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What’s in store for the Nets this season?

Reed Wallach is like a LOT of Nets fans. He’s not sure what he’s going to see when the ball goes up in Indianapolis Wednesday night. We let him work his way through his angst.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets-Media Day Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to have your imagination run wild when it comes to expectations for your favorite sports team. It’s even easier when the young nucleus your (rebuilding) team has put together looks great in a few preseason games; showcasing a beautiful and well-rounded offensive attack while trouncing their cross-river rivals and a team from south Florida.

But then the Nets played against the upstart Sixers in Long Island and got destroyed, stopping the Nets Twitter hype train dead in its tracks. All aboard? Maybe not.

So, as the Nets go into year two of the Sean Marks re-creation —it’s more than a re-build, what are we supposed to expect? Playoffs? The worst record in the league? I haven’t been this unsure of what I’m going to see from the Brooklyn Nets since their move to Flatbush Avenue five years ago.

There is a real core on this roster, and I can see that the light at the end of the tunnel in the slender frame of a 6’5” guard named D’Angelo. Caris LeVert was worth trading Thaddeus Young and after this summer the Nets have their picks back. Start there. That doesn’t mean that it is all wine and roses for the franchise. The team’s core is still young and the team decided to spend its cap space on an overpaid wing in Allen Crabbe and the quite hefty salary dumps of Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll. They didn’t sign a free agent until September 11.

It’s not that Crabbe can’t become a viable threat. He’s 25 and is an absolute lights-out shooter, but his contract still has three more years (player option in year three) left on a $75 million dollar deal, which admittedly was written by Sean Marks. The Nets think he’ll be worth it. He thinks he’ll be worth it. I’m not so sure.

Carroll, Kenny Atkinson’s old friend from his Atlanta days, may be the veteran leader Brooklyn needs but if his knees betray him like they did in Toronto, he may just be an ugly blemish on the Nets cap sheet. On the other hand, he sure looks spry. And let’s not forget, he did start every game he played in last season... all 72 of them.

Mozgov, the price paid to get D’Angelo Russell, gives the Nets a starting center, but he hasn’t been very useful since his first season in Cleveland three years back and is likely the Nets only ready-to-contribute-now center. And he’ll be 33 when his deal expires. Not a good look.

To me, the playoffs are a best case scenario for this team. Can they stumble into mid April, push by a few failing franchises and fall into the Eastern Conference’s middle class? Probably not. So what’s next best? The Nets are banking on player development to field a legitimate roster. What about that?

So, here’s what I’d like to see absent the playoffs: show me the players on the roster who are going to be around when this team is ready to compete again. My money is on the Nets being back in the playoffs in two seasons. The pieces are there. D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert. Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson might be. Kenny Atkinson can coach, and Marks has proven that he knows what he is doing. But I’m not sure who on this roster is going to be a significant contributor when the team is ready.

Hollis-Jefferson is a big question. How good can he be? A defensive work horse who can’t shoot from deep but has, it seems, gotten better at mid-range. He’s got to be a 4. To me, he simply can not play the 5. He is 6’7” and anytime he gets matched up with bigs who can stretch the floor he’s going to get beat time and time again.

It was obvious during the preseason that Joel Embiid was not afraid of Hollis-Jefferson’s wingspan as he went up and over him time and time again. Hollis-Jefferson is a nice player that works well moving off the ball and plays hard, but if he can not find a jump shot he doesn’t figure as a long-term asset. The game has become to jump shot oriented to be a total non-threat from outside of three feet. It’s year three for RHJ, I want to see him turn that potential he has into something.

Brooklyn is in a real nice position this year with a lot of teams embracing the tank in the last year of having a significant advantage of having the worst record in the league. With the lottery reform passing, it deincentivizes a season-long tank and makes teams want to compete slightly more than before. Teams like Atlanta and Chicago are lacking significant direction and are probably looking to be in pole position for the upcoming draft while a team like Brooklyn is past its depressed state.

The team was often complimented last season for being prepared to play and working harder than their (likely) more talented opponent. This is a ball club that is going to come out all 82 games ready to play and trying to win. With no pick, Brooklyn is trying to win games in bunches, and will take advantage of teams that aren’t prepared for a dog fight.

With a young roster full of amorphous players, Atkinson is going to experiment and see what clicks. I’m hoping that Jarrett Allen gets pushed hard early and proves that he can hang around, literally and figuratively. I’m not expecting him to take the league by storm in year one, but I want him to show flashes of competence. He’s 19 years old, but I want him to be ready to be a threat to opponents by the time he can have his first beer.

Where does the rest of the roster fit in? Sean Kilpatrick has flown under the radar all summer as everyone has become enamored with LeVert’s smooth handle and the acquisition of Crabbe, but many forget that Mark’s first move as GM was Kilpatrick and he has paid great dividends. Kilpatrick has an all-around game and great size that I’m hoping he doesn’t fall out of the rotation. On a cheap deal, I’d like to see Kilpatrick continue his development.

Isaiah Whitehead is the most interesting subject of the Nets roster. In a crowded backcourt, Whitehead may lose a lion’s share of his minutes which may hamper his development. The Brooklyn native was actually very impressive in his first season and if he can show a three-point shot I think that he can be a sparkplug off the bench as the years go by.

Lastly, D’Angelo. I’m sipping all of the Russell Kool-Aid. And to prove it, here’s what I tweeted in June:

I think the hype is real around Russell and I buy the fact that L.A. was a bad situation for him. Atkinson is going to give Russell the keys to the car, and I’m hoping he runs with it. His defense is a bit sub-par, but at the age of 21 he has an advanced offensive game and a knack at finding the open man. He has fantastic court vision and is great at creating for others, even if he may be counted on to score more this season. He’s the future, he’s who Marks is going to build around. I don’t care that the Nets gave up pick 27 for a budding star in Kyle Kuzma, Russell is the guy.

I don’t know what to expect from the Nets this season. Making an accurate prediction of this team is tough considering they can easily win 20 games as easily as they can win 35. The team has few big men and not one established person that can go out and win you a game like Brook Lopez did a few times last season. That being said, the team has a great coach, a motivated young crew that is hungry, and the number two pick in the 2015 Draft with a chip on his shoulder as he enters year three. All I want is for this team to play hard, and I want to see who can stick around. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and dawn has come.

Let’s play some basketball. Go Nets.