Additions: Kenneth Faried, Shabazz Napier, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, Treveon Graham, Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs
Subtractions: Jeremy Lin, Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Timofey Mozgov, Isaiah Whitehead
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Allen Crabbe
SF: Demarre Carroll
PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Jarrett Allen
Key Bench Players: Spencer Dinwiddie, Kenneth Faried, Caris Levert, Shabazz Napier, Joe Harris, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis
The good news for coach Kenny Atkinson is he can trot out multiple different starting lineups with plenty of capable players and my projected lineup could be completely wrong save for D’Angelo Russell. The bad news is that no member of this roster, other than Russell, has tangible star potential. Every other player on the team is too one-dimensional. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has the potential to maybe be one of the top defenders in the entire NBA, but is similar to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Hornets in that he does not have a reliable jump shot in his repertoire. Last year’s NBA All Star Weekend Skills Challenge winner Spencer Dinwiddie is a tremendous playmaker and proved that last year when both Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell were sidelined with injury, but is also not a reliable shooter. Kenneth Faried, who was acquired from the Denver Nuggets over the offseason, is purely an energizer without any true offensive skills. Joe Harris is a deadeye sniper but offers little in the playmaking and defensive departments. Shabazz Napier, who signed a two year, $3.7M contract over the offseason, is too inconsistent on the offensive end but could have his moments, and like Harris, is a weak link on defense. There are simply too many one dimensional players on this team to be effective throughout an entire season.
The Nets were 28-54 last season. Could they build on that? Honestly, it is very hard to see it, but it is possible if D’Angelo Russell can continue to grow. He is currently on the short list of players pushing to win the Most Improved Player in the 2018-2019 season. Along with the aforementioned Dinwiddie, Hollis-Jefferson, and Levert, Russell and the Nets have an intriguing set of lengthy young guards on the perimeter. The former second overall pick does have some shooters surrounding him in Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe, Levert, and Jared Dudley to help spread the floor so that he can attack the basket or to create open shooting opportunities for himself.
This Nets team can be very dangerous in the open floor with their youth and athleticism. The big man trio of Jarrett Allen, Kenneth Faried, and Ed Davis ensures that Russell or Dinwiddie have a big man capable of converting lob opportunities. This is where Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gets his points. The 6’7 athletic wing averaged over 10 PPG on 47.2% shooting last season solely based off transition opportunities, putbacks, and timely cuts. If the Chester, PA native can build a credible jump shot, the Nets will be in much better shape.
Kenny Atkinson likes his teams to have a pace-n-space approach, which means pushing the tempo and spreading the floor out with shooters. At most times, Brooklyn could have at least three capable shooters on the floor with two big men. But with players like Demarre Carroll, Jared Dudley and Dzanan Musa, Coach Atkinson has more flexibility to trot out more lineups with a small-ball stretch-4. Personally, I believe the Nets can be a very effective team if they throw out a “small-ball” lineup consisting of Dinwiddie, Russell, Levert, Carroll, and your pick of Allen, Faried, and Ed Davis to emphasize shooting, pace, and one big man capable of rebounding and protecting the rim. Substitute RHJ for Carroll at the power forward slot and you get a faster and more defensive minded unit, albeit they may be sacrificing some shooting.
Can the Nets approach the 30-win mark? I really do not see them doing so, but they can give some teams some trouble along the way. There are many pieces that need to have improved over the offseason for Brooklyn to eclipse that 30-win milestone. They will most likely have a top-10 draft pick this year, possibly even top-5 if D’Angelo Russell does not take that next step. Luckily for GM Sean Marks and Coach Atkinson, the Nets finally have their own first round pick for the first time since 2014 when the Boston Celtics sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, and unprotected first round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018, as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017. Those first round picks turned into Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to provide a brighter future for Boston, while the 2018 pick was used to orchestrate the trade for Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers.
Luckily for Brooklyn, Demarre Carroll’s $15.4M, Faried’s $13.7M, and Jared Dudley’s $9.5M contracts will come off the books next offseason, and an extra $18.5M could be freed up if Allen Crabbe decides not to exercise his player option. According to Woj, the Nets are one of three teams that star shooting guard Jimmy Butler is interested in after demanding a trade from the Timberwolves yesterday. Maybe now, with a lot of bad contracts coming off the books, a top 10 draft pick, and the possibility of Jimmy Butler joining the team, the Nets can finally find a franchise cornerstone capable of pairing with D’Angelo Russell. The Nets future is starting to look back up.
Picture Courtesy of The Undefeated (D’Angelo Russell)
*For yesterday’s article on the Boston Celtics, click here.
Up next tomorrow: Charlotte Hornets
University of South Carolina ’21