1. Who is the most intriguing player on the Nets roster this season?
Net Income: Been saying it on the board. The most important, most intriguing "player" on the Nets is Lionel Hollins. This is his team. Three of the free agents the team signed played for him at Memphis --Dahntay Jones, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed. Seven Nets are returning and know him. The the team's two picks play defense. He is cantankerous, idiosyncratic compared to other coaches, but he got more from Brook Lopez than any of his previous six coaches. For good or bad, he's the guy. If forced to pick an actual player, I'd go with Andrea Bargnani. Most intriguing, not best or most improved. What can they get out of him? How much will he play and where? He's the new Blatche ... except he's mature.
Tom Lorenzo: I think Bojan Bogdanovic is. We know that Brook Lopez is a superstar, we know that Joe Johnson is a former All-Star and know that Thaddeus Young is going to be among the leaders on this team. Bogdanovic, however, has all the makings of being a very good NBA player, we just need to see if he find some consistency on the court. Right now, we're not seeing it, but this team is going to be well into the Lottery if they can't find a way to get Bogdanovic going and have his stretch offense help the bigs in spreading the defense. A lot of their success is going to fall on Bogdanovic's shoulders, which intrigues me.
Reed Wallach: There are a ton on this Brooklyn team, more so than other years, but I'd have to say Bojan Bogdanovic. It's year two for Bogie and after showing flashes of potential throughout his rookie campaign, Bogdanovic needs to prove he can be a lethal threat on the wing if the Nets want to make him part of their future (all signs point to that). With a roster that lacks many big-time shooters, I expect Bogdanovic to be an integral part of the offense. Hollins should let him loose with baseline screens and pin downs because this is the year the Croatian proves if he's a key cog in the next phase of Nets basketball. I expect a big jump from Bogdanovic this season, especially with Brook Lopez bound to get a lion's share of the attention this season.
Anthony Puccio: Brook Lopez is the most talented, but the most intriguing to me is Thaddeus Young. Thad got his big payday and now he's in the spotlight in a big market. You pretty much know what you're going to get from him night in and night out (something like 14 & 6), but can he take his game to a new level this season?
Brian Fleurantin: My pick for most intriguing player is Jarrett Jack. He's got flaws in his game and has to find a way to keep his teammates involved in the offense. I think we can expect a great season out of Lopez, so it'll be up to Jack to make sure he gets the ball as much as possible.
Thomas Duffy: I like Shane Larkin a lot. He didn’t fit in with the Knicks last year, but he’s quick as a jackrabbit and should emerge as a solid pick-and-roll threat, especially with Lopez as the roller.
Side note: Keep an eye on Lopez’s three-point shooting. It’s weird and unfriendly to the eye, but that’ll be super-valuable if he can knock those down.
Daniel LoGuidice: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He's athletic, he can play defense, but who knows how he'll perform on the offensive end. Apparently he's been working on a midrange game, but it's yet to be seen how it will translate. Still, with his youth, athleticism, and apparent good sense of humor, he'll be one of the few exciting players to watch in Brooklyn this year.
2. What is the team’s biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
NI: The biggest strength would appear to be the starting unit, with a number of players who if not all-stars or in their prime are solid NBA players. Lopez and Young are an interesting unit. Lopez never rebounded as well as he did with Young and Young never shot as well as he did with Lopez. I have high hopes for Bogdanovic. The biggest weakness is, conversely, the bench and I mean from sixth man down. Everyone has questions. So many of them can't hold a job or the interest of their coaches. Ellington - six teams in six years; Robinson - five teams in four years; Larkin - three teams in three years; Reed playing for two NBA teams without getting on the court. And on and on it goes. Then, there's Bargnani's health, Brown's health, McCullough's health. Can Karasev become an NBA rotation player? Can Rondae Hollis-Jefferson contribute on offense?
TL: Biggest strength has to be at the center position. I can't necessarily say "bigs," only that i can say their center is their biggest strength. Their biggest weakness is at the point guard position...and some depth issues...and defense...and maybe a few other things.
RW: After seeing last season's roster, it's crazy that I'm going to say youth and athleticism but here we are. The Nets have a ton of youngsters and athleticism now and it is both their biggest strength and weakness. Brooklyn will be playing a different brand of basketball in 2015—pushing the ball more and getting a lot more movement on the offensive end, but it will also be a more undisciplined style and the Nets perimeter shooting will struggle. Led by Jarrett Jack at the point, I expect the Nets offense to be stagnant often with a lot of aimless dribbling by Jack, and their defense to get picked apart at times with poor team defense. However, the team will be much more fun to watch with more electric plays and potential for big games from anyone on the roster on any given night. It's a blessing and a curse.
AP: Biggest strength is probably the frontcourt of Lopez & Young. People quickly forget how the Nets finished 17-13 last season when Young came aboard. However, the frontcourt [depth] worries me. Bargnani being the primary backup scares me (health wise), but it doesn't scare me as much as the PG issues. This team needs a distributor and Jarrett Jack is definitely not one of them. Solid backup, but not a starting caliber PG for a playoff contending team. Same goes for his unproven backup, Shane Larkin.
BF: The duo of Brook Lopez and Thad Young is the team's biggest strength.They worked well together last season and having them together for an entire year will be great for the Nets. The biggest weakness is the point guard position. In addition to Jack, I wonder how Larkin and Karasev are going to do with increased roles. Point guard has become such an essential position in today's NBA and I'm not sure if the Nets trio will be able to keep up.
TD: a. Well, it seems like an actual team. Everything I’ve read says that this is a tightly-knit group and everyone genuinely likes one another. For a lot of the young guys, that chemistry will be huge.
b. Lack of true star. Lopez and Johnson are there, but they’re not superstars. The NBA is dominated by big-name, All-Star guys. The Nets have some nice players, but no real headliners.
DL: Their biggest strength is probably having Brook Lopez on the team. He's arguably the best offensive center in the league and is potentially adding a three-point shot to his game. There will be many games in which he absolutely dominates offensively.
Their biggest weakness will be the complete and utter inability to keep the ball out of their own basket. Seriously, name one lineup that can play even average defense. You can't.
3. What is your bold prediction for the year?
NI: Lopez will be an all-star; RHJ will come on strong in the second half; no trade for Joe Johnson.
TL: The Nets will trade Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack, and still find a way to compete for a playoff spot in the East.
RW: Brook Lopez averages a double-double, say 21 and 10, but no All Star Game.
AP: I can see the Nets struggling early on in the season, but staying close enough to compete for the eighth seed because of the VERY weak Eastern Conference. It wouldn't surprise me if they TRADED for a point guard. Maybe Rubio?
BF: I'm not sure if this is "bold" per se, but I think Brook Lopez will be a member of the All Star team. He's got a lot to prove and I see him having a spectacular season.
TD: Bargnani is dropping 30 every time he plays the Knicks. All those other games, forget it. But against New York, expect a goat-emoji performance from the Italian stallion.
DL: Bojan Bogdanovic will win Sixth Man of the Year. He struggled early on last year, especially on the road. By year's end, he really came around and showed glimpses of the big game ability he's shown overseas. I think he'll take a huge step this year.
4. What should the expectation be for the Nets this season?
NI: The expectation, the HOPE, is that this will work out in the long-term, but it is not BY ANY MEANS a given. The Nets free agency dreams for 2016 are realistic only if they can prove their young core, including 27-year-olds Lopez and Young, have the potential to contend at a high level. That will fall apart if the record is disastrous or one of the key players gets hurt. Insiders hope this year is the worst they will be, that long-term, they have assets to attract top players.
TL: To lose more games than they win, but to build something for the future. It won't be this year, and may not be next year, but the Nets do need to build for the future. There's going to be some growing pains this season, but there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
RW: Not high. Hopefully a couple of offseason signings make a big enough impression to stick around past this season (I can see Larkin, Robinson, Reed and Ellington all making a good enough case) but the on-court product this season will be tough to watch. As the preseason has shown, the Nets lack talent off the bench and at the point guard to compete at a high level, but that is fine because they are in a rebuild of sorts. The past is the past and the goal should be to be a team that plays hard and gets through the season with their eyes set on July 2016.
AP: Not much. If they see any success, it'll be another squeak into the playoffs due to a very bad Eastern Conference. At least they play the Knicks & Sixers eight times, but even those don't seem like guaranteed W's.
BF: I think the expectation for this year should be roster development. We're gonna hear a lot about Boston having their draft pick this year, and if you're the Nets, you ignore it and focus on developing the players that are here. Guys like Brown, Bogdanovic, Karasev, and even Quincy Miller are nice building blocks and if they're able to improve throughout the season, then the Nets will be in good shape heading into this offseason.
TD: Realistic. If the Nets slip into the seventh or eighth seed, that’s great. Forget all the championship hoopla—from a fan standpoint, it’s probably just a season for development and growth.
Think of it like one of those bridging episodes of The Walking Dead. Nothing is really going to happen, but it’s necessary for the storyline to move along.
DL: They will be bad. This roster simply isn't built to win. Any hopes of sneaking into the playoffs again due to the ineptitude of he Eastern Conference should be abandoned.
5. How will the Nets finish the year?
NI: Last two years, I overestimated the record. The best I can imagine is a record similar to last year's and the development of the young players. No playoffs.
TL: The Nets will win 34 games and will still, somehow (the East!), be vying for a playoff spot early on in April. It'll be bad, but I don't think it will be "that bad."
RW: 27-55. It will be fun at times but the record will not reflect the fun.
AP: Record: 33-49. 3rd in the Atlantic Division and 9th in the Eastern Conference. Maaaybe 8th if they get a point guard by the deadline.
BF: Record: 36-46 and missing the playoffs.
TD: 30-52, ninth in the East.
DL: Vegas sets the Nets win total at 27.5. I'm a little more optimistic, though I'm not sure why. I think they go 31-51. Lord help us all.