In two-plus seasons under the leadership of Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson, the Brooklyn Nets have done the right things to recover (as best they can) from the 2013 trade that stripped them of draft picks. They've been patient, they've drafted well with selections in the 20s, and they've developed fringe roster guys into useful players. But the Nets are still a long way from even being as good as they were (a second-round playoff team) in that season after the 2013 trade, and they're still lacking a top-30 player to build around. The next year of the rebuild may be the most critical.
The contract of Timofey Mozgov was unloaded in a trade for the shorter contract of Dwight Howard, who was waived ... A pair of Europeans (Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs) were selected in the last Draft in which the Nets had to deal with the effects of the 2013 trade with Boston ... Joe Harris was re-signed to a two-year contract ... Jeremy Lin was traded to Atlanta ... Vets were added to the bench via trade (Jared Dudley and Kenneth Faried) and free agency (Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier), but 2019 cap space was preserved.
1. More activity needed. The Nets have the structure of a good defense. Only 57 percent of their opponents' shots, the lowest rate in the league, came from the restricted area or 3-point range last season. But within that structure, they weren't very disruptive, ranking last in opponent turnover rate and last in opponent field goal percentage on those shots they forced in between the restricted area and the 3-point line. To take a step forward defensively, they'll need to be more active.
2. Pace and space isn't enough. The Nets have done the right things offensively, as well, playing with pace and shooting from the most efficient spots on the floor. But they haven't shot particularly well on those shots, don't have a dynamic star to create enough quality looks for others, and have turnover issues on that end as well.
3. Upgrades on the bench. There's not a clear starter at point guard (Spencer Dinwiddie or D'Angelo Russell) or at the two (Allen Crabbe, Joe Harris or Caris LeVert), though the depth in the backcourt didn't necessarily help a bench that ranked 26th in aggregate NetRtg last season. The veteran additions in the frontcourt could be key.
MAN ON THE SPOT
D'Angelo Russell has the tools. He's a big guard with the potential to be triple-threat (shooting, driving and passing) off the dribble. But three years after being selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, Russell still has a lot to prove. He's had issues with consistency, decision-making and defense, and the Nets were a better team with him off the floor last season. In the final year of his rookie contract and with no certainty that he's the team's point guard of the future, it's a huge season for Russell.
D'Angelo Russell | 15.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 5.2 apg
Improved his shot selection (cutting down on mid-range attempts) and assist-turnover ratio after the All-Star break last season.
Allen Crabbe | 13.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 apg
He's a 40 percent 3-point shooter over the last three seasons, but doesn't offer enough otherwise.
DeMarre Carroll | 13.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.0 apg
Had a comeback season, scoring a career-high 13.5 points per game, after struggling through injuries in Toronto.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | 13.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.5 apg
Solid defender and has developed a decent mid-range jumper, but that's not enough offensively.
Jarrett Allen | 8.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Could be the starting center in Brooklyn, as well as an impact player on defense, for a long time.
Ed Davis | 5.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.7 bpg
Was the league's most prolific rebounder off the bench last season.
Spencer Dinwiddie | 12.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 6.6 apg
The finalist for the Kia Most Improved Player Award ranked second in the league with an assist-turnover ratio of 4.09.
Joe Harris | 10.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 apg
Didn't just shoot 42 percent from 3-point range. He was also was one of the best finishers at the rim among guards.
Caris LeVert | 12.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.2 apg
Boasts an expansive skill set, but consistency has been an issue.
The Nets should take another step forward in their third season under Atkinson, but reaching the playoffs would require leap-frogging a couple of teams in the Charlotte-Detroit-Miami mix. It's tough to see that happening unless more than one of their young players sees major development. A 36-46 mark would be a sign of further progress, though not ideal in regard to the Nets having their own Draft pick for the first time in six years.