If they win, none of this will matter.
But in its “Summer Forecast” Wednesday, ESPN painted a picture of frustration both for the 2018 regular season and the 2019 free agency. Their panel of experts has the Nets winning 32 games, a four-game improvement over last year (are they going to miss Nik Stauskas that much?) and give the Nets virtually no chance of successfully wooing any of top free agents in 2019, despite all that cap space. The bottom line seems to be “too soon.”
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise. In their mid-season power rankings, the Worldwide Leader pegged them at 28th.
This time, the results were based on a poll of those 200+ “experts” from around the league. Let’s take it one at a time. First the win total. There was the usual praise for the front office, just as there had been after every trade or free agency signing this summer. Then, a dose of ESPN reality, a 10th place finish and a 32-50 record.
GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have done a nice job getting an asset-deprived program back on the road to respectability. But it’s reflective of just how poor the bottom of the East is that the Nets are pegged to finish above five teams during the rare instance they actually own their first-round pick.
Actually, Mr. and Mrs. ESPN, they have two first rounders, their own and the moderately protected (1 through 12) Nuggets pick. (In fact, the Nets have four firsts and five seconds over the next three Drafts.)
The experts pick the Pistons for the eighth spot and the Hornets for the ninth with a six-win gap between Detroit and Brooklyn.
On the hunt for free agents in 2019, all that cap space isn’t going to help, the experts assess. No Kyrie, No Kawhi, No Kevin, No Klay ... no, no, no.
Of the big free agents, the Nets best bet, according to the poll, is Kyrie Irving, at a mere 3.1 percent. He’s going to the Knicks, apparently. Jimmy Butler? Nets chances are put at three percent even. Knicks will be his final destination as well, says ESPN. Brooklyn doesn’t even rank that high in the hunts for Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. Same with Kevin Durant. Leonard will go to L.A. and the Lakers while Thompson and Durant will stay home.
So there you have it, it’s pretty hopeless. Tune in in two months and then again in 11. See if they’re right. It would nice if they weren’t.