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Zach Lowe: Nets COULD be “Cleveland's nightmare”

NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Are the pundits starting to wonder what the Nets ceiling looks like? After Sunday night’s blowout of the (admittedly lowly) Knicks, Brooklyn is 3-0 ... and healthy ... in preseason. They’ve dominated at one point or another in all three games and look very, very deep. And yes, yes, we know it’s preseason.

Zach Lowe breaks down the league’s 30 teams into “tiers” Monday. He put the Nets in the “Lottery East” tier, but suggested that maybe, just maybe, there’s reason for optimism in Brooklyn ... and pessimism in Cleveland, where the Nets first round pick currently resides. He still doesn’t buy into the Nets playoff “buzz,” but concedes if “things break right...”

Here’s his take on where the Nets fit in the Lottery East:

We might be one injury in Charlotte, Philly, or Detroit from one of these teams accidentally making the playoffs. Just fold the conference into the G League at that point.

We went deep on the spunky Nets after they acquired D'Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe. I never bought the buzz that they might challenge for the eighth seed. The frontcourt is light on shooting without Brook Lopez fluttering up set-shot 3s, and there is just sooooo much youth across the roster. They are a better version of the super-tanky Sixers of 2014-2016: a fast-paced, efficient shot selection machine waiting for players talented enough to actually make some shots.

If enough things break right, they could bring Cleveland's nightmare to life and outpace every team in this tier. Step one: A revived DeMarre Carroll supplants Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the starting power forward, and brings much-needed spacing.

The Cavaliers are anticipating that the Nets pick will bring them glory in June. If the Nets do well, Luka Doncic, Michael Porter, Jr. and Marvin Begley III might not be there when the Brooklyn pick comes up.

James Herbert of CBS Sports provides a similar take in his preview of the Nets season. He believes the Nets face another losing season, lists some “maybes” as well.

Maybe Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can find his niche as a playmaking 4; maybe rookie Jarrett Allen can be the next Clint Capela; maybe LeVert will be able to create offense out of the pick-and-roll; maybe Whitehead will fix his jumper and make his frenzied forays to the basket more dangerous.

Expect to see more of the same from pundits. Is any of this talk realistic? We’ll start to find out next week.