2018-19 Season Preview: Can The Rebuilding Nets Turn Things Around?
by 1 November 2018, 1:40 PM
The Brooklyn Nets have been one of the worst NBA teams in recent years. Will they reverse this trend in 2018?
With a depleted roster, it’s no surprise that the Brooklyn Nets have been bottom-feeders in the Eastern Conference for a few years now. However, the team has now identified some key prospects that they feel they can shape their future around. Is it time for the Nets to show some fight?
2017-18 Season Recap
Ever since that disastrous trade with the Boston Celtics in 2014, the Brooklyn Nets have been trying to scrape out the most from their roster. Last year, it created something to look forward to. While the team only had 28 wins and the third-worst defense in the NBA, it also had seven double-digit scorers, excluding players who only played a fraction of the season for the team. Also, the Nets had the sixth-fastest paced offense in the league last year, showing they can keep defenses on their toes in transition.
Two of the most important contributors for the Nets last year were point guards D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie. The former, whom the team traded for during the offseason, played well when he was healthy, although he missed almost half the year. Dinwiddie, meanwhile, significantly elevated his game last year, as he averaged double-digit scoring and doubled his assist per game average from the year before en route to a Most Improved Player nomination. However, the one thing that plagued these two proficient playmakers last year was inefficient shooting, as neither of them shot more than 42% overall.
Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also contributed to the Nets’ limited success last year. Both of them proved to be extremely versatile playmakers—especially LeVert, who averaged four assists per game as a forward. Hollis-Jefferson served as an exceptional defender for Brooklyn, as he forced opposing players to make five percent fewer three-pointers and eight percent fewer shots from six feet or less when he guarded them. The two were also solid scoring options, each averaging over 12 points per game on the year.
The team decided not to spend much this past summer in hopes of signing Jimmy Butler or another max-level player in 2019. However, they did acquire two solid role players in forwards Jared Dudley and Kenneth Faried. Faried, the former Nuggets big man, will provide tremendous rebounding ability that is lacking on a roster without departed center Brook Lopez. Dudley should give the team a scoring wing with a veteran presence to help LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson improve their offensive skill sets.
2018-19 Season Preview
Despite coming off a 28-win season, the Nets have a lot of young prospects that should contribute to their rotation in a positive manner. One of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) pieces on the roster to look out for is second-year center Jarrett Allen. The former late first-round pick was a steal for the Nets, as he had a near-60% effective field goal percentage in 2017, along with averaging over a block per game in limited minutes. Look for Allen, who is also developing a three-point shot, to be in the discussion for best up-and-coming centers in the league fairly soon.
Besides Allen’s unquestioned presence as the team’s starting center, the team has some rotation problems to solve in 2018. First, they have an abundance of guards to distribute minutes to with (a healthy) Russell, Dinwiddie, Alan Crabbe, and sharpshooter Joe Harris. The presence of Crabbe and Harris makes it difficult to play Dinwiddie and Russell together, unless Crabbe and either Hollis-Jefferson or LeVert occupy the forward spots in a small-ball lineup. Distributing minutes between Russell and Dinwiddie at the point will also be a challenge because of both of their clear talents to hold a starting position.
Further, the team has to establish a balanced forward rotation with versatile contributors Demarre Carroll, Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert all commanding significant minutes at virtually the same position. As stated earlier, the team could employ small-ball lineups with any of the three playing power forward, but this would match them up against bigger and stronger players in the post, which could pose problems on the defensive end. The easiest way to solve this issue would be to primarily play Carroll or Hollis-Jefferson at the four, as they are some of the strongest and most switchable defenders on the roster.
While the Nets have had to endure the grueling process of finding young talent without high draft picks, they have still found potential pieces to build around moving forward. And even though the Eastern Conference has some solid squads across each division, it wouldn’t be completely out of the question for the Nets to be a playoff team if their talented prospects show some growth next year, especially LeVert and Allen. Look for the Nets to improve as a unit in the upcoming season, and possibly shake the projected playoff standings up a little bit.
Edited by Emily Berman.
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