“SOS: Save Our Season!” Brooklyn Nets fans have to be saying to themselves.
Winter is coming for the Nets who had one of the most hyped summers in the NBA this past year. The moves they made in the 2013 offseason led many to predict them as one of the teams in the Eastern Conference that could contend with the Miami Heat for the chance to play in the NBA Finals. The Nets, however, sputtered to a 4-14 start that put into question their decisions to go all-in this past summer.
They traded three first round picks and several players to the Boston Celtics for Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Mix in the draft picks they traded to the Atlanta Hawks for swingman Joe Johnson during the previous offseason and it means the Nets will have one draft pick in the next three years. That is very scary for a team that currently sits at 14-21 and in a hot race for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. So the question remains, can they turn it around?
If I were to say “kinda” would that qualify as an answer or an easy way out of a box?
I think the Nets are a woefully flawed team. They are centered around Deron Williams who has had exactly 60 games of elite point guard play (basically the second half of last season) since being traded to Brooklyn. He has admittedly been playing better as of late, but he has many concerning stats this late into the season that suggest an obvious regression in talent.
Williams only gets to the line three times a game these days, which is less than half of what he was doing when he was in his “is he better than Chris Paul” days. Additionally, D-Will has become one of the single worst defensive point guards in the NBA with a Defensive Efficiency Rating of 111 and his Defensive RAPM (Rate Adjusted Plus/Minus) is -2.79, which is one of the worst in the league out of players who play more than 30 minutes per game. Williams is still effective, but he is no longer good enough to be considered a franchise player or superstar. The Nets are paying him to be the best point guard in the NBA, and quite frankly he isn’t in my top 10.
Along with Williams, both Garnett and Pierce are playing some of the worst basketball of their careers. They were brought in to ease the scoring load off of D-Will and Johnson, but it’s obvious, especially with Pierce that the pieces don’t fit quite as good on the court as they do on NBA 2K.
To make matters worse, the Nets’ best player (that was not a typo), Brook Lopez, has been hurt and will be out for the entire season. Lopez, in my opinion, has turned into perhaps the best scoring center in the NBA and had been the only thing holding the Nets together while Williams was going through his early season struggles. Had the Nets been able to pair a healthy Lopez with a rejuvenated Deron Williams, I think their chances of returning to contender status would have been significantly increased. Losing Lopez just makes the mountain that much higher to climb.
The good news for the Nets is that the Eastern Conference is truly dreadful. At seven games under .500 the Nets currently sit in the driver’s seat for the eighth spot in the East’s playoff picture. I think it is more likely that a team like the Charlotte Bobcats or the Chicago Bulls fade than the Nets do, so while I don’t love the team, I think they have a very legitimate chance of being in the postseason mix.
The Nets will not win the NBA title this year and they will not win the Eastern Conference. I hope I’m not surprising anyone by making those kind of statements, but that is the reality the Nets are in at the moment. I do expect them to make the playoffs and possibly get a reasonably high seed like the 5/6 seed. So “will they turn it around?” I guess the answer is “kinda.” It depends what your goals are as a franchise.
The Nets as an organization have much bigger problems than the fate of this lone season. They might make the playoffs, and sure it’s possible they win a playoff series if they get a favorable match-up, but all that glitters is not gold. As a result of the Johnson, Garnett/Pierce and even the D-Will and Gerald Wallace trades, there is a realistic scenario where any Nets rebuild will take longer than any Nets fan would like. I don’t care who your owner is and what market you play in, that is not how you build a basketball team. I admit the NBA Draft might be overrated, but getting young productive players on the cheap is one of the most essential aspects of winning a championship and it’s been completely overlooked in Brooklyn.
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