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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 15. Brooklyn Nets

Overall Win/Loss Record:  44-38,  second place Atlantic Division

2014/2015 Projection: 43-39, second place Atlantic Division, seventh place Eastern Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 98.5 (21st)
  • Points Allowed: 99.5 (11th)
  • Team FG%: .459 (12th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .458 (17th)
  • Team FT%: .753 (18th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .369 (11th)
  • Rebounds per game: 38.1(29th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.9 (18th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.0 (12th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.0(6th)
Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Joe Johnson (15.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Kevin Garnett (6.6)
  • Minutes per game: Joe Johnson (32.6)
  • Assists per game:  Deron Williams (6.0)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Mason Plumlee (.659)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Brook Lopez (.870)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Joe Johnson (.401)
  • Steals per game: Deron Williams (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Mason Plumlee (0.8)
Projected Opening Day Starters based on Past Performances and Potential:

  • Deron Williams (PG)
  • Alan Anderson (SG)
  • Joe Johnson (SF)
  • Kevin Garnett (PF)
  • Brook Lopez (C)
Key Reserves Rank based on Past Performances and Potential:

  1. Jarrett Jack (G)
  2. Andrei Kirilenko (F)
  3. Miles Plumlee (F/C)
  4. Mirza Teletovic (F)
  5. Bojan Bogdanovic (F/G)
Once upon a time, the Brooklyn Nets were once considered as on their way to being a perennial contender for the Eastern Conference crown, but now they look like a complete mess--like a like a crippled building on the verge of collapse.  For a team that plays in the world's largest sports market, not only has their performance on the court been nothing to write home about, but the Nets also suffered major financial losses, losing up to 200$ million last season.  And there is no where else to go but down as this team is shackled with bloated contracts of ridiculously over paid and overpaid players whom the Nets could not even give away. This season alone, close to 70$ million of the Nets' payroll are tied up with a 38 year old Kevin Garnett who has already passed his prime, a 34 year old Joe Johnson whose game continues to diminish as he ages, an underwhelming disappointment in Deron Williams, and an often injured and unreliable Brook Lopez. Even with the departure of a ancient Paul Pierce and the subtraction of his expiring 15$ million, Brooklyn still finds itself considerably over the salary cap; plus, to make matters worse, the Nets find themselves not only financially strapped, but with no way to get out of the hole that the team's front office had put them in.

Because of the trades that were meant to make the Nets an immediate championship contender, not only do they have rather dead weight contracts which seem that they will never get rid off, but no draft picks either as they have given all them to for the next couple of years.  So the Nets have no other choice but to just try to trudge through the next few seasons with their severely dilapidated roster to the playoffs because simply allowing themselves to tank will not net them any benefit. During the off season the Nets had to bid farewell to two players who were instrumental in their struggle to return to the post season letting them go as free agents as they simply could not afford to add even more salaries to their already morbidly obese payroll.  Shaun Livingston was crucial to the Nets' success last season as he was the team's best option at point guard despite it shelling out 20$ million on Deron Williams--a player Brooklyn had designated as the cornerstone of the franchise.  Unfortunately since the Nets had nothing else to give him other than the veteran minimum, Livingston chose to wisely jump off that sinking ship choosing instead to sign with the +Golden State Warriors where he would enjoy a well deserved pay hike along with a chance to play for a potential championship contender.

Sadly the same cannot be for the Nets other free agent, +Andray Blatche, who spent the last couple seasons as a the Nets first player off the bench leading the team's second unit in both scoring and rebounding along with serving as a versatile piece that could fit in any lineup.  At 6 foot 10 and 250 pounds, Blatche was a matchup nightmare for opposing teams as he had such a versatile game capable of not only scoring in the post, but also beating his defender off the dribble and his outside shooting touch.  Thinking that he would garner a bigger payday, Blatche chose to not pick up his player option for the following season and enter the off season as an unrestricted free agent; however, even he would not have believed that every NBA team would pass on him forcing him to play overseas in China.  Not even a stellar run this past summer with the Philippine National team during the +2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup was enough for NBA scouts to turn their heads, let alone convinced their bosses to open up their purse strings.  Regardless, in spite of Blatche's poor fortunes during the off season what remains important is the fact that now the Nets are minus two extremely talented players who could have helped in keeping their broken down gravy train from completely falling apart   

The best that Brooklyn could do during the off season was acquire reserve guard Jarrett Jack in a three way garbage swap with the +Boston Celtics and the +Cleveland Cavaliers; however, it is not certain what will Jack can bring to this team after he had a less than stellar stint last season with the Cavs.  Plus, Jack's contract adds even more salary obligations to the Nets of around 18$ million for the next three years whereas the guy they gave up in order to get Jack, Marcus Thornton, had a contract would have expired at the end of the season giving the team much needed cap relief. Instead, now the Celtics have Thornton's expiring 8$ million dollar deal--something that the Nets certainly could have used considering the team's financial troubles--and Brooklyn could have used him as he posted rather solid numbers with them last season, far better than what Jack did in Cleveland.  Plus, at 27 years old, Thornton would have also provided some desperately needed youth on a squad whose roster ranks as one of the oldest in the league with an average age of 28 years and could have just provided the same production and the same impact as Jack.  Regardless of the costs and benefits that acquiring Jack brings, his arrival was only just small piece of what had been a rather frustrating off season to say the least.

Much of the drama centered around former head coach +Jason Kidd, who looked to make a power play in the organization as he angled for the job of his boss at the time, Billy King, which certainly brought friction between the two.  Many Nets fans as well as observers in the media scoffed at Kidd's nerve to even think that he was worthy of such a promotion considering his less than stellar head coaching debut; however, even they have to give him credit for pulling the Nets together after a struggling start that could have led to an even worse finish.  Sadly, however, the Nets chose to side with King and allowed Kidd to talk to other teams, one of which happened to be the +Milwaukee Bucks, thus leading to Brooklyn to agree to send Kidd to Milwaukee and in exchange received two second round picks.  Brooklyn then chose to replace Kidd with a more seasoned head coach in Lionel Hollins, who not only has a proven track record as a winner, but will know his place within the organization and probably be less inclined to overstep his bounds the way Kidd did.  He will certainly be a welcomed addition to a veteran team that often looked confused and overwhelmed with his predecessor as he provides a simpler and probably more suited offensive set for a team that has grown much older and slower during the past season; however, no one should expect any miracles as Hollins inherits the same team that struggled until late in the season to finish with a respectable enough record and a playoff appearance that ended with a embarrassing second round sweep by the +Miami HEAT.

The sad fact of the matter is that the Nets have proven that they are simply too old and too worn down to even challenge those, let alone stand aside among such Eastern Conference elite team as the Cavs, Heat and +Chicago Bulls.  Instead, this maligned franchise is hanging on for dear life barely clinging to what little respectability it has in a rather weak conference, but their grip has started to slip as up and coming teams such as the +Detroit Pistons and +Milwaukee Bucks  looking to climb over them.  At the same time, there are teams fall in the same boat as the Nets such as the +Indiana Pacers, who suffered a major off season blow with the off season loss of their star Paul George, and the +Atlanta Hawks who are on essentially borrowed time before they too collapse, look to step on Brooklyn's fingers further weakening its grip.  Brooklyn will also be squeezed by Atlantic Division rival, the +Toronto Raptors, who look to maintain their hold of first place and possible vengeance for their first round elimination last season at its hands as well as its cross town nemesis, the +New York Knicks have come into this season with fresh new faces along witha fresh new attitude.  Altogether, the Nets will be in a rather challenging pool of ten teams fighting in a rather wide open Eastern Conference, but due to questionable personnel decisions and current dire financial situation, there is nowhere else for this team to go but down.

Even with the expiration of Kevin Garnett's onerous contract and the projected growth of the salary cap to a whopping 80$ million, the Nets will still find themselves on the losing side as they will still be over the cap while the lack of draft picks over the next couple of years further worsen the teams prospects for years to come.  50$ million of Brookyln's cap space are currently being held hostage by a 34 year old Joe Johnson whose abilities continue to diminish with every season and what can be considered as an absolute bust in Deron Williams, who the organization and fans certainly had high hopes for, but has failed miserably in all regards to live up to them. While another $15 million per year is looked into Brook Lopez--a player who on the floor can be considered as one of the league's top big men, but remains quite unreliable due to his history of injuries and the uncertainly his availability from one season to the next.  And while Jarrett Jack's contract may seem reasonable enough at around 6.3$ million per year for the next three years, his deal actually puts the Nets in worst shape than they were before as his salary puts the team over the luxury tax threshold and will probably stay that way for the next couple of years.  Altogether, the Nets resemble a hodge podge of players that have seen their best basketball years pass them by, but due to the ridiculous value of their contracts make them virtually worthless on the open market thus leaving this team which at one time had so much promise, turn into a absolute train wreck.

Nonetheless, as long the Brookyln Nets win, that is all what matters as there is such an apathetic fan base that can certainly get away with remaining mediocre and residing in the world's largest sports market will also keep the team's somewhat dubious stature as a top draw team.  The team does have the tools to remain somewhat competitive in a rather open Eastern Conference and will most likely finish with an above .500 record and along with appearing in its third straight playoff since arriving to Brooklyn.  Unfortunately, sooner or later this rusty broken down machine will fall apart bringing both the Nets and their luster to both come crashing down as interest will start to fade resulting in Brooklyn suffering the same fate as their former incarnation in New Jersey. Or even worse, the Nets might suffer the same fate as their West Coast counterpart, the +Los Angeles Clippers, and forever take second billing to the Big Apple's more established New York Knicks, who in all honesty are not really that much to talk about either. But for now, the brain trust of the Brooklyn Nets' front office can still maintain the illusion that its team is still a high stakes player in the East and can still contend for a title.