celtic Tyler Zeller looks to fill the hole at center after signing for the $1.7M minimum earlier this month.

Finding A Purpose

While the 2017-18 season may be of little consequence to the Nets’ long-term future, the team nevertheless welcomes the opportunity for self-improvement. For guard Joe Harris, that means developing his three-point shot. “If you look at all the top shooters in the NBA… they’re always 40 percent and above. So that’s a personal goal for me to get into that elite 3-point shooting percentage,” he told reporters at training camp. Harris finished at the 38.5% mark last year, though the Nets overall shot just 33.8% from deep (26th) on 31.6 attempts per contest (4th).

Harris could learn a thing or two from teammates like Crabbe, who finished second in 3P% behind Kyle Korver last season. Nevertheless, he could see much of his court time relegated to the practice gym. Brooklyn’s roster is currently plagued by a surplus of guards, featuring up to eight candidates at the wing despite letting Randy Foye walk in free agency. Young players like Harris, Caris LeVert, and Isaiah Whitehead must all vie for spots among the rotation, though the internal competition will surely aid their growth. “People are going to be real locked in and focused,” says Harris. “You’re going to see an increase in guys’ productivity just because it’s the whole ‘iron sharpening iron’ thing.” 

The Verdict

Vegas odds predict a 28.5-win season for the Brooklyn Nets this year—a fair jump from last year’s 20-62 record. In an over/under bet, one might optimistically estimate a ceiling of up to 38 wins if the squad manages to avoid injury, foster their talent, and exploit the historically weak Eastern Conference. However, the “under” bet is far more probable, expected to sit around 24 to 26 total wins. 

With only 632,608 spectators in attendance last season—28th in the NBA—fans may once again be wise to avoid Barclays Center this year. While a slight improvement will be evident on the court, the greatest accomplishment of the Net’s 2017-18 season will inevitably be its conclusion, drawing the franchise one year closer to those far-off years of relevance.

All statistics courtesy of

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

Which of these players was NOT drafted with a pick acquired from the Nets' 2013 trade for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry?
Created 9/30/17
  1. James Young
  2. Terry Rozier
  3. Jaylen Brown
  4. Markelle Fultz

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