If there’s one team close the Nets in terms of injury and illness, it’s the Washington Wizards. Neither of their superstars nor their most reliable sharpshooter are in Orlando. So their chances of catching the Nets and force them into a play-in tournament are slim.
But Jalen Rose of ESPN and Kevin O’Connor think it best that the Nets put aside playoff dreams and focus on 1) the Draft where they would get to keep their first rounder if they founder, and 2) the team’s youngsters ... use the “bubble” to develop them.
“The best thing for them would be not to make the playoffs, to get your pick back,” Jalen Rose told The Post.
“If you’re choosing, and you’re looking at the roster that’s going to take the floor — [missing] Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler, Michael Beasley — the [only] thing I’m enthusiastic to see with the Nets is Jamal Crawford do his Carmelo 2.0. For the Nets other than that, get that lottery pick.”
The Nets currently are in seventh place, a half-game ahead of the Magic and six games ahead of the Wizards. If the Nets drop to eighth and Washington gets within 3.5 games of Brooklyn, the two will face off on August 15 and 16 to contest the eighth spot. if the Nets win the first game, they’re in. If Washington beats them twice, they’re out.
That would put the Nets back in the lottery and them two picks in the top 20. Their first own rounder was sent to Atlanta essentially for Taurean Prince. Atlanta then moved it to Minnesota. But it’s lottery protected. So if the Nets miss out on the playoffs, their next big date would be August 25, the Draft Lottery. It will no doubt will be virtual this year (and almost certainly come out of the “bubble.”)
It’s not about tanking, argues Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer. It’s about being realistic about your slim chance of advancing. After all, in addition to losing so much fire power, they now have five players with either no playing time this year or fewer than 50 minutes. Jamal Crawford and Lance Thomas have yet to play, Justin Anderson (once signed), Jeremiah Martin and 22-year-old Donta Hall, have a total of 91 minutes combined. With 48 minutes, Hall has more than half that total.
So O’Connor writes, play the kids and —agreeing with Rose— take a look at Crawford...
The following month will be an opportunity for most teams to fight for the postseason, and then try to advance to the second round. But for some teams like the Nets, it’s a time for player development. And for Crawford, it’s a time to prove he still has something to offer a contender once he hits free agency again this offseason. We’re about to find out whether this is the end for Crawford, or the start of his new beginning.
Of course, the Nets will, as a matter of necessity, play the kids. The question is how much. Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurcus and Hall are all 22; Dzanan Musa is 21; Martin 23 and Chris Chiozza 24. The Nets will need to take a look at several of them as free agency approaches. Sean Marks will have to determine if Allen and Musa are worth extending another year or in Allen’s case worth a big contract starting in 2021-22. Those contract decisions need to be made before the beginning of next season. Chiozza will be a restricted free agent this fall as will Martin. Hall will be unrestricted.
And the Nets GM will likely want to see if any of them have trade value if he decides to go for the proverbial third star. A lottery pick would help in that pursuit as well.
Rose and O’Connor are enthusiastic — and in O’Connor’s case a little skeptical — of what Crawford can bring.
“He deserves a job from training camp,” said Rose. “Now I think being back in the bubble — going one-on-one, undressing some people and making highlight plays, he and Caris balling — he now goes into next season if not a member of the Nets, he’ll be on somebody else’s team based on that opportunity.”
“He scored 27, 28, and 19 points in his three prior games,” wrote O’Connor talking about Crawford’s much noted 51-point game the last time he took the court for real. “The problem is Crawford looked his age for the 60 games before that, averaging 6.4 points on 36 percent shooting while playing old-man defense. It took the Nets losing nearly their entire roster for Crawford to get a chance to play basketball again.”
The Nets plans, of course, could change again. They have one opening, which apparently is reserved for Anderson, but as we know from experience, things have a tendency to get weird.
- Jamal Crawford has chance to ‘dazzle’ Nets during NBA restart - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Power Re-rankings, Part 1: Teams on the Bubble, in the Bubble - Kevin O’Connor - The Ringer