Doesn’t it seem a bit early for season previews? Well, it’s not when you realize you’re two weeks from training camp, three weeks from the first preseason game and a little more than a month from Opening Night in Detroit City.
Both NBA.com and Basketball Insiders published Nets previews this weekend and for the most part, Shaun Powell, formerly of Newsday, and Ben Nadeau, formerly of The Brooklyn Game, were positive about the Nets prospects, certainly long-term and quite possibly even short term.
Maybe it’s a trend. Matt Moore, tweeting as Hardwood Paroxysm, thinks the Nets have a good shot at the playoffs.
Starting to lean towards the Nets over for a few reasons, among them is that the stuff they have to fix is all so simple. They were 30th in transition offense last year, shooting 46.7% (!!!!) in transition!— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) September 8, 2018
One other reason, he noted, was how the Nets got a great bargain in Joe Harris.
1. I like this sequence.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) September 9, 2018
2. Joe Harris was 93rd percentile in the halfcourt in points per possession, 96th percentile overall, 89th percentile spot-up, 76th%ile off-screen, 84th hand-off.
3. The Nets re-signed him for 2-years, $16 million this summer. pic.twitter.com/2yVfYNej78
Moore, it should be noted, is VERY skeptical of ANY hype.
As for the long-form previews, Nadeau was the more optimistic but, he also was dead-on in summing up how fans feel: “Following another season full of injuries, under-the-radar emergencies and late-game losses, the Brooklyn Nets are nearly impossible to nail down.”
One reason, says Nadeau is the uncertainty about how much D’Angelo Russell will contribute.
“For now, it’d be reasonable to say that the Nets have an early leg up on the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and, depending on how the Kristaps Porzingis situation unfolds in a few months, the New York Knicks. Unfortunately, that’s not a strong enough case to put the Nets as a definite playoff contender just yet — but it’s feasible to expect that they’ll hang around 9th or 10th place at the very least.
“On the other hand, if D’Angelo Russell evolves into the star-caliber player he’s capable of becoming, then all bets would certainly be off.”
Nadeau’s colleagues at Basketball Insiders generally agree although Steve Kyler is putting them at third place in the Atlantic Division which means the Nets would have to finish above one of three projected powers: the Celtics, Raptors or 76ers.
Basketball Insiders like a lot about the Nets. He calls Kenneth Faried the Nets “most unheralded player,” writing, “At long last, Faried has been freed.” (Sign and shirt makers take note!I)
‘[W]hat he lacks in range, Faried makes up for it by being an absolute menace and a pest in the paint. Even during his rotation-shortened 2016-17 season, Faried managed to pull down nine or more rebounds in 25 games. The player that came closest to reaching that total for the Nets last year was DeMarre Carroll at 19. Generally speaking, if Faried gets his minutes, he’s a near-lock to rebound at an above average rate.”
Similarly, Nadeau notes that Ed Davis was the best rebounding bench player in the NBA last season at 7.4. The addition of those two plus the maturation of Jarrett Allen should help the Nets overcome one of their biggest, if not their biggest, weakness.
He also sees possibilities for the Nets elite shooters, from Allen Crabbe to Joe Harris to Dzanan Musa, who he notes is the seventh youngest (out of 450) player in the NBA. (Crabbe seems to be having a resurgence among pundits. Moore also tweeted about him.)
Allen Crabbe shot 64% on spot-up attempts last season. I’m still really stunned the Blazers traded him.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) September 8, 2018
Over at NBA.com, Powell’s analysis is not as long as Nadeau’s or as optimistic. He thinks the Nets have made progress this summer, but not enough to get into the playoffs.
Powell spends most of his time examining the Nets off-season moves in light of the summer of 2019, not the season that will come between then and now. He (as did Nadeau) praised Marks record since coming to the Nets.
It’s hard to find a basketball egghead who doesn’t sympathize with and appreciate the work of Nets GM Sean Marks...
In a short time on the job, he got first-round picks, added young talent and cleared the salary cap. That’s just shy of a miracle. Marks has managed to turn 50 cents into a dollar. We’re anxious to see his next trick.
Powell thinks the big unheralded move was stealing Davis and Shabazz Napier from the Trail Blazers at a total cost of only $6 million this season.
The Nets added talent on inexpensive, short-term deals by adding ex-Trail Blazers reserves Davis and Napier. Davis is a worker bee and was the NBA’s No. 1 ranked rebounder off the bench (7.4 rpg). Napier set career highs in scoring (8.7 ppg), 3-point shooting (37.6 percent) as a key reserve for Portland. Both should crack the rotation although there’s competition at those positions.
The veteran hoops writer did a little head-scratching on the Nets not taking more of a chance on Jahlil Okafor, now with New Orleans.
Curiously, the Nets took a pass on re-signing Okafor, a restricted free agent. Ordinarily, he’d be exactly what the Nets were looking for: a devalued young player who, if put in the right environment, would thrive and realize his potential. If the Nets, who are starved for talent, don’t think a former No. 3 overall pick who’s only 22 wasn’t worth their time, it doesn’t speak well for Okafor – who landed in New Orleans.
But again, Powell thinks the Nets are looking forward to the summer, hoarding their cap space and keeping flexible in case, as he writes, “
Marks wants to position the Nets for free agency next summer because you never know who might want to play in the big city. Kyrie Irving? Jimmy Butler? Someone else?
Even if the Nets strike out in free agency, they’ll have cap room to absorb a contract in case a disgruntled or devalued star becomes available in a trade (which happens regularly, with Kawhi Leonard proving that point). Cap flexibility plus developing young talent can give an NBA team plenty of options...
Expect more previews in next couple of weeks. Judging from social media punditry, they will likely be of one thread: think long-term. That is decidedly not how the players feel. They remain confident. So, as we say every year, around this time: we’ll see.
- Brooklyn Nets 2018-19 NBA Season Preview - Ben Nadeau - Basketball Insiders
- 30 Teams In 30 Days: Brooklyn Nets - Shaun Powell - NBA.com
- 3 Nets Who Have A Lot To Prove In 2018-19 - Steve Lichtenstein - WFAN