If you’re in the business of winning, the Brooklyn Nets are not a smart investment – at least not yet.
This team has been dealt an incredibly bad hand by Billy King and Mikhail Prokhorov. However, smart management in the past year has given Brooklyn fans a glimmer of hope for the future. This is quite an accomplishment considering the circumstances.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert could have been the smartest picks in the last two drafts that no one talked about. And Brooklyn’s pursuit of such red-flagged, high upside picks demonstrates something far more important for the franchise: self awareness. This team knows that building through the top of the draft and free agency are out of the question for the foreseeable future. Brooklyn’s pursuit of former talents in the past few weeks shows a willingness to double down on high ceilings. Remember when ice water ran through Jeremy Lin’s veins and Linsanity was taking over the Big Apple. Or when Sean Kilpatrick put up 26 on George Hill, in a tight loss to Indiana. No? How about, first overall pick, Anthony Bennet, who was hyped as a rangy powerful forward who boasted a quick array of inside moves and a three-point stroke. Brooklyn remembers.
With a few other youngins like Isaiah Whitehead, Thomas Robinson, Chris McCullough and Shane Larkin, this team has stocked a pretty good cupboard of draft lottery leftovers. Pair them with a little bit of experience in backups like Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, and Bojan Bogdanovic and the Nets just may have a recipe for development.
Don’t expect this team to get a whiff of postseason hopes next year, but with a little more roster-shifting and a decent return on Brook Lopez, their new starting floor general may not have been too far off in saying this team is like a “smart young start-up.” The only problem is that the rest of the NBA are looking more and more like Giants of the Industry.
Analysis of the future
Nets management has done well thus far to overpay and gamble on players that could make a difference. I could have seen LeVert going in the mid-lottery if GMs had looked past his injury from last year. The kid is an NBA sized two-way talent with a sweet shooting stroke. I’m a fan of Thomas Robinson’s tenacity on the boards, and think he’d do well in the right lineups. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson showed why the Nets took their time bringing him back last year, as he is capable of stuffing stat sheets against competition outside of Las Vegas. And Lin in a starting role has always intrigued me, if only for fantasy basketball purposes.
While the Nets have done as well as one could hope, it’s not enough. They need to continue rebuilding innovatively if they’re to turn this start-up into a market competitor. That means embracing the neighboring 76ers style of play, and turning games into open tryouts for diamonds in the rough.
Nets GM Sean Marks needs to send Brook Lopez packing by October for whatever he can get, prioritizing rights to currently drafted-and-stashed players overseas and looking to acquire NBA Summer League standouts (such as Richaun Holmes) on short term, team-friendly contracts. At the same time, with unique forwards on the roster, Coach Atkinson NEEDS to experiment with small-ball lineups. When I say, 6-7, 40 percent three point shooter with a 7-1 wingspan and a 240-lb. frame, 99.99 percent of NBA fans would think I’m talking about Draymond Green. Lucky for Brooklyn, that’s the former first overall pick they have under contract. The Nets need to see what they have in their young players, especially Anthony Bennett. And rolling out starting lineups of Lin, Kilpatrick, LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson, and Bennett would be exactly the way to do it.