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...And suppose it doesn’t work

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Steve Lichtenstein of WFAN writes about the the Nets off-season and suggests that despite the high praise for Sean Marks by pundits and fans, there are a lot questions left to be answered.

The worst case scenario, he notes, is a “regression” for whatever reason next season, which in turn would make wooing top free agents —no matter how much cap space they have — difficult.

Brooklyn’s selling point is that of a team on the rise. That will only work next offseason if they can first stay on that course. The Nets won’t be able to advertise, “Look at us, we’re improving every year!” after a regression to 20 to 25 wins this season.

So, after another Marks makeover of nearly half the roster, what do the Nets look like on paper? Can this team even beat its 28-54 mark from last season?

There are too many unknowables -- from injuries to the impact of the rookies -- to make any predictions now.

Lichtenstein cited three areas where the Nets need improvement, starting with defense. He noted the Nets had the league-worst forced turnover numbers and their third-most second-chance points allowed. The guards, with the exception of Shabazz Napier, are all long, so they should have an advantage, but they haven’t shown it, he wrote.

He also noted that floor spacing may be an issue as well. He pointed to the loss of Quincy Acy and Dante Cunningham, both capable 3-point shooters. The Nets’ current bigs either “garner no respect when behind the 3-point line” or don’t have “the size to bang inside or consistently clear the defensive glass. That adds up to a “dilemma” for Kenny Atkinson -- “play small and risk getting killed in the paint or use more traditionally-sized frontcourt pairings that will clog up the offense.”

Finally, he argues, the backcourt logjam hasn’t been fully cleared. Indeed, Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead played only 17 games and 205 minutes last year. Lichtenstein is down on a D’Angelo Russell - Spencer Dinwiddie backcourt, citing data that shows “Brooklyn getting outscored by 11 points per 100 possessions” last year when the two were on the court together. He thinks “force-feeding Dinwiddie off the ball is a losing recipe.” Instead, he thinks Allen Crabbe should be paired with DLo in the starting lineup, inserting Dinwiddie only off the bench.

The unknowables, of course, include whatever contributions rookies Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs might make, but as Lichtenstein writes, “history tells us not to bet on Euros in their first NBA go-arounds.”

How will we know it didn’t work ... other than a disappointing record?

“We’ll know for sure that Marks’ plan didn’t work if we’re sitting here a year from now after another offseason of salary dumps, overgenerous restricted free agent offer sheets to slightly above-average players and large carried-over cap space,” says Lichtenstein.