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2017-18 Season Preview Series | The Nets Have Direction
Notable Players Acquired: G Allen Crabbe (trade), F DeMarre Carroll (trade), Timofey Mozgov (trade), D’Angelo Russell (trade), Jarrett Allen (draft)
Notable Players Lost: Andrew Nicholson (trade), Justin Hamilton (trade), K.J. McDaniels (free agency), Brook Lopez (trade), Randy Foye (free agency)
The Nets finished 20-62 last season, last in the NBA. But for the Nets, it wasn’t about the final record. It was about the progression of young players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Isaiah Whitehead and Caris Levert. There’s not a huge chance those guys will be a big-time star, but players who can contribute to the NBA level are big to have for a team like Brooklyn in this rebuild. And credit the Nets for finding gems like Sean Kilpatrick (13.1 PPG in 2016-17) as well.
You can discuss the team's trade that set the franchise back with the Boston Celtics (because this hasn't been discussed 2,187 times), but this is a new regime and this group has done a great job of moving forward.
Coach Kenny Atkinson will have to work on the team’s defense next season (29 out of 30 teams), but the Nets finished 12th in points per game with 105.8. Without having a bona fide offensive player, that’s impressive. It looks like the Nets have themselves a coach to build around for the future. Not all teams can say that.
The Big Question
The Nets have won 41 games over the last two seasons, and for the first time since then, it looks like the team has a solid direction. Will they finish with more than 21 wins and improve on last season? I’m not sure, but by trading for D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe, there’s young talent to build around for the future. Brook Lopez was and is a solid player, but he didn’t quite match up with Brooklyn’s window.
The question for Brooklyn is if Russell, the third-year point guard, can become a star, or close to it. If so, that trade will be a huge win for the Nets for years to come.
The Nets don’t have their first-round pick (to Boston as part of Garnett, Pierce and Terry deal), but they do have Toronto’s for the DeMarre Carroll trade. That pick should be somewhere in the 20s. Brooklyn also has second-round picks from the Pacers and Lakers. Slow and steady, the Nets are putting talent on this roster. It just needs a star to build around. Can Russell turn into that player?
Kilpatrick played in four games for the Wolves back in 2014-15 on a 10-day contract. In those games, he averaged 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and one assist per game. Since, he’s turned into a solid player for the Nets. In the last two seasons over 93 games with Brooklyn, he’s averaged 13.3 points per game while shooting 34.6 percent from the 3-point line.
This might sound crazy, but don’t be shocked if the Nets start out hot and have people talking about the playoffs in Brooklyn for the first time since 2014-15. Does this have to do with the Nets or the conference? A little of both. Brooklyn loses Lopez and his witty offense, but with Russell and Crabbe, the backcourt should be greatly improved, especially with Jeremy Lin likely coming off the bench.
And then you look at the Eastern Conference. What teams got better? The Celtics? The 76ers? Is that it? You could make an argument that every other team got worse or stayed the same. I don’t think the Nets will make the playoffs in 2017-18, but this group isn’t as far away as they were a year ago.