It’s Power Rankings Monday and the Nets are not, by most accounts, the worst team in the NBA. The fire sale on crutches down in Philly has saved Brooklyn from that ignominious fate.
The consensus by the power ranking elite, aka the pundits, is that the Nets are better than the 76ers, some of whose top players are either out for weeks or months. In fact, one power ranker, Andrew Lynch of FOX Sports has our guys at No. 28!
So here ya go, the first power rankings of the season. As we always do, we let John Schuhmann lead the way for two reasons: 1) his rankings are the best and 2) he founded this site 14 seasons back.
But wait, before you read ‘em and weep, we offer you this: UPROXX writer Austin Ngaruiya’s prediction of how the season will end for the Nets, “HOOP DREAMS: How The Brooklyn Nets Will Win The 2017 NBA Title.”
It’s June 2017 and empty vodka bottles lay interspersed with champagne on the floor of the Barclays Center home locker room. Mikhail Prokhorov, fresh off a media tour that would make even Joe Lacob blush, strolls down the hall with a cigar in each hand...
Okay, back to the reality...
On the Nets' first possession of the preseason, they set a flare screen for a Brook Lopez three. Many more threes (33.7 attempts per game) would follow. They will space the floor and move the ball under Kenny Atkinson, but the footspeed of their bigs could be a serious problem with the kind of aggressive defense they're trying to play. They could get shredded by offenses (like that of their first regular-season opponent) that move the ball quickly and have multiple guys who can attack close-outs. Of course, it will be difficult to be worse defensively than they were last season.
According to ESPN's heartless Basketball Power Index, Brooklyn is projected to go a lowly 23-59 and, perhaps worse yet, is favored in just four of its 82 games going into the season, which is the same minuscule number Philadelphia had to settle for when last season began. For the record, those four Nets "wins," all at home, are: Dec. 14 (54 percent vs. Lakers), Jan. 8 (55.5 percent vs. Philadelphia), March 23 (50.2 percent vs. Phoenix) and March 28 (55.5 percent vs. Philadelphia).
I keep having pangs of "What if the Nets aren't bad?" because I think about Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin being legit NBA players. But they're just so unproven. I will say this: the Nets being forgettable is an overstatement. There's something interesting percolating here, if far from a good team.
They are going to be a decent to good offensive team with Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin playing off each other and Kenny Atkinson’s offense spacing the floor. I’m far less sold that they are going to get enough stops to win many games. Bad breaks of the schedule, no team plays fewer teams on the second night of a back-to-back this season than the Nets (seven all season).
The Nets are building toward big things -- in 2022 or so. Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez should be fun to watch for now, though. So ... hooray?
Most of the rankings have the Nets as the worst team in the league, but a couple of injuries in Philly have changed that. Brook Lopez is an All-Star talent and Jeremy Lin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Bojan Bogdanovic will do just enough to keep them above the 76ers in the East. It’s very close, though.
The Nets look more endearingly bad than ever. Area hipsters rejoice.
Durant said it was big that the Warriors came to him. The Nets couldn’t even get Durant to listen, despite Jay-Z as his agent and his old shooting coach being their player development director. Boston controls the Nets’ first-rounders for TWO more years and the Nets don’t control their second-rounder until 2021. They may retire former GM Billy King’s number — in Boston.
Newsday also did an Eastern Conference ranking. Al Iannazzone has them at No. 14 in the East, just above Philly. He writes... “They will play hard for Huntington’s Kenny Atkinson and they could be more competitive than expected if Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin remain healthy. But they’re rebuilding.”