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The past few seasons have been tough to stomach for Brooklyn Nets fans. Stuck with an aging roster and no draft picks, the silver linings have been few and far between. Last season was the club took some steps towards fixing their situation. It started with the hiring of Sean Marks as the new general manager. Coming over from the pristine San Antonio Spurs, he was charged with righting the ship once and for all. Looking towards the 2016-17 season, he’s begun the process but spoiler alert: the Nets are still going to be atrocious.
In basketball you can be good and you can be entertaining. Sometimes you can be both but they are not mutually exclusive. During this stretch of bad Nets teams, they have also been extremely boring to watch. This season, things could be different, knowing they would be bad, Marks and his team have at least put together a roster that promises to at least be intriguing to watch.
Not many Nets from last year figure to have a prominent role this season. As always, there are a few exceptions. One of these is Brook Lopez, the Nets’ most tenured player. Lopez is one of the best offensive centers in the NBA. His back to the basket game is beyond reproach and he also has a smooth stroke to go with it. He’s not one to play above the rim but watching him frustrate post defenders can be fun to watch for basketball purists. Along with Lopez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson comes back for his sophomore season. RHJ is one of Brooklyn’s few promising prospects and he is a tenacious defender that gets under people’s skin. He is also an excellent rebounder for his position which is good considering Lopez is allergic to grabbing rebounds.
To me, the most exciting returning player is Bojan Bogdonavic. He really started coming into his own down the stretch of last season and showed off a versatile offensive game. He’s a big body for a guard and has an excellent post game that defenders can’t do much about. He also has range from downtown and isn’t afraid to let it fly. While not an athletic specimen, he catches opponents off guard with his slashing game and finds way to get to the rim. He dropped 44 on the 76ers last year (granted that’s Philadelphia) and looked like one of the best scorers in the NBA on that night. With more minutes and more touches this year, he could be looking at a substantial jump in his scoring numbers.
Of course, the Nets’ new additions are what really make this team potentially intriguing. Hoping to kickstart Linsanity 2: Electric Boogaloo, Jeremy Lin comes to Brooklyn after a resurgent season in Charlotte. Whether or not Lin starts, it seems like coach Kenny Atkinson wants him off the bench, he will be Brooklyn’s best point guard. Lin is fun to watch, he’s fast and often plays recklessly. There’s also the added benefit of the Jeremy Lin hair watch. At his best, Lin is playing with guys who can hit open shots and he’s allowed to drive to the rim with his speed. Not many guards in the NBA are faster than Lin running in a straight line and he uses that ability to its potential. I think he’s going to put up career best numbers because someone has to score for Brooklyn.
Next to Lopez, Brooklyn went out and got essentially an old man version of Lopez. After a bounce back year in Toronto, Luis Scola moved onto the Nets. He started most of the season for the Raptors and discovered a shooting touch. For the first half of the season, Scola rained baseline three after baseline three and acted as a floor spacer for Toronto. Then the all-star break arrived, Scola remembered he was ancient and he stopped hitting shots. It got so bad that he had to be left off the postseason rotation because he wasn’t making shots and even in his prime he was on a turnstile on defense. He won’t be good in Brooklyn but it will be entertaining to watch a Lopez/Scola combo trying to hit the boards and defend much faster, smaller lineups.
Along with Scola, the Nets brought in another former Toronto Raptor. The much maligned Anthony Bennett finds himself in what is likely his last chance to prove his NBA worth. A first overall pick only three years ago, Bennett is now on the precipice of being out of the league faster than any other top pick in history. It remains to be seen if Bennett has any tangible NBA skills that are even at league average but it’s on this roster that we are going to find out. Internationally, Bennett has been a good player for team Canada but those rosters include dudes who played at the Canadian University level and those players usually outplay Bennett so there’s that. I don’t know what to expect from him this year. He’s noticeably slimmed down but that doesn’t magically give him the ability to make a shot or grab rebounds. There is also the possibility that he doesn’t make the final 15 man roster in which case, Bennett will probably go back to the D-League where he averaged some less than pretty stats.
Some of the new blood coming in through the draft is interesting. For Nets fans, the draft is a thing that happens every year where teams select players coming out of college and overseas. It isn’t new but for Brooklyn, it may as well be. They traded into the first round of the 2016 draft to pick Caris Levert in the 20th spot. Levert was an outstanding talent at Michigan. He’s a stat sheet stuffer that does a little bit of everything really well and is a bomber from downtown. He’s also an excellent athlete that likes to play above the rim and assert himself on a team’s defense. So why was he drafted so low? Well he’s had three operations on his left foot in the last two years. He had surgery done on his foot back in March and was still on crutches come the combine in May. He struggled to make it through two NCAA seasons which is less than 40 games and now will be expected to play in double that amount in a much shorter time span. That’s incredibly worrisome for someone who appears to be injury prone. Word is he will be ready to go once the season kicks off. He might be an absolute steal or he could be back in crutches come December. We will find out. The other pick they came out of the draft with is Isaiah Whitehead. He should be a good utility scorer coming off the bench. It isn’t sexy but it’s better than most of what Brooklyn has been doing over the last two seasons.
Despite Levert and Whitehead being the Nets’ only draft pick in 2016, they added another player from this class through free agency. After turning heads at Indiana, people expected Yogi Ferrell to find his way into the second round of the draft but his name never came up. He managed to find his way to the Nets by impressing them during Summer League and I expect him to be on the roster come the start of the season. Ferrell is exhilarating to watch in action. He’s fast, he whips the ball around with abandon and he likes to put shots up. Along with that, he has the demeanor of a leader and plays with the utmost confidence in his game. This kid will be fun to watch.
Then of course you have “depth” guys who also bring some interesting stuff. Greivis Vasquez is another former Raptor who led the league in assists a few years ago. He spent most of last year trying to recover from an injury. No one is more confident in Vasquez than he is in himself. It can be frustrating to watch at times but he also has a penchant for hitting clutch shots from absolutely ludicrous spots. Think Kobe Bryant with an ounce of the talent. Chase Budinger used to be the league’s leading “athletic white dude” until injuries really slowed him down. Like so many other guys on Brooklyn’s roster, he’s there for a “final shot”. At this rate, Brooklyn operates as the buffer between the NBA and international ball. Can you stick with the Nets? If so you have NBA potential, if not you should consider making bank out in Spain or China. Just look at this picture from media day, does that not look like your residence’s intramural squad from university?
Thankfully, Brooklyn has a first round pick this year because they will be terrible. Unfortunately for them, that pick will be the worst of theirs and Boston’s because the Celtics have the right to swap with them based on either the Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce trade. They also are outright giving their 2018 pick to Boston, so thanks for helping them build a goddamn dynasty Brooklyn. That being said, despite being bad the product should still be fun. The battle for New York between the Nets and the Knicks should be a highlight. The Knicks have built NBA 2k11’s ultimate team and the Nets are ripe to upset them. Outside of that, the Nets will lose a lot but probably play fast and loose and when you have to watch a loser every night, isn’t that better than watching Joe Johnson put up bad shots and Andrea Bargnani pretending he knows what he’s doing?