It’s that time of the year! The NetsDaily crew has assembled for their annual off-season roundtable. We’ll be doing another one of these in October when we have a better idea of where this team stands following training camp and preseason.
1) First off, how would you grade Brooklyn’s off-season and why?
Net Income: A solid B+. They didn’t add any superstars or even starters, but they added draft picks in 2019 (a first), 2020 (two seconds) and 2021 (another second) while not giving up much in terms of their long term plans. They also picked up a couple of solid veterans in Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley in that extended trade and got real bargains in free agency in Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier in particular. As for the Draft, we fans don’t know what we have yet, but Nets front office was very happy.
Anthony Puccio: I give them an A if we’re talking about the long-term moves they made by clearing up space for two max contracts next summer, while adding a first rounder. It’s incredible they were able to move Mozgov’s contract and at the very least get a second rounder out of it (!).
In terms of the upcoming season, they didn’t do anything that totally convinces me they take that ‘next step’ and win whatever the quota is to lure in free agents. I like the additions up front with Ed Davis and Kenneth Faried. I like Shabazz Napier’s potential in this lineup as a combo guard who can hit the three. I’ll give them a B in this category.
Tom Lorenzo: I think you have to give the Nets, like, an A-. Or something close to it. The Nets were able to come out of the summer essentially unscathed. They kept their picks, their cap space, and made some moves that made the team a little more exciting for this year. It’s been a while since Nets fans had hope. You have to feel pretty good about what the Nets did and didn’t do this summer.
Bryan Fonseca: I think grades are stupid sometimes, fun at others. I think a lot of things are stupid in fact, like the rest of the NBA letting Ed Davis go to the Nets for only $4 million.
But anyway, the Nets get a solid B from me. And why do I give them a B? Because I think giving them an A or an F would be far too outlandish in either direction seeing as how no one’s played a game yet. So then, why is a B acceptable? Because it’s measured. I ain’t falling for this. No sir. To me, a B is fair. It’s like saying, ‘Y’all did well, congrats, but it doesn’t mean anything yet.’ You get an A in retrospect if you win. I ain’t gonna look stupid. Nah.
Actual analysis: Oh, and they got everyone for less than they should’ve. Davis and Shabazz Napier should be making far more than a combined $5+ million next year. Isaiah Whitehead, who is now in Russia, was dealt for Kenneth Faried and picks. Joe Harris stayed for only two years, $16 million.
Like, fam. What?
Have you heard the Sean Marks anthem?
Brian Fleurantin: I would give their offseason a B+. I think getting some frontcourt depth in the form of Davis and Faried will help the Nets immensely esoecially when we take into account how poor they were on the glass last year. Bringing Joe Harris back was crucial and getting some financial flexibility in exchange for Mozgov will be key next summer.
Richard Denton: On a binary scale, it gets a 1 for “did occur.” Using a qualitative scale, I rate it a solid “Flexibility.” Yes, we converted backcourt players to Faried and Ed Davis, so our depth has been improved, but I’ve been a Nets fan for so long that I’m only concerned with the macro game. We have intriguing young wing players, mid-level contracts to match salary requirements, and plenty of draft picks to give away once more. Expect to see me in every thread with “Kyrie,” “Jimmy,” “Kawhi,” or “Anthony” in the title, because we’re going big-game hunting.
I’d slot it into a B+. For one thing, the Nets did not make a dumb signing which about a third of the teams in the NBA fall victim to. Marks made savvy low cost signings in Davis and Napier. And brought back Joe Harris (always have to say both his first and last names) at a reasonable number. The Mozgov trade was a masterpiece. But it’s not an A because the Nets did not make themselves better this season. They opened up several avenues to get better next season. But for this one, they held steady.
2) What was your favorite move?
NI: The Friday Night combo of moving Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead for the draft choices. It’s hard to add so many picks in what was essentially one big deal involving four teams: the Nets, Hawks, Nuggets and Suns.
AP: Obviously getting rid of Timofey Mozgov’s contract was the most important move going forward, but as for the new additions, I’m excited to see Kenneth Faried try to revitalize his career with his hometown team. He’s playing in a contract year and he’s still only 28-years-old. Plus, I think he’ll be very good next to Jarrett Allen. Let the Nets chuck threes all day while those two are going in for tap-outs and offensive boards. Trevor Booker 2.0.
TL: Lots of moves to like; from the Mozgov deal that got them tons of cap space to getting out from under Jeremy Lin’s contract, but I think my favorite move was Shabazz Napier. He’s got the ability to become a fan favorite in Brooklyn - he can get buckets o’plenty - and he also gives the Nets options both on and off the court; Kenny can run some creative, quick guard-heavy lineups, while Marks can look to dangle Spencer Dinwiddie knowing he has one of the most valuable contracts in all of the NBA.
BFonseca: I like Theo Pinson, even though he’s an exhibit 10 -- more than likely a G Leaguer to start. I’m not gonna do the cabbage patch and say he’ll shock the world (shoutout, Juwan Howard) but I think he can be a solid rotation player in the NBA. He developed nicely at North Carolina and played four positions. You know Brooklyn likes that.
If he could shoot three’s, he would’ve been actually drafted. I covered him during the ACC Tournament, where he had his best showing, and also wrote this, so maybe I’m a little biased. I also wanted to go a different route than the rest of you. Take that, take that (Diddy voice).
BFleurantin: I would say bringing Joe Harris back. Brooklyn’s attack is so three point heavy and resigning one of the best three point shooters in the NBA will only help in that regard. Harris is the poster boy of the Nets development model over the past couple of years and his success will only help enhance Brooklyn’s reputation across the league.
RD: I can’t wrap my head around these salary dumps. Sean Marks demands first round picks to take on expiring deals, yet only relinquishes second rounders to deal his own? I feel like he’s come across some exploit that needs to be patched in the next CBA. I loved this type of move when we got a 30 year old wing player from Toronto with an injury history, but I really love this move when it gets us a healthy 28 year old athletic power forward.
MS: The Mozgov for Howard deal. Trading two more season of Mozzy Sticks for a single season of a Dwight Dump changes the trajectory of the franchise. At minimum, it gives Marks another bundle of cap space to trade off to get another team’s 1st round pick. At maximum, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sign with Nets and hang banners up in Barclays (OK kidding, but only kinda). Mozgov was the medicine the Nets needed to take to get D’Angelo. Marks figured out a way to get out from Mozgov’s previously untradable contract, that’s now been traded three times in one year.
3) With the exception of DLo, who needs to take that next step this season for the Nets to find success?
NI: Hard to except DLo. SO much of the Nets short and long term plans depend on him being healthy, reaching the next level, selling the idea of Brooklyn, etc. Other than him, the Nets will need to see consistency and aggressiveness from Caris LeVert. If they don’t see that by deadline, I would not be surprised to see him traded. He has a lot of value around the NBA.
AP: I’m going with Allen Crabbe. He got off to a shaky start but finished extremely strong after the all-star break where he averaged 15 points on 41 percent shooting from three. Brooklyn’s offense doesn’t necessarily run through him but he’s the guy they’re looking to get open on almost every possession. Get him hot and watch the entire floor open for the rest of the offense.
TL: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson really needs to take that next step. And it’s less about the Nets success this season, but more about whether or not they think he’s legitimately part of their future (i.e. heading into next season).
BFonseca: I was just at Energy Fuel talking to my brother about this. I think we all believe Caris LeVert can be something. What that something is probably differs amongst us. from what I gather, that something ranges between a starter to an All-Star type. I’m somewhere in between. I can see 18 points, 5 assists and All-Defense in his future, which in effect would make him a borderline All-Star type. Does he make that jump this season? I don’t know, but he can, and if he does, the Nets are probably a playoff team, assuming D’Angelo Russell is mostly healthy and back to averaging 21 points and 6 assists as he was pre-injury last season. If LeVert convincingly becomes Brooklyn’s second-best player, these guys are in business.
Note: A handful of you think Spencer Dinwiddie may have maxed out, and I don’t. I think he can take another step. He’s 25 and this will be his fifth season.
BFleurantin: I’ll go with Caris Levert. Levert has taken on more responsibilty each season he’s been in the league and i wonder if he’ll break into the starting five this year.
RD: After making a huge stride in his mid-range and post jumpshot, we need to figure out who Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can be in this league. Whether or not he can meet a minimum standard of three point shooting not only decides the cap space allocation in the 2019-2020 season, but has the potential for down-stream effects into the bench rotation if Kenny tries to play him next to Faried or Davis.
MS: If we’re talking about just this upcoming season, it has to be Allen Crabbe. There were so many games last season where, in the 4th quarter, the ball would go to Crabbe and he’d miss an open 3. If he replicates his post-All Star Break performance (41.7% from 3, 16.3 ppg) and makes that his season average for this upcoming season, he will make the Nets offense extremely tough to face. With Crabbe firing and Joe Harris back, the Nets will have a top-20 shooter on the floor at all times.
4) Despite the praise Marks and the Nets have received, we’re still talking about a team coming off 28 wins last season. Where is your biggest area of concern?
NI: The Nets did a lot in creating depth upfront and at little cost, but they still need more. Jarrett Allen cannot be bullied like he was last year ... and the addition of Davis and Faried will help in that area. I would have liked to see them add a young stretch 4 who can rebound.
AP: I still worry about their lack of shooting in the frontcourt. It’s crucial they have four players that can step out and hit the three considering they took nearly 40 per game last season. If this becomes an issue, Kenny Atkinson is going to have to adjust or else we’re going to miss guys like Quincy Acy next season.
Oh yeah, and defense. They need to do that better. Like, a lot better.
TL: I think defense is the biggest area of concern - sure, the Nets will get buckets and be fun to watch, but not sure losing 130-118 is going to get tired after a while.
BFonseca: D’Angelo Russell’s health. He’s struggled with knee injuries the past two seasons. No denying the ability. He’s clearly an All-Star level talent. But if he has another season that reflects either of his last two, can you really justify giving him a big contract after 2018-19, in which he will be a restricted free agent?
Remember, the Nets have all that 2019 cap space, but some of it may be used on keeping their own, like Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, all of whom will hit the market -- Dinwiddie the lone free agent to be without restrictions.
BFleurantin: This is a little unfair, but I’ll say health is the biggest issue surrounding the team. We haven’t really had a chance to see the full vision the team has yet, and with the Nets set to have a decent chance at landing a top tier player in free agency next summer, you’d love to make it through this season in one piece.
RD: I’m not so worried about injuries. If we lose Jarrett Allen, I think Ed Davis can fill the gap well enough, although I’m unsure if he’s as good a passer as Allen is in our offense. Now, I’m a bit more anxious as we approach one last season to evaluate our young players. If we can’t trade our assets into higher-tiered players, Sean will have some tough calls to make when he re-signs his free agents. Everyone will want a pay day, but you can’t cement a roster that only delivers “potential” every year. Not an All-Star yet, DLo is still young enough to earn a couple more years before I give up his status as anointed franchise leader, but would he accept a three year deal, knowing how badly we need prospects? Sean has exceeded my expectations with how he negotiates trades and free agency in a capped-out league, but how will he do if we hit another 30 win season and can’t attract free agents?
MS: Shot creation outside D’Angelo. The Nets put up points when DLo was out during the season so it’s not like their offense craters without him. But it is in those end-of-game moments where their lack of individual scoring talent hurt them. Who is the next guy after DLo that the Nets would throw the ball to get a bucket? Rondae may be the best choice and the odds of RHJ making a 14-foot turnaround jumper aren’t high. I expect the Nets to be consistently competitive. But they’ll need to find someone else that can score in end-of-game situations in order to significantly increase their win total.
5) Will they make the playoffs? Why or why not? With that, what will be their final record?
NI: It will be close and it depends more on health and development than anything else. However, if at some point in mid-season, the dream of a playoff team collapses, do not be surprised if they decide to “play the kids” and get a better pick. No matter what i expect them to be active at the deadline. Maybe even before. They may not have 22 or 24 players on the roster as they have the last two years, but they’re going to have 17 either. As for wins, I think Kevin Pelton’s number, 37, is good.
AP: Hate this question because I’m tempted to say 10th seed with 38 wins, but that is probably the worst-case scenario for the Nets. Playoffs mean they should definitely be able to lure in free agents, but sitting in purgatory, while they finally have their own pick, means they wouldn’t even have a top-10 pick.
Whatever. Let’s have some fun with this… Eighth seed at 40-42.
TL: No, they won’t, but they’ll be “close.” And that’s because the East is pretty gross this year. There’s opportunity at the bottom, but not sure the Nets will fill it out. I can see them winning 30 games this year, and we’ll have some “could they...?” moments in early March wondering if they could make the playoffs; but I don’t see it happening this year. This year it’s all about progress and proving that they have intriguing pieces in place for the future.
BFonseca: Moiso. Yo Pooch, why you gotta do this to me, man? Do you know how hard this is to predict in August?
Agh. Let me workshop this ... Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Indiana and Washington are probably definitely in, so that’s 6 spots already filled. (I know, “probably definitely,” but I’m workshopping.)
Atlanta and Orlando should suck, so let’s get them out of here. The Knicks and Charlotte aren’t really playoff teams in my imaginary book, but they’re interesting. Let’s take them off. So that leaves Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. The NBA is a player-driven league where the best players win more often than they do not. The best players left over are Blake Griffin and ... Kevin Love? Are we positive that can’t be Russell if healthy? And again, what if LeVert takes that step? But wait, Andre Drummond is also on Detroit and Chicago added Jabari Parker. But he’s also injury prone. What about Hassan Whiteside?
(Expletive) it. Nets win 38 games and get the eighth seed if healthy. Because I said so. Just in between Detroit, who gets seven, and Miami, who misses out.
For the record: I said 30 wins if healthy in 2016-17 and 35 if healthy in 2017-18. So if I’m wrong, blame injuries ... and Pooch.
BFleurantin: Don’t see them making the playoffs right now. They’ll definitely be better, but I’m not sure if it’ll be enough to get them to the eighth seed. My answer’s probably (ok, more than likely) gonna change in about a month, but I’ll go with 34 wins.
RD: Ideally, the league is fascinated by the rise of the Baby Nets, who just barely miss the playoffs before winning the draft lottery, picking first and fourteenth. Free agents beg to be apart of a Brooklyn family on the precipice of a season to win the love of New York City. Kristaps Porzingis, fed up with the management of the Knicks, demands a trade to Brooklyn before I wake up. Outside of this fantasy, I figure we should recoup some wins lost to injury, while the new beef provides the hustle points we lost when Trevor Booker was traded. Put me down for 38 wins.
MS: Sure why not! Last year was low-key the season from hell. The team’s bright young talent, D’Angelo, started only 35 games. Their best veteran, Jeremy Lin, played 1 game. Crabbe was ineffective for half a season. Kenny Atkinson didn’t have a center he could trust until Jarrett Allen found his footing mid-season. And LeVert was super clunky early on. But the Nets still won 28 games. The reason to get behind a massive win total leap is that all the mini-jumps that all the developing Nets will make next season. It won’t be one thing that pushes them into the playoffs. It’ll be a bunch of small things that will.