It’s a slow moving train, but moving quickly enough to see pundits take notice. Now, some are trying to hop aboard. Over the past few weeks, a number of writers around the NBA have taken notice of the Nets. David Aldridge, in fact, thinks the Nets rise is “inevitable,” as he wrote in his NBA.com column, the Monday Tip Mailbag.
In answer to a question: whether Brooklyn is in the house, Aldridge responded...
“Yes. I think it’s inevitable. Brooklyn’s front office is too good, and its coaching staff, led by Kenny Atkinson, too promising -- and, last time I checked, Brooklyn is still part of New York City, still the world’s biggest market. With billionaire Joseph Tsai poised to take over for current majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov in the next year or so, the Nets’ cash flow will be on par with any team in the league. All of those pluses are sure to entice a legit free agent, and maybe two, next summer. The Nets are a sleeping giant in the East if they can get an anchor player around which they can surround their young talent like Jarrett Allen.”
(Does he know something we don’t know about Tsai? Under the terms of his agreement with Mikhail Prokhorov, Tsai has an option to buy a controlling share in the team before the 2021-22 season.)
Aldridge is not alone. Matt Moore, always a hype skeptic, thinks the Las Vegas projection of 32.5 wins for the Nets this season is dead wrong. Writing for The Action Network, a gaming site, Moore (who tweets as Hardwood Paroxysm) says take the over.
The case for the over: The Nets play the right way. Not gonna lie, getting pretty excited about this Nets team. OK. Some numbers:
The Nets’ Pythagorean expected win total last season was 30, just three off the over.
They had the 11th-best halfcourt offense per possession last season, according to Synergy Sports.
Their big weakness offensively? Transition, where they ranked dead last, shooting just 47%. That’s an incredibly easy area to fix.
They were soft in rebounding, 19th in opponent offensive rebound rate, 24th in their own offensive rebound rate. They specifically added Ed Davis and Kenneth Faried, two terrific rebounders.
Did I mention above how important spot-up shooting is? The Nets ranked third in that category, with three key players (DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe) in the top 59th percentile or better.
They Nets are still going to take L’s; they play in the toughest division in the East. But they went 16-16 vs. teams under .500 last season with a worse team.
With Brooklyn’s internal improvement and quality coaching from Kenny Atkinson, there’s a good reason to buy into the Nets sneaking into the playoff conversation toward the bottom and landing in the mid-30s in win total.
Moore says his confidence level on the Nets winning more than 32 games is 8 of 10. He admits there might be a temptation for the Nets to tank because of their first round pick.
Zach Lowe may not have bought into the Nets this season but in his League Pass rankings — a “watchability rating,” he has positive things to say about Brooklyn (but also says he’s waiting for a “killer jersey.”) He has the Nets as the 21st most watchable NBA team.
The Nets play a pleasing style -- turbo pace, tons of 3s -- but a bunch of superior teams do that, too. Who beyond the legend Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok is making you stick around in case of a highlight? It might be Jarrett Allen, only because Allen has zero fear of getting dunked on. Giannis Antetokounmpopulverized Allen with three of the best dunks of the entire 2017-18 season, and Allen just kept on coming. He eventually pinned Antetokounmpo at the summit. Allen dunks hard, too, and he’s so tall he sometimes literally throws the ball down onto an opponent’s head.
(By the way: Opponents shot just 54 percent at the rim with Allen around, one of the stingiest marks in the league.)
Caris LeVert has some nasty shimmy to his game. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s herky-jerky dribbles and tilting floaters flummox even savvy defenders. D’Angelo Russell has been more style than substance, and empty style wears thin. This will be a huge season for Russell, and he knows it. Ditto for Spencer Dinwiddie, whose shooting cratered after everyone stopped paying attention. The Nets are one quality shot creator away from butting into the pathetic race for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Their minimalist black-and-white look works, but seven seasons into the Brooklyn era, we’re still waiting for our first killer jersey.
Other pundits will be heard from in the coming weeks. Will many make the shift? Probably not. A resurgent Brooklyn team flies against conventional wisdom.