Ever since the trade that sent three first round picks (and swapped picks in 2017), the Nets have been a laughing-stock among NBA fans, as they’ve consistently put together awful seasons only to get an awful draft pick. But, under new direction with Kenny Atkinson at coach and Sean Marks at GM, the Nets will snap out of their failure this season and exceed expectations.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Nets at an over/under of 28.5 wins in the 2017-18 season. Here’s why they will exceed that.
The System Fits the Players
This seems pretty basic, but the system the team runs needs to fit the types of players a team has. We’ve seen many instances of that not being the case, as they usually end in bad terms (Dwight Howard in Atlanta and Carmelo Anthony in New York recently). But, the Nets have all the right guys to perfectly execute Kenny Atkinson’s system.
Atkinson wants to play fast, positionless, and 5-out offense, and they have players to fit that. Both D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin can play either guard spot with ease and can shoot beyond the arc (35.2% and 37.2%). In the offseason, the Nets picked up bad contracts like Allen Crabbe and Demarre Carroll, and although they both haven’t lived up to their contracts, they are poised for break-out years playing under Atkinson’s scheme.
— NBA (@NBA) October 9, 2017
In the frontcourt, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fits exactly what the Nets want to do. His 6’7″ frame, athleticism, rebounding ability, and his 7’3″ wingspan allow him to guard small forwards to centers effectively. New draft pick Jarrett Allen has a 7’5″ wingspan along with great speed to get up and down the floor. Timofey Mozgov (newly acquired) and Jarrett Allen didn’t have a three-point shot in their arsenal, but thanks to the Nets’ player development, both have added that shot.
The Nets took on a lot of salary this summer, but they got names like Timofey Mozgov, Demarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, and D’Angelo Russell. Carroll struggled mightily in his two seasons as a Raptor, but playing under Kenny Atkinson (assisstant coach for ATL in 2015) again should raise his production. Carroll was a lethal shooter in Atlanta (39.5% from three), and he should be able to get there again with Atkinson.
Predicition: Allen Crabbe wins Most Improved after he scores 15 or so PPG and wins the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 8, 2017
Allen Crabbe gets a bad reputation for not living up to his big contract he signed last offseason (4yr/74m). But, with a crowded backcourt in Portland, there was no way for him to make his mark. He shot 44.4% from three last season, but he only attempted 3.8 three-point attempts per game last season. In Brooklyn, he should receive a lot more.
Mozgov gets disregarded because of how the NBA is moving these days, but the Nets have attempted to modernize his game. Mozgov was seen practicing his three’s (along with Allen), so if he’s able to atleast have the threat of a perimeter game, it should increase his production from his 13 points and 8.8 rebounds per 36 minutes.
D'Angelo Russell is legit. Brooklyn found their star. I fully believe this
— greek mill 🇬🇷 (@georgeythegreek) October 12, 2017
The Nets Got Their Face of the Franchise
On June 20th, the Lakers traded Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell to the Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Although the Nets had to give away Lopez and a first and take on Mozgov, the Nets finally got their star to build around: D’Angelo Russell.
The NBA is a star’s league. Without a star, teams tend to lose popularity and lack success on the court. When the Hawks won 60 games, went undefeated in January, and made it to the ECF in 2015, they were still mediocre in attendance, and they got squashed by Lebron James’ Cavs in the ECF. The Hawks were built off of teamwork, but that’s not how to achieve success in the NBA; that’s not how a NBA title is won.
D’Angelo Russell is a budding star. He’s only entering his 3rd season in the NBA, and in his second season last year in LA, he averaged 15.6 points per game. With Russell being the main man in Brooklyn this year, he should drastically improve, especially with lowered expectations in Brooklyn.
Russell is under contract through the 2019-20 season and then is a restricted free agent, so the Nets have control over Russell for a long time. Russell is going to have help to, with young guys like Caris Levert, Jarrett Allen, Allen Crabbe, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson locked up for a while.
37 wins is a lot for the Nets, and this is probably the most optimistic prediction you’ll see. But, I predict D’Angelo Russell to eclipse the 20 points per game mark this season, and you can make an argument that all Eastern Conference playoff teams had a point guard that was the 1st or 2nd best player on their team. Also, Jeremy Lin can play either guard position, giving the Nets a capable backcourt.
I think Demarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe will be perfect fits in the system and will shoot exceptionally well from three. And with Caris LeVert entering his second season, I think he’ll progress into the double-digit points per game total.
A big concern I have for this Nets team is the frountcourt. Even though Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is has a 7’3″ wingspan, his 6’7″ frame is particularly small for playing power forward, and any rumors of him playing center seem concerning.
Jarrett Allen is a project, as he’s not played an NBA game yet and the Nets drafted him for his potential. I don’t expect him to do that much this season, as it’s going to take him a while to develop into what fans think he can be. Although Mozgov is a servicable center, his lack of mobility doesn’t bode well in the NBA these days.
I think the frountcourt will be the reason the Nets struggle if they do. But, if Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can play bigger than his size, the Nets have a real chance to contend for a playoff spot.