1. What do you think is the key reason for the Nets struggles this season?
Net Income: Lack of physicality, lack of athleticism, lack of mental toughness, lack of chemistry, lack of leadership and having to deal with fourth coach in four years.
Tom Lorenzo: It's a lack of a plan, if you ask me. There's still some confusion about what this team is and the direction they are going in, even in terms of roles and system. We're beyond the halfway mark of the season and we should know the team's identity and the players should have clearly defined roles. There's some, sure, but I still think there's too much left to be defined.
Reed Wallach: Injuries more than anything else. The Nets have had to go with many different lineups this season because the likes of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have been inactive so often. Most of all though, the loss of Mirza Teletovic leaves the Nets razor thin in the frontcourt. There are several other reasons why the Nets are under performing, but the constant change is hurting their ability to build continuity and gel together.
Anthony Puccio: Where to begin... Well, once again they have a new coach who they all need to get accustomed to; They lack a leader; They grow stagnant late in games.. And the whammy of 'em all is once again, Deron's health.
Brian Fleurantin: This is a tough one. If Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson can stay healthy I do think they can make the playoffs. Things are still wide open at the bottom of the East, and I think they have enough talent to get there. So, yeah, if Lopez and Johnson can stay healthy I do see them making the playoffs.
Thomas Duffy: Lack of overall talent and cohesion. The Nets can beat bad teams and hang with decent teams. They’ll lose to most contenders, but in the East, that doesn’t keep you out of the postseason.
Ghoti: Sometimes in poker, you make a decision early in the hand that you have the goods and you are going all the way. Then, as things ramp up and the pot grows, you are forced to keep throwing in chips because you already put so much in that you are committed and can't get out. Each time you shove in your chips, you are less sure you were right. It's a sickening feeling. Well, Deron Williams was that decision for the Nets, and once the organization committed to him they couldn't stop throwing chips into the pot. Now they are wandering down the strip muttering to themselves, half-drunk, shirttail out, five days of stubble on their faces, wondering how they could have squandered so much and gotten so little in return.
Larry Fleisher: Similar reasons to the previous seasons, getting acclimated to a new coach. The fact that they often can't follow up having good starts to games with consistency or some semblance of it for 48 minutes and of course injuries and the continued diminishing play from Deron Williams.
2. What has been the most pleasant surprise for the Nets?
NI: I guess you'd have to say Plumlee but he's not a foundation stone for a franchise. A nice piece. Also, Brook Lopez foot remains intact.
TL: Can I say Mason Plumlee? He seems to be doing everything right for the Nets. But, really, I guess the fact that Jarrett Jack is the team's best player is a pleasant surprise, and a big part of that is because he really seems to care about this team, care about winning and wants to be the leader they need. That's important, especially from a veteran point guard.
RW: Mason Plumlee regained his form after a rough start to the season. Plumlee looks like a legitimate starter in this league with his ability to roll hard to the basket and fight in the paint. He has flaws—his jump shooting, or lack there of—but he can play.
AP: Jarrett Jack. I would say Plumlee, but after watching him evolve last season and over the summer -- anything he does never seems to surprise me anymore. Jack on the other hand was supposed to be a backup PG to D-Will, but for the second straight year, it's debatable whether the supposed-to-be backup PG's saved the Nets' season up to the All Star Break. Not saying this team will win a championship with Jack running the offense, but I couldn't even imagine what this team would look like without him.
BF: I would say the most pleasant surprise has been Mason Plumlee. He's not a player you can build the franchise around, but he's good to have on your roster and it's always nice to see young players develop and become better.
TD: Jarrett Jack. Seems like such a cool, hardworking guy, and he’s gotten a bad rap the past few years. Glad to see he’s showing the basketball world he can still play at a really high level.
G: The total collapse of the Eastern Conference.
LF: I thought Jarrett Jack was a good move when it was made, but that was without realizing how good he can be at times, meaning a 35-point game in 52 minutes like against Toronto. Whether it's sustainable is the great unknown but certainly the trust level in Jack is higher than before. In other good news, Brook Lopez's foot is still attached and he has played well in a reserve role and he seems to have a better understanding of what Hollins wants.
3. What would you do with this team if you were Billy King over the break?
NI: I wouldn't do a salary dump for anyone other than DWill. I'd consider it in his case. I'd also consider taking a risk on Michael Beasley or Andray Blatche. Basically, on trades, I'd wait for best offer, see if I could get a pick, even protected two years from now. If not, no deal. Move on.
TL: Trade Deron Williams and get back some cap space and assets to help you in the future. He's no better than Jarrett Jack and he doesn't want to be here, and while there's not much of a market for him, at this point if I were King I would take back a young player on a bad contract and a future first. Heck, I would take back some second rounders and cap relief to rid them of Williams who, again, does not want to be in Brooklyn.
RW: Trade Brook Lopez. Lopez is great, and I wish he didn't have to get traded, but with the way the team is structured, and their outlook in the future, the Nets would be wise to move the former All-Star. The Nets can, hopefully, get some value back for Lopez closer to the deadline (maybe a pick), and still contend for one of the final playoff spots.
AP: Is a buyout possible? Not for KG, for Billy King. I think Billy needs to move at least one of the big three. Free some space, seek young legs or draft picks -- as long as the move has ZERO effect on 2016.
BF: This is difficult. With the pick going to the Hawks, the Nets can't afford to end up in the lottery. However, this group isn't going to advance far in the playoffs (barring some luck) even if they get there. If I were King, I'd try to do everything I could to move Williams and Johnson, but I'm not sure if teams around the league will want to bring them in at this point.
TD: Nothing crazy, unless it’s for significant draft stock. I would honestly just let all of these deals expire and try to start fresh. This team could definitely make the playoffs, so why do anything crazy this year? If anything, I’d maybe look at bringing Andray Blatche back or adding another veteran.
G: I'll say the same thing I said in the last two roundtables - with one caveat. The East is so weak that even these Nets could play meaningful, exciting basketball this season with just a few tweaks. They could give fans something to enjoy in this last half season before the pain of the next two (and likely more) years where the team is guaranteed to be awful. It would require a little short-term spending and a delay before dumping the salary they need to dump to prepare the team for sale. It would also require a coaching staff that is committed to this roster and making the most out of what is here now and has a sense of urgency to win this year - which is the last time the roster will have anywhere close to this level of talent for a while. So everyone would need to change their way of thinking and the owner would have to spend money he doesn't have to spend just to get a result that would be basically meaningless outside of just giving what few fans they managed to get to follow them a little entertainment in return for their (undeserved) loyalty. So this has a zero percent chance of happening, because life doesn't work this way. But you asked, and that is what I would do if I were in charge.
LF: If they do a move with Deron Williams and that seems unlikely, finding a backup point guard would help since Jack can't play 40-plus minutes all the time. I wouldn't do anything rash like the package Denver offered. My strategy would be see if the other team initiates the conversation and if somehow the conversation turns towards a first-round pick, especially a protected one even for a few years later maybe say yes.
4. Do you think the Nets will make a trade before the deadline?
NI: I think if they do, it will be late in the game and probably come out of the blue.
TL: Yes, but nothing significant, unfortunately.
RW: Yeah, and if they don't they will be making a mistake.
AP: I say yes. I don't feed into Lionel saying they may stand pat past the deadline. Changes need to be made, minor or major, and that's no secret whatsoever.
BF: I don't see anything happening.
TD: Probably. It might not be one for one of their Big Three contracts, though. Seems like King makes trades for his own enjoyment -- remember how fun it was turning Auto-Trades on when you playing 2K as a kid? If I had to, I’d bet that something will happen.
G: Probably. If they can. They can afford to be patient if they want, but since being competitive isn't a concern for someone who has no long-term interest in what is on the court, there is no incentive to wait.
LF: I'd imagine they do. It might not be any of the rumored deals but might be something that didn't get leaked to any of the insiders until the very last minute. As much as the big three could go, they easily could stay.
5. Do you think the Nets will make the playoffs?
NI: I doubt it. Other teams are improving their play and improving their rosters. Who gets the 7th and 8th seed will like be determined this week.
TL: This is a tough one. If Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson can stay healthy I do think they can make the playoffs. Things are still wide open at the bottom of the East, and I think they have enough talent to get there. So, yeah, if Lopez and Johnson can stay healthy I do see them making the playoffs.
RW: Yes, simply because the other teams fighting for it aren't that good either. They are finally healthy while other teams are getting banged up around them. The Nets also have talent—for now—and Deron Williams should get his form back. Assuming they don't blow it up at the deadline, Brooklyn should be able to squeeze into the postseason. I'm being optimistic, because I really don't want them to miss the playoffs. If they miss the second season, that would be an utter disaster.
AP: Yes but only because their competition for the 8th seed is near pathetic. If they make a move or two -- even something like signing Blatche -- they'll probably sneak in. But hey who knows, all it takes is to get hot at the right time.
BF: I think they get into the playoffs as the eighth seed. I doubt that Wade can stay healthy for the Heat throughout the second half and that will allow the Nets to sneak in. They're going to lose in the first round, but they'll save themselves the embarrassment of having a pick near the top of the draft go to Atlanta while the Hawks go on a deep playoff run.
TD: Yes. But it's not because they deserve to. They'll benefit from a weak conference and probably slip in as the 7th or 8th seed -- only to get bounced in the first round.
G: No, I don't. The Nets are terrible.
LF: I just don't see it based on the performances through the first 51 games. It's possible they could get hot but I feel like if that was going to happen, it would have started already like the previous two seasons.
As of now, the Nets are one game behind the Heat for eighth place, which is funny place to put the context in the Heat-Nets rivalry. It's hard to be encouraged by a team that has won five games in the last month and a half. These season has been a case of stops and starts, a three-game winning streak followed by a seven-game losing streak, three wins over the Clippers, Raptors and Knicks followed by the last three games. In theory they should be a playoff team but it's tough to be one with older, and not so athletic core guys. The road trip could turn into a disaster based on the first three games and although they have eight home games, five are against winning teams (Golden State, Phoenix, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Cleveland) and we all know too well about the record against those teams.