Hardwood and Hollywood

2016-17 NBA Preview: Brooklyn Nets

Image courtesy of Maxim Pierre/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Maxim Pierre/Flickr.

NBA TEAM PREVIEWS
Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs
———

Presenting an NBA preview of the Brooklyn Nets that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.

The Brooklyn Nets are coming off a horrible 21-61 season, which is bad. What’s worse? They didn’t even own their own draft pick this past June because they traded its rights to the Boston Celtics in the (now we can say, dumpster fire) Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade (yeah, we don’t really count Jason Terry here) during the 2013 offseason. Both didn’t stick around for long to languish in the potential of an NBA title. In fact, they probably grew so wearisome that one had to retire this offseason with the other announcing that this will be his last season. Oh, poor Nets aura.

What’s Good… THERE’S A NEW AURA, Y’ALL! A NEW ENERGY! Yes, gone are the immediacies of a championship, the whimsy of decision to attain said championship, and most of all, Billy King and Lionel Hollins. With both, there always seemed to be a stubbornness and stoicism about them, as if they rested their derrieres on past success. “And that’s the way it is because that’s the way it was” seemed like a mantra that played over and over in their heads every day. But, this is supposed to be the positive segment of this NBA team preview. So… MARKINSON!

Markinson is the hybrid nickname of new Brooklyn Nets general manager, Sean Marks, and new Brooklyn Nets head coach, Kenny Atkinson. Both have a progressive style that focuses on quality – people, development, holistic care, and more importantly, the building of a franchise as a whole. Yes, it’s about the players, but it’s just as much about the support personnel around those players. It’s going to be about the process, and something that seemingly didn’t exist before with the organization, patience.

Sure, you can say that the Nets don’t really have a choice, but to be patient, but they’ve actually been proactive in progressing and taking shots their shots. For example, trading Thaddeus Young for the 20th overall pick (Caris LeVert) in the 2016 NBA Draft, and sending out qualifying offers to restricted free agents, Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, both of whom signed, but their respective teams deciding to re-sign them. There is a real shift in culture in Brooklyn, and there is a tangible optimism that the organization is changing for the better. It’s only going to take some time, and for once, it’s okay to expect that and wait. Because now, there’s an actual plan.

What’s Bad… Aside from Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin, the roster isn’t really filled with players that can make a consistent impact on the court. Oh, and if you doubt Lin still because of your Linsanity idealism, check his numbers as a starter last season. Honestly, the Nets’ future hopes fall on the shoulders of a lot of youngsters that have to show and prove on the regular.

Two of them, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough, probably just need to stay healthy, something they couldn’t do during their rookie seasons last year. Two rookies this year, LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead, have a lot of promise, even though they fell through the cracks of the draft for one reason or another. As we know all too well, promise doesn’t always equal production, and perhaps there is no one more emblematic of that than former first overall pick, Anthony Bennett, who gets a chance to just make the rotation for an NBA team. If he can play with a chip on his shoulder and even pseudo-breakout, the Nets will be better for it.

Atkinson will have a tough go of it all season, but the goal is to be competitive, not necessarily get the Ws; it’ll about constant improvement day-to-day. But, will that be any consolation for impatient fans? And, might we even add in, a historically impatient owner in Mikhail Prokhorov?

The X-Factor… Bojan Bogdanovic, easily. Bogdanovic was the 2016 Olympics top scorer, averaging 25.3 points per contest for Croatia in six games. He shot 50.6 percent from the field, draining three triples per game (shooting 45.0 percent), but more impressive, he went to the charity stripe 9.3 times per game, which really showed Bogdanovic’s aggressiveness. If he can translate that effervescence from the international court to the NBA court, it would be big-time for the Brooklyn Nets. Forming a trifecta of Lopez on the block, Lin penetrating to the rim, and Bogdanovic splashing from the perimeter could equal success quicker than most are predicting.

Bet On… Hollis-Jefferson becoming a general nightmare for most offensive players. RHJ’s calling card has always been about his defense thanks to his length and quickness. The NBA only got a small taste of it last season, but with a healthy and full campaign, RHJ should build his street cred around the league as a top-tier defender. Think, a less fiery and less enigmatic Ron Artest or whatever he’s calling himself now, when Artest first came into the A. That’s a hell of a compliment and realistic comparison for Hollis-Jefferson.

The Crystal Ball Reveals… Year One of the Markinson Era will be painful. Achieving last season’s mark of 21 wins is a strong possibility if team chemistry happens forms at a good pace during the season. Every game should be competitive if the Brooklyn Nets players buy into the defense that Atkinson has been selling. And if everything breaks just right for them, 30+ wins is on the menu. Man, that’s a lot of “ifs” from a crystal ball, huh? So, here’s a definitive… the Brooklyn Nets will progress, making a significant first step to where they want to go. It’ll be painful first step racked with tendinitis in the knee and a possible sprained ankle at the foot fall, but the key here… it’ll be a step forward.

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Dennis Velasco (AKA DV) has contributed a lot of content throughout the Internet over the past several years - SB Nation, ESPN/TrueHoop, SI, SLAM, Yahoo! Sports, BuzzFeed, and The New York Times Company among others. DV is the Publisher of Hardwood and Hollywood.

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