The NBA season will be here before you know it and FanSided is here to get you ready. In the lead up to Opening Night, we’ll be previewing two teams each day, reviewing roster changes, discussing important players and challenges, and hearing the perspective of our FanSided site experts. Let’s get ready for basketball!
Inputs: Caris LeVert (SG, NBA Draft pick No. 20); Isaiah Whitehead (SG, NBA Draft pick No. 42); Jeremy Lin (PG, signed for three years, $36 million); Trevor Booker (PF, signed for two years, $18.5 million); Justin Hamilton (C, signed for two years, $6 million); Greivis Vasquez (PG, signed for one year, $4 million); Luis Scola (PF, signed for one year, $5.5 million); Anthony Bennett (PF, signed for two years, $2 million); Randy Foye (SG, signed for one year, $2.5 million); Joe Harris (SG, signed for two years, partially guaranteed); Yogi Ferrell (PG, signed for one year, partially guaranteed); Beau Beech (SG, signed for one year, partially guaranteed); Egidijus Mockevicius (C, signed for one year, partially guaranteed)
Outputs: Thad Young (PF, traded to the Indiana Pacers); Henry Sims (C, unsigned), Thomas Robinson (PF, unsigned); Willie Reed (PF, signed with the Miami Heat); Shane Larkin (PG, unsigned); Sergey Karasev (SG, unsigned); Wayne Ellington (SG, signed with the Miami Heat); Jarrett Jack (PG, signed with the Atlanta Hawks); Donald Sloan (PG, signed overseas); Markel Brown (SG, unsigned)
Most important addition
Signing in Brooklyn may have seemed like a strange move for a player of Jeremy Lin’s stature. The Nets are a team in rebuilding mode, beginning a process that, even optimistically, should last years. Lin had a very strong season last year, backing up and playing alongside Kemba Walker for the Charlotte Hornets. He almost certainly could have found a contract of similar size from a team that offered him more opportunities to win basketball games. Whatever combination of factors it was that led him to sign in Brooklyn, the Nets should be incredibly grateful.
Lin makes the Nets marginally better. Marginally, because the menagerie of maybes and cast-offs around him aren’t necessarily going to draw out the best of his game. The Nets aren’t chasing wins this year though, player development is the goal and Lin should be a huge asset on that front. Brooklyn needs to start growing something productive out of their young pieces and having a functional point guard, someone with experience who can score, run the offense, deliver the ball, and help keep everyone in the proper positions is hugely helpful.
Brook Lopez serves a similar purpose but it is Lin who will have the ball in his hands and be directing the show. Young players need confidence and the responsibilities Lin will shoulder will keep undue pressure off rookies like Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead. Lin’s ability to break down the defense will create open looks (and reps) for Anthony Bennett, Chris McCullough, and Sean Kilpatrick. For Brooklyn, this season is about building an identity and good habits. Lin can be a barrier against all the on-court chaos that can subvert those processes.
You know that standard job interview question about your biggest weakness? You know how everyone’s advice is always to try and flip the question on its head, use a weakness to highlight a strength? I work too hard. I care too much. I’m too focused on the details. It’s a pretty transparent ploy but in the case of the Nets, it’s true.
The biggest weakness of the Nets is that they’re caught in no-man’s land. They don’t have the talent to realistically compete for a playoff spot. Since the Boston Celtics own the right to swap picks with Brooklyn in next year’s draft, there isn’t much incentive for them to bottom out either. To take the nihilist view, it doesn’t really matter what the Nets do this year, they’re just killing time. And that, my dear friends, is their biggest strength.
This season can be all about experimentation — broad styles or play, nitty-gritty details about sets and execution, lineups, rotations, personnel moves. If there are no incentives for the Nets on either end of the spectrum, then there are no penalties either. If they miraculously stumble into some workable formula that puts them on the outer edges of the playoff race, they can push as hard as they want. If a deal emerges for Lopez or Lin, they can immediately cash out. They can try anything. They can be anything. If it doesn’t work, no harm done. That’s a kind of freedom that not many teams have.
What does success look like?
The Brooklyn Nets are once again undergoing a rebuild, which fans have been no stranger to in the past decade. Luckily, this rebuild appears to be more promising. Brooklyn has a new general manager and head coach in place, and both have the proper experience the franchise desperately needs. The Nets also spent the offseason changing much of their roster, which at least looks better on paper than last year’s.
Though Brooklyn will not be contending for the playoffs for a few years, their team is not as bad as the media makes them out to be, and that isn’t to say that the Nets will tank this season. General manager Sean Marks has already established that the Nets’ success won’t be determined by wins, but rather, progress.
One way to measure this progress is to track the development of Brooklyn’s young guns. Fans should look out for rookies Isaiah Whitehead and Caris LeVert. The return of Sean Kilpatrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Chris McCullough also add intrigue to this young Nets squad.
I don’t expect the Nets to make it that far this season, but they should be able to win over 20 games, contrary to popular belief. I’ll be even more delighted if they break the 30-win mark. We’ll definitely see improvement in Brooklyn this year, and at the very least, the team will be fun to watch.