1. What was the biggest development/observation from the preseason about this Nets team?
Net Income: The development of a culture, fortunately or unfortunately, is the biggest development. Fortunately, because a change of culture was needed after the lackadaisical, mismanaged days under Billy King. Unfortunately, because the Nets didn't come away with a big free agent. Jeremy Lin is a quality pick-up ... at a reasonable salary. But the two restricted free agents the Nets got to sign offer sheets, Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, wound up very rich men in Portland and Miami. Other players the Nets reportedly targeted --Dwight Powell, Kent Bazemore, Jared Dudley, Marvin Williams and Sergio Rodriguez-- weren't interested. They couldn't even get a meeting with Kevin Durant despite a variety of connections, both personal and professional. One insider described that as "a real wake-up call."
Tom Lorenzo: Biggest observation is that Kenny Atkinson is going to test and lear a lot this season. He's going to "go with what he has," and plug and play. The Nets are playing with house money this year, there are no expectations whatsoever. And it looks as if Kenny Atkinson is going to take what's given to him. It should be fun to see the sets and lineups he throws out there.
Reed Wallach: The effort. I really liked what I saw from everyone whether it be in games or on the practice floor. All of these players seem to want to be with the franchise and want to play under Kenny Atkinson. For a rebuilding team, one can't ask for much more than that. I definitely see some players improving as the season progresses, which is what this season is (sort of) about.
Anthony Puccio: The Nets didn't look all too great this preseason, but I liked what I saw from guys like Jeremy Lin, Joe Harris and Trevor Booker. I noticed how the Nets want Brook Lopez to take on an Al Horford-like role in the motion offense, but he will not be as productive if that's the case. It's something I wanna keep my eyes on when the regular season starts.
Brian Fleurantin: The biggest observation for me was the new offense. We knew things were going to be radically different than what we were used to with the Nets, but it was still a bit of a shock at first. With that said, I think it's gonna take around two to three months for the offense to really gel.
Bryan Fonesca: There was plenty which stood out to me, like the depth factor, the new system, the use of the D-League, Jeremy Lin, etc.
I think Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one of the keys to the season. I've witnessed him first-hand work tirelessly on that jumper, and he won't be a dead-eye guy overnight, but if viable, that's big for the Nets future. He's been more willing to take those shots at the very least, and we should see him continue to grow into his jumper. You could be looking the most improved player on the team in Hollis-Jefferson after 2016-17 concludes.
Anthony Parisi: The Nets showed during the preseason that they are going to play hard and take a lot of three-pointers. Everybody on the team including Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker were taking threes and I expect that to be a trend this season. Another observation, the Nets are much improved at the point guard position this season. Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez is a much better pair then Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan.
Josh Burton: The increase in pace, for sure. Since Kenny Atkinson was hired, he preached about he wanted the Nets to play a much quicker brand of basketball than they did under Lionel Hollins, and the preseason certainly demonstrated that change. Brooklyn might not have the personnel needed to successfully run the up-tempo style of play, with a lot of three-pointers, that Atkinson is trying to implement but in a rebuilding season, it's all about evaluation, not necessarily results.
Brian Egan: I like watching Jeremy Lin play basketball. Maybe that seems like a simple or inoffensive thing to say, but if there is one thing I have learned from watching last year’s team, it’s that win or lose, having guards who just plain make for compelling TV goes a long way towards keeping the hope machine running. I generally try not to put too much stock into individual performances this time of year, but Jeremy seemed to be channeling a preternatural brand of calmness as he coasted through a preseason in which he was definitely under a microscope. What I suspect I like most is his ability to stay under control for improbable periods of time. His Steve Nash-esque ability to keep a dribble on life-support through dense thickets of human traffic would engender a welcome dose of watchability on its own, but couple those moments of restraint with the occasional bursts of spirited, out-of-control-in-all-the-right-ways dives towards the rim, and now you’re cooking with gas. He seems to have his finger on the zeitgeist of the game and instinctively knows when to play recklessly and when not to, and that is a deeply underrated quality in a player, methinks.
2. Which bench player is poised to surprise the most this season?
NI: Joe Harris. We joked a couple of weeks ago that Harris, the 25-year-old sharpshooter, could become "Korver Lite." Sounded crazy even to us. Now, maybe not so crazy. Harris got lost in Cleveland, then needed foot surgery. He never really had a chance to show what he can do there. In preseason, the 6'6" Harris looked terrific, hitting 62.5% of his three point attempts and showing off some heady BBIQ. If he works out, he is a mega-bargain, a two-year vets minimum deal with the second year a team option. We also liked what we saw from Justin Hamilton. But the two JH's had better improve their defense.
TL: Big surprise? Tough to say. I think maybe Joe Harris will surprise some people. The Nets hope that it's Chris McCullough who surprises people, but I also think that Sean Kilpatrick could become a household name this year -- no, not an All-Star, but someone who will have moments to which NBA fans might take notice.
RW: He's not ready for the start of the season, but Caris LeVert is a very talented player that can become a staple of this roster when he gets on the floor. His versatility is unmatched by any of the Nets recent acquisitions and I see him being a true two at the pro level. His foot rehab seems to be coming along so while he is unproven I think he can become a key contributor by the end of this season. He'll end up being a lottery pick when we do redrafts of the 2016 Draft in three years.
AP: The bench isn't looking too great, but I really like the way Joe Harris has looked in the preseason.
BF: I think Sean Kilpatrick is someone that will surprise the most from the bench unit this season. I like what he brings to the table and for a team that figures to have its issues on offense, a player like him takes on added importance.
BF: Tough one. Roster is so wide open. I'm going to go with Joe Harris, someone who Atkinson has been very complementary of since training camp began. He was one of the better Nets in preseason, and I think he'll really get an opportunity to flourish here in Brooklyn on a team expected to be at the back end of the Conference. People forget that he was an early second round draft choice only two years ago; the man can play.
AP: Brooklyn's depth is a huge question mark but one name to look out for this year is Joe Harris. Harris is known as "Joey Buckets" and I'm expecting a big year from the 25-year-old sharpshooter. Harris had an impressive preseason shooting 10-of-16 from three-point range. That's 62.5 percent. Harris also showed that he hustles for loose balls and he can move off the ball to get open. The defensive side of the ball is a work in progress for Harris, but on the offensive side Harris is destined for a productive season.
JB: Justin Hamilton. The 7-footer had a cup of coffee in the NBA with the Bobcats, Heat and Timberwolves but really impressed last season when he played with Valencia in the Liga ACB in Spain. Besides being the Nets' only logical big man who can give Brook Lopez a break off the bench, Hamilton can knock down threes and even showed a surprising ability to get up and down the floor quickly during the preseason. He could be a weapon offensively as well as defensively and on the glass.
BE: I have to continue to fly my Joe Harris flag. Based on his current skill-set, it’s difficult to guess at what his ceiling might be, but Joe reads as one of those rare players who has never endured a moment’s worth of self-doubt. I’m a distressingly firm believer in on-court demeanor as an indicator of talent, and Joe’s body language is telling me all the right things about his self-confidence as he appears to presume that his shot will fall implicitly, each and every time he shoots. If he can expand his game beyond being a spot-up shooter, and I have a nagging suspicion that he can, his ceiling might be sneaky high. My inner Bob Knight tells me he’s got the fortitude for the job, and as they say, you can’t teach that.
3. Where are the Nets biggest strengths?
NI: As of now, the team is populated with good guys, smart guys, a cohesive group with great focus and very high BBIQ's. That is the model going forward. The Nets almost certainly could have gone in a different direction when filling out the roster. Dion Waiters could have been a Net. They decided not to.
TL: At point guard, maybe? I don't know. There aren't many overall strengths, though I guess you could say at coach they have a pretty big strength.
RW: Heart. This team is not very good, we know that. But what they lack in talent they make up for in grit. The 2010 Nets were quite depressing and had no purpose, while the 2016 one still has high character players that are going to go out and play ever night. Through the slog of a season, bringing more energy to the floor can win some games.
AP: Scoring the basketball. They didn't seem to have a problem hitting threes and scoring a bunch of points. Defense on the other hand...
BF: The biggest strength is the Brook Lopez x Jeremy Lin duo. They're the team's two best players and should provide some excitement once their games fully mesh with one another. They're also young enough (both are 28) that they should be nice pieces to have on the roster as Marks and friends continue rebuilding the team.
BF: Unselfishness, balance of veterans and prospects, and they still have one of the best centers in the league. They're going to continue to grow into what should be a very effective system. Guys have the right attitude on the team, coaches, everything. Ego's won't seem to be a problem, but we'll actually see how things unfold once we're deeper into the season.
Having Randy Foye, Luis Scola, Trevor Booker and others, helps. It's good to have those veterans around your young players, and out on the floor as well, as opposed to trotting out a bunch of no name prospects (Hi Philly) in the name of tanking. Those three in particular will get plenty of minutes.
AP: The Nets are projected to be the worst team in the NBA this season by most pundits. So what do they have to lose? The Nets biggest strength this season is that there is absolutely no pressure. In terms of basketball, Brooklyn's biggest strength is their uptempo style of offense. Brooklyn is going to get up a lot of shots which sets them up to put up a lot of points.
JB: The Nets' versatility and, frankly, lack of veterans probably will be the two most important features of the team this season. What Brooklyn lacks in depth it more than makes up for in terms of guys who can float between positions, whether it's Trevor Booker playing the 3 or the 4 or someone like Sean Kilpatrick who played on the ball a lot last year but could be used as an off-ball, spot-up shooting guard.
Also, a major benefit of having such a young team is that the effort level of this Nets team should be much higher than of those in the past. Many of the veterans the Nets picked up this offseason are journeymen that are both trying to prove their worth in the NBA and playing for their next contract. Guys like Anthony Bennett and Joe Harris, for example, should make the Nets a team that might not be very talented, but will at least always hustle and go for loose balls.
BE: Perhaps this is a bit rote, but the total lack of expectations, internally and externally, will really allow the talent evaluation process (assuredly, the central focus of this season) to evolve naturally without untoward interference. After Lin and Lopez, there is a rare level of parity in the collective stations of each of the players on this team. They are all, in one sense or another, at the same make-or-break crossroads in their NBA careers (absent Luis Scola). If you nurture that energy effectively, as I have confidence Kenny Atkinson will do, this can allow for a uniquely competitive group and should expedite the maturation process enormously.
4. Biggest weakness?
NI: The talent level. As Jeremy Lin said, diplomatically, the Nets have a small margin of error. While some teams have risen above a lack of talent, the 1999-2000 Orlando Magic come to mind. They were slated to finish last in the East but won 41 games. And here's another issue: continuity. The Nets have more new players than any other NBA team --10. Continuity is very underrated by fans, but not by coaches. At the same time, the Nets roster is built for flexibility, meaning for trades. I expect the roster on April 15 will be much different from the roster as it today. Sean Marks, rightly in my opinion, is looking long-term and if he needs to trade away assets to get draft picks along with expiring deals, so be it.
TL: Honestly, not sure. Maybe tradable assets? They need to get better, get deeper, make moves -- but I'm not sure they have the assets that will really make a difference. That's probably the biggest weakness, for this team not expected to win many games this season.
RW: Obviously the lack of talent. This Nets team simply can't compete with playoff teams on a nightly basis, for some of these guys may be out of the league if it weren't for Sean Marks' eye for them. What they lack in talent they make up for in the ability that these guys can be moved easily for fodder for the future. I think Marks and Brooklyn are going to be very active on the trading front.
AP: Defense and rebounding appears to be a big issue. Not that Brook Lopez poses as much of a threat on the defensive end, but when he checks out this team is extremely undersized down low. Backups like Justin Hamilton, Anthony Bennett and Chris McCullough are good for spreading the floor but they haven't shown the capability to defend the interior.
BF: A lot of holes in their defense and depth were, unsurprisingly, brought to light in preseason. We'll see how that gets addressed along the way.
BF: The biggest weakness is the defense. It's going to be bad for much of the year and won't get better until the roster improves.
AP: The Nets biggest weakness is their lack of depth. Once you get past the starters there are a lot of unproven NBA players such as Anthony Bennett, Justin Hamilton and Sean Kilpatrick that will be getting a lot of playing time. Brooklyn's success will in large part be dependent on its depth and a lot of unproven role players will be thrown right into the fire.
JB: Three-point shooting. Bojan Bogdanovic and Jeremy Lin should improve Brooklyn's efficiency from beyond the arc, as will the offseason shooting strides undertaken by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brook Lopez, but the Nets lack the consistent sharpshooter they desperately needed last season. Kenny Atkinson's system, as evidenced by the Nets' massive increase in long ball attempts during the preseason, will require a lot of perimeter shots. The catch is that Brooklyn might not make many of them.
BE: I would say in the strictest, on-court interpretation of the question, we need an intravenous injection of offensively capable players. We have shooters at every position, and if the trends of preseason can predict anything, it is that we will be shooting lots of three-pointers this season. But we are badly in need of people who can take their man off the dribble and finish a play. RHJ, Bojan, and Kilpatrick have their moments, but they all seem to have the same bad habit of losing the plot once the secondary defender begins to contest - Lin appears to be the only player on the roster that can reliably beat his man and get something out of it in the end.
5. Final record prediction
NI: Last few years, my predictions have been wildly optimistic. I went with 33 last year (despite being told by a league source that 25 was more realistic). In 2013, I stupidly said 62 wins. So here ya go ... 17 wins. NO ONE in the Nets organization, publicly or privately, has even hinted at contending for a playoff spot. The "P" word this preseason is "progress." Is 17 wins "progress?" Depends. If at the end of the season, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Chris McCullough and/or Isaiah Whitehead are reliable members of the rotation, then that's progress. If they can acquire a first round or even a second round pick, that's progress. If they can acquire a talented piece for the future, that's progress. But the reality is that this will be a very tough year for fans.
TL: I'm gonna go with 24-58. That seems like a fair record for this team. Also, my prediction is that they'll be more watchable than their record will indicate.
RW: 22-60. They'll steal some games from teams on back-to-backs and what not. I also think they will be more enjoyable to watch than some think.
BF: I'll go with 24-58. It's going to look really ugly at points, but it'll be an improvement over last season and they'll start their long climb out of the cellar.
BF: I think they'll sneak up on some teams and get what many will deem as surprising victories on occasion. I also think that at some points Dennis Green's 'we are who we thought they were' will come into play. I'm not thinking playoffs, but I am thinking an improvement from last season, and a record better than I've seen many predict.
Also, Jeremy Lin will put up All-Star numbers (Like 18 & 7 ish per game), and will be fun to watch on a nightly basis.
AP: I'm expecting a competitive team. A team that will give 110% every single night and a team that will be in a lot of close games. I'm also expecting a team that will lose most of those close games. This Nets team is not as bad as the public seems to believe, but expect a ton of heartbreaking losses late in the fourth quarter. 22 wins is my prediction, but it will be a season that will leave fans with some hope for the future.
JB: 24-58. A slight improvement from last season because I'm expecting Jeremy Lin to a be an upgrade at point guard and for Trevor Booker to give the Nets -- in an expanded role -- essentially what they got from Thaddeus Young, with maybe a little less scoring. Brook Lopez is Brook Lopez, but the Nets need the likes of Kilpatrick, Hollis-Jefferson and even Chris McCullough to take the next step forward in their development if they're going to avoid the Eastern Conference's cellar.
BE: I keep seeing the number 26 float past my third-eye. I don’t know if 26-56 reads optimistically or not, but it feels like a net-positive to me. The goal of this season, if I could guess, is not necessarily to establish ourselves in the up-and-coming team category quite yet, and so a good amount of time should be spent cycling players to see who has mineable talent. That lack of rotational consistency will come at the cost of some wins, of course, but the fact that the new management and coaching presences seem committed in all the ways to benefitting their players will go a long way towards, dare I say, establishing… a… competitive… culture… And so with that nebulous cultural element in mind, despite the prospective turnstile rotation, I think it is not unreasonable to expect us rattle to off 5 more wins than last year.