The new-look Brooklyn Nets have certainly gotten their fair share of praise given to them since the off-season has begun. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving found new homes here. Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have to be applauded. But that doesn’t mean we have been without our critiques. On the NothinButNets site, I wrote about some of the criticism we have gotten. Specifically as far as Jalen Rose goes. You can find it here: https://nothinbutnets.com/2019/07/25/jalen-roses-prediction-brooklyn-nets-next-year-spot/
ESPN’s The Jump had a conversation on teams most likely to underachieve and mentioned the Nets as a potential team to miss the playoffs.
There was no real push back on the notion that the Nets, despite adding Kyrie Irving, would miss the playoffs. I could be missing something, but I’d like to think they are the ones missing things. So here are some reasons why the Nets will make the playoffs.
1. Continued Growth of Players
The Brooklyn Nets have made their name of their youth movement, players, with promise, and grit. This coupled with Kenny Atkinson and the player development staff, many players should be in for leaps in their game. Since drafting Caris Levert, he’s improved gradually year after year. This 2018-2019 season he had his best showing. If not for injury, he probably would have had a good case for the All-Star game. During his best stretches where he was healthy, he was Brooklyn’s best player. This includes post-season.
Spencer Dinwiddie is another player who has come a long way. His play and late-game heroics have won the organization and fans over time and time again. He’s improved his jumper in his time under Head Coach Kenny Atkinson and despite playing slightly fewer minutes than he did last season, we saw an uptick in his production. In less time (and with D’Angelo Russell and for stretches Caris Levert having career years), his points per game jumped from 12.6 to 16.8 while his shooting percentage also went up from roughly 39% to 44%.
Jarrett Allen continues to put on weight and gain strength. Another year, especially mentored by Nets newcomer DeAndre Jordan, will help him on the defensive end of the floor. DJ and Kenny can also help him better position himself for easy buckets and his Summer League play may be signs of him ready to take that next step.
Since coming to Brooklyn, Joe Harris has calmly improved in almost every statistical aspect. Last season he had career highs in minutes per game, points per game, assist per game, rebounds per game, effective field goal percentage, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, shot attempts per game, free throw attempts per game, and tied his career-high in free throw percentage for the season. Joe has the chance to join players like Malcolm Brogdon or fellow Net Kevin Durant in the 50-40-90 club. This is a club that only 8 players in NBA history have access to. He only fell short last season by 8% from the charity stripe and last season he fell short by 1% from the field and that same 8% from the line. He is within reach. And I haven’t even added Musa, Kurucs, and Pinson who all look ready to take a step forward after summer league. Not to also mention, but Kenny Atkinson is improving as a head coach. With another year of experience and an improved roster, look for him to continue to figure things out. Speaking of improved rosters…
2. Improved Roster
Let’s see what the off-season has done for us.
D’Angelo Russell->Kyrie Irving (UPGRADE)
Demarre Carroll-> Taurean Prince (UPGRADE)
Ed Davis-> DeAndre Jordan (UPGRADE)
Trevor Graham-> David Nwaba (UPGRADE)
Jared Dudley-> Wilson Chandler (UPGRADE)
RHJ->Garrett Temple (PUSH)
Allen Crabbe-> Kevin Durant who isn’t 100% and later in the season (UPGRADE)
It’s clear to see that the Nets have upgraded and gotten better personnel in exchange for everyone that was lost this off-season. Many other teams in the east have remained stagnant or gotten worse (with a few exceptions such as the Pacers), but the Nets have taken a step forward. We haven’t even discussed the rookies and the potential impact Nic Claxton specifically can bring to the team.
I know many media persons are down on the Nets DUE to the addition of Kyrie Irving rather than DESPITE it. They question Kyrie’s ability to lead and continue to peg him as a locker room cancer. And as the days go on, many may realize that this is an unfair notion. Since Kyrie’s time has soured in Boston we’ve heard all kinds of chatter concerning the all-star guard. Here I wrote for Nothinbutnets.com that Kyrie Irving will prove people wrong for a plethora of different reasons.
It details the other side of the story to the Kyrie Cancer Saga where other players besides Kyrie are held accountable. Not only that, but Jason Tatum has recently come out and said that he and Irving are still close and Marcus Smart has continued to defend the perennial all-star, Kyrie Irving. Marcus Morris earlier in the year also said the team loved Kyrie and wished to have him back. His former GM, Danny Ainge, has come to Irving’s defense. The only player who has been super critical and never backed off it seems is Terry Roizer, who had no choice but to take a backseat to a healthy Kyrie Irving. Even when asked if he wanted to be back in Boston, he said he couldn’t see himself back with this same group of guys. Not to say that Kyrie is without sin, but maybe Scary Terry was more so the malcontent and source of problems vs Kyrie being that.
But moving on from that, this Nets cast seems as tight-knit as any of the fan favorite rosters we’ve had in years past since the move to Brooklyn. The familiar faces have already added the new players into the group chat. Many of the players are hanging out or have hung out or are planning to hang out. There’s already a web of connection, for example, Kevin Durant being cool with Kyrie, DJ, Levert, and Prince. He can be the familiar face that makes any meshing of new people easier. There’s already friendly banter and competition brewing. You can see an example of it here on Dinwiddie’s IG.
— Nets Nation | ESM (@ESMNetsNation) July 17, 2019
Kyrie walks into a situation with friends and open-minded players excited to play beside him. With the culture that Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks help mold and with the players themselves, I don’t see any chemistry issues brewing yet nor in the near future. We will have to keep a close eye on this so that we, as Nets Nation, can “I told you so” all those who doubted. But in conclusion, there’s no way on round earth or a flat one that we miss the playoffs.