If the Brooklyn Nets wanted to trade center Brook Lopez, they could have gotten more value.
In 2012, the Brooklyn Nets arrived on the scene in Downtown Brooklyn riding white horses as they were seeking to create a buzz and steal fans away from the New York Knicks. The Nets would make the playoffs in each of their first three seasons in Brooklyn, but they would never advance past the second round. And since then the Nets have become the equivalent of a hyped-up stock that has crashed and burned as they’ve gone on to be one of the worst teams in the NBA.
After the Nets went 21-61 last season they barely managed to win 20 games this campaign as they secured the worst mark in the NBA. But the bad news for the Nets is that with all of this futility, they don’t even possess their own first-round pick which would be in the top three of the NBA Draft this June due to a trade in 2013 that saw them acquire guard Jason Terry, power forward Kevin Garnett, and small forward Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics in arguably the worst trade in sports history. As a part of the deal, the Nets sent three first-round picks, along with the ability to swap first-round picks here in 2017 to the Celtics which they’ll really feel the effect of this summer since Boston finished the regular season as the top team in the Eastern Conference. The trade was a win-now deal for the Nets and they flopped as the trio of Terry, Garnett, and Pierce combined to appear in just 206 games for the Nets. The Nets have been feeling the effects of the deal ever since as they are attempting to recover, but they haven’t had the draft picks or salary cap flexibility to expedite the process.
Sean Marks took over as the Nets general manager last year knowing that he had a tall task ahead of him being that Brooklyn was hamstrung due to a lack of draft choices. Marks hired Kenny Atkinson to be the Nets head coach as they knew that their first year together in Brooklyn was going to be a harsh one. At no point this season were the Nets at or above .500 which included them only winning one game from December 16-January 17. The Nets lacked NBA talent on their roster and with the exception of center Brook Lopez who averaged 20.5 points and became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, there wasn’t that much for Brooklyn to hang their hats on. The nostalgia of that moment wore off rather quickly for the Nets as the reality of one of the worst seasons in franchise history kicked in which was culminated by their 112-73 loss to the Chicago Bulls to end the season this past Wednesday night. The Nets had six players including Lopez sit out that contest as the blowout loss summed up their season. And even with so much against Brooklyn, they must find a way to improve heading into the summer.
The main thing that Marks must do is find a way to trade Lopez. Lopez has been a model citizen for the Nets since they drafted him in 2008. But the reality of the situation is that the Nets aren’t going to contend with him and thus they need to acquire as many assets as possible for him. This past season saw Marks make Lopez available just prior to the NBA’s trading deadline, however his steep asking price of a pair of first-round picks scared off potential suitors. For Lopez’s NBA career he has averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. Lopez is set to earn more than $22 million next season which is the final one of his contract, but he could be enticing enough for a contenting team to pick up.
During the season the Nets traded small forward Bojan Bogdanovic to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a first-round pick this summer. But like the Celtics, the Wizards are headed for the NBA Playoffs which means that the pick will be towards the end of the first round. However that is as active that the Nets will be on draft night as their second-round pick which is 31st overall is now property of the Atlanta Hawks as the result of the trade that saw them acquire swingman Joe Johnson in 2012. The Nets already have more than $70 million committed to player’s salaries for next season, but the operative word for them needs to be “patience”.
The Nets mortgaged their future and now they are paying for it severely. The Nets and their owner Mikhail Prokhorov had to learn the hard way that their is no quick fix in the NBA unless it involves you signing LeBron James. The Nets must focus on drafting, stick to the plan, and accept the fact that they are going to be bad for some time. This is a franchise that has not won a championship of any kind since their days in the ABA. And during the Nets time in the NBA, each time that they appear to be a verge of building something positive, it crumbles like a deck of cards.
The Nets call the Barclays Center home and it is one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the NBA. However it hasn’t been much of a home-court advantage for the Nets as fans typically show up to cheer for their opponents. And until the Nets solidly establish themselves with a team that is a playoff contender, people will only show up to cheer for their opponents, along with the amenities that are at the arena.
This season you knew that Marks and Atkinson would receive a pass for the Nets struggles on the court. And even though that the deck will be stacked against the Nets again for next season, they must find a way to improve.
Sources: Prosporttransactions.com, Basketball-reference.com
X-Toronto Raptors 54-28 (3)
The past three years have seen the Toronto Raptors become the class of the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have focused on basketball fundamentals which has led to more wins and a growing fan base in Canada. The Raptors will begin the upcoming NBA season as the three-time defending Atlantic Division Championships, and after Toronto reached the Eastern Conference Finals last June for the first time in franchise history, the expectations around this team have increased.
Dwane Casey is set to begin his sixth season with the Raptors and in each of his campaign’s in Toronto, the team’s win total has increased. And after the Raptors won a franchise best 56 games last season, they are poised to once again be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
The backbone of the Raptors has been their All-Star backcourt of point guard Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan averaged a career-high in points last season at 23.5 points per game as he continues to improve as a perimeter shooter. Lowry’s numbers have continued throughout his NBA career as he is emerging as one of the better point guards in the league. Last year Lowry averaged 21.2 points and 6.4 assists per contest and as he intends to test free agency next summer.
Around Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors have developing players such as center Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas has spent his entire four-year NBA career with the Raptors and his numbers continue to improve as he averaged 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. Valanciunas is a prime candidate to average a double-double this season which could make the Raptors that more difficult to deal with. The Raptors signed center Jared Sullinger who could be a solid role player in Toronto after he spent the last four years with the Boston Celtics. And the Raptors first-round pick in center/power forward Jakob Poltl could give them another dynamic as a big man that can stretch the floor with his ability to hit he mid-range jump shot.
Size has been the one thing that has held the Raptors back in recent years, but as this team continues to get better in the front court, their chances of being a title contender are that much better.
Y-Boston Celtics 48-34 (4)
The past two years have seen the Boston Celtics become “The Little Engine That Could” of the NBA. The Celtics are not the most talented team in the league, but they scrap and claw on a nightly basis as they are a team that opponents are not excited to face. Brad Stevens is the Celtics head coach, and it is a post that he has maintained for the last three years. And in each year that Stevens has been in Boston, the Celtics win total has increased. The last two seasons have seen the Celtics make the playoffs, but they’ve been unable to advance past the first round. However will things change for the Celtics next spring?
Last year saw point guard Isaiah Thomas turn into a star for the Celtics. Thomas led the Celtics in points per game (22.2) and assists (6.2) as he earned his first All-Star Game nod. Thomas has solid ability as a point guard being that is able to penetrate, but for the Celtics to take that next step they are going to need a consistent low-post presence.
For the last nine years, center Al Horford has been one of the cornerstones of the Atlanta Hawks. With the Hawks, Horford was a four-time NBA All-Star as he averaged 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds during his time there. But when Horford became a free agent this past summer, the Hawks signed center Dwight Howard which made him expendable. And when the Celtics offered Horford $113 million on a four-year deal, he jumped on it.
Horford gives the Celtics a dependable scorer in the post, and he has already been named as one of the team’s captains which gives you an idea of the respect that he commands.
The combination of guards Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley continue to pester opponents with their frenetic play at both ends of the floor. Both Smart and Bradley are two of the better defenders at the point guard position along with each player providing a change of pace on offense which gives Stevens more options as he preaches versatility with his team.
Veteran small forward Jae Crowder should be able to feed off of Horford’s presence in the front court as he no longer has to be the Celtics primary scoring option in the post. The Celtics have high hopes for their first-round pick in small forward Jaylen Brown. But a sleeper on this roster could be rookie forward Ben Bentil who averaged 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds last year in the college for the Providence Friars. Aside from leading the Friars in scoring and rebounds, Bentil also led the team with 52 made three-point field goals, and his scoring ability will be huge off of the bench for the Celtics.
Five of the Celtics first six games this season will be at home, and a fast start could be just what they need to push the Toronto Raptors for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
New York Knicks 41-41
When Phil Jackson became the president of the New York Knicks in March 2014, he brought excitement and expectations to the franchise. But in two seasons under Jackson’s regime, the Knicks have only managed to win 49 games, while the man that he was grooming to be the next “great head coach” in Derek Fisher was fired last season after the team got off to a 23-31 start. Kurt Rambis would be named as the Knicks interim head coach for the remainder of the season as New York went 9-19 under him. But what was even more surprising than the firing of Fisher was that Jeff Hornacek was hired to be the new head coach of the Knickerbockers.
The Knicks will be Hornacek’s second NBA coaching gig after he compiled a record of 101-112 in nearly three seasons as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. Hornacek was never able to lead the Suns to the postseason, and the highlight of his time in Phoenix was when the team won 48 games during the 2013-2014 NBA season. However it is really going to be very interesting to see how the marriage between Hornacek and Jackson will work since Jackson is notorious for hiring coaches that will solely run his triangle offense which isn’t a specialty of the Knicks new head coach who prefers a more uptempo style of offense.
The hiring of Hornacek smells of Knicks owner James Dolan once again putting his nose into the day-to-day operations of the team which makes you wonder if Jackson’s days at 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue are numbered? And even though that the Knicks can be described as the best circus in town, this group must find a way to co-exist in order to make a roster that has individual talent work as a team.
The centerpiece of any potential Knicks success is small forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has been with the Knicks since 2011 and he has given New York a face of the franchise while helping them reach the postseason on three occasions. Anthony also led the NBA in scoring during the 2012-2013 NBA season, but since then his offensive numbers have dipped. Anthony is 32-years of age with a bad knee. And although that Anthony can still fill up the bucket, the clock is ticking on he and the Knicks to win a championship together.
The Knicks are hopeful that power forward Kristaps Porzingis will be able to build off of his solid rookie campaign. Last season Porzingis averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Porzingis came into the NBA being compared to Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, and he could be a player that could average 17 points and 10 rebounds this season under Hornacek.
This off-season has seen the Knicks bring in an array of veteran players. The Knicks signed former Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah to a four-year deal that is worth $72 million, while also signing guards Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee. The Knicks would also acquire point guard Derrick Rose from the Bulls to complete their roster overhaul. But unfortunately for the Knicks, these are moves that should have been made five years ago.
In 2011, Rose was the NBA’s MVP as he was one of the league’s brightest stars. However since then knee injuries have derailed Rose’s once promising career. Noah was Rose’s teammate in Chicago where they helped the Bulls to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference when they were healthy. Noah was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as his toughness and grit defined that era of Bulls basketball. But like Rose, Noah has been dealing with injuries as foot and shoulder issues have limited his effectiveness over his final two seasons in Chicago. The Knicks will be the fourth different team that Jennings has suited up for and he is seeking to find the explosiveness that he had earlier in his career. Like Jennings, Lee has bounced around the NBA as the Knicks will be his seventh different team. Throughout Lee’s career, he has been an underrated defender that should be able to provide a spark off of the Knicks bench for Hornacek.
The Knicks will look to push the pace of play more this season under Hornacek, but the most important thing for New York is to have everyone on the same page as it will be very interesting to see how this motley crew comes together as the season progresses.
Philadelphia 76ers 29-53
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers have become the worst franchise in the NBA. The 2011-2012 NBA season was the last time that the Sixers finished with a winning record and it was their only winning campaign over the last seven years. The last three seasons have seen the 76ers combine to win 47 games, and to give you an idea of how bad that it has been in Philadelphia, ten NBA teams won more games than the Sixers last year alone than they were able to accomplish over the last three campaigns. Last season was just about as bad as it could get for the Sixers as they managed to go just 10-72 which led to some wholesale changes.
Sam Hinkie was relieved of his duties as the 76ers general manager after he oversaw the worst stretch in franchise history. Former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo was brought in by the Sixers as an advisor and his first order of business was to name his son Bryan as the team’s new president and general manager. The younger Colangelo has a proven track record of putting a team together from his time as the general manager of both the Suns and Toronto Raptors as he was named as the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2007. Now Colangelo is tasked with making the Sixers respectable once again and they could be a team on the rise.
Brett Brown is set to begin his third season as the Sixers head coach and although that the man who hired him in Hinkie is no longer running the show in Philly, he will still be calling the shots on the sideline.
The Sixers will begin the upcoming NBA season on the wrong foot as they will be without the services of small forward Ben Simmons. Simmons was the first overall pick of the NBA Draft this past summer after he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in one year for the LSU Tigers. But a foot injury will keep Simmons out of action for at least three months which will postpone his NBA debut.
The inability for the 76ers to win games in recent years has led to selecting early in the NBA Draft, but Hinkie rolled the dice on players that weren’t healthy. In 2013, the Sixers obtained the draft rights to center Nerlens Noel from the New Orleans Pelicans, but he missed the entire 2013-2014 NBA season after he recovered from a torn ACL that he suffered in college. In 2014, the Sixers used the third overall pick of the draft on center Joel Embiid, but injuries have prevented him from participating in an NBA game. Last year the Sixers first-round pick was center Jahlil Okafor. Unlike Noel and Embiid, Okafor was able to suit up as a rookie for the Sixers as he averaged 17.5 points and 7 rebounds in 53 games before a knee injury cut his rookie campaign short. However all three players are healthy and it should give the 76ers a huge advantage in the front court.
The good things for the folks in Philadelphia is that it can’t get any worse than it has already been. Colangelo is working to bring a competitive team to the City of Brotherly Love and the 76ers should be an improved team this season.
Brooklyn Nets 22-60
Last year was a sign of things to come for the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets lost 61 games last season which was the third worst record in the NBA and the icing on the cake was that they didn’t have a first-round pick to show for their futility. The Nets are still suffering from the moves that were made by former general manager Billy King as most of their recent and future picks are now property of the Boston Celtics after the team’s failed attempt to become an instant title contender in 2013 when they acquired aging players such as power forward Kevin Garnett and small forward Paul Pierce. The Nets run at a title was short lived as they are coming off of their worst campaign since 2010 when they were still the New Jersey Nets.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has finally realized that winning an NBA Championship is not an easy process and instead of the quick process, he has finally decided on the slow, methodical process. Prokhorov has hired Sean Marks as the Nets new general manager and he’ll be tasked with making Brooklyn respectable.
Marks played for 11 seasons in the NBA and he won a championship as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Marks has spent the last four years working in the Spurs front office and he is looking to bring some of that winning formula with him to Brooklyn.
Marks’ first order of business was to hire a new coach in Kenny Atkinson. The Nets will mark Atkinson’s first head coaching gig in the NBA, but he has had stints as an assistant coach in the league with the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. And now that Atkinson is running the show in Brooklyn, you can expect him to preach ball movement for the Nets.
One of the few bright spots that the Nets have on their roster is center Brook Lopez. Lopez is coming off of one of his best NBA seasons as he averaged 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 73 games for the Nets. Lopez gives the Nets a solid presence in the post, but trading him to a contending team could return draft picks to Brooklyn that will be needed in order for them to turn things around.
Aside from Lopez, the Nets are a team that is mainly comprised of youngsters that are thankful to be on an NBA roster and veterans that are attempting to hold on. This past summer the Nets signed point guard Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $36 million deal as they are hopeful than he can give them a dose of “Linsanity” as he did when he suited up for the Knicks in 2012. Rookie shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead is a native of Coney Island and he won’t be fazed by playing in front of the hometown fans as he could have a positive impact on this team.
The Nets will be fighting an uphill battle all season long as they have finally come to grips of the reality that is their rebuilding process.
When the Nets left New Jersey in favor of Brooklyn, New York in 2012, they brought with them a ton of excitement. The Nets won 49 games in their first season in Brooklyn and the future appeared to be bright for them. And although the Nets have made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, their win total has declined in each year. But for a franchise that’s all-time winning percentage is just .439, the Nets are off to one of the worst starts ever. The Nets lost their first seven games to begin this NBA season and even though they’ve been able to be more competitive in their recent games, Brooklyn’s record is now 2-11. A championship cannot be won this early into the NBA season, but a start like the Nets have had can surely diminish their chances of being a contender.
Lionel Hollins is in his second season as the Nets head coach which in itself is a miracle due to the fact that Brooklyn hasn’t had a head coach last more than one season since they crossed backed over the Hudson River. Hollins is a no-nonsense head coach that will hold his players accountable. Hollins’ approach led the Nets to buying out the contract of point guard Deron Williams over the summer which marked the end of his disappointing tenure with the club. And although the victories have not been there for the Nets so far this NBA season, Williams is one less headache that they have to worry about.
The Nets surely weren’t going to win with Williams, but this is a team that still needs an upgrade at the point guard position. Point guard Jarrett Jack was brought in last season to push Williams, but he ended up becoming the Nets starting point guard when Williams fell out of favor with Hollins. Jack is an NBA journeyman, but this season he is enjoying his best start as a professional as he is averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 assists per game. However, Jack is a solid backup point guard. And for the Nets, they have lacked a franchise player at point guard ever since they traded Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks in 2008 which is what they thought they were getting with Williams.
What the Nets currently have is a team consisting of a few solid players in center Brook Lopez, power forward Thaddeus Young, and shooting guard Joe Johnson. This is a trio of good players, but no of these players has the ability to put the Nets on his respective back.
But regardless of who is currently on the Nets roster, they must find a way to win in spite of their unfavorable schedule to begin this season. 13 of the Nets first 16 opponents this season were playoff teams last year which has included them losing four of their first five games by at least 10 points. And as the losses have piled up for the Nets, general manager Billy King is watching with a keen eye as it might be time to wave the white flag soon if this trend continues in Brooklyn.
Johnson is in the final year of his contract as he is earning nearly $25 million this season. Expiring contracts are like gold in the NBA and for a player like Johnson who is 12th on the NBA’s all-time list for made three-point field goals, he could provide a spark to a contending team should the Nets attempt to trade him. But at the same time, what the Nets need to practice most is patience.
When Mikhail Prokhorov purchased the Nets in 2010, he vowed to deliver a championship within five years. And in hoping to make good on that boast, Prokhorov allowed King to trade away draft picks along with young players in order to bring in veterans that he felt would lead Brooklyn to a title. But that hasn’t worked out as the Nets have not made it past the conference semifinals since coming to Brooklyn. And what the Nets need to do is to develop some patience while also attempting to get younger.
With Lopez and Young under contract with the Nets through 2018, the Nets should build around them which starts with bringing in a quality point guard. Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr. is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. And although Conley is not a top-tier point guard, he is a player that is familiar with Hollins’ system from their time together with the Grizzlies while he is also a player that could potentially team with Jack to provide the Nets with two serviceable point guards which would improve their play. The Nets already have nearly $57 million committed to player salaries for next season which surprisingly puts them under the NBA’s salary cap and it could also give them flexibility to contend; as long as they discontinue their recent practice of taking on massive contracts for aging players.
This NBA season doesn’t have the makings of a good one for the Nets, but should Prokhorov and King decide to display some patience with Hollins, this is a team that could turn it around. But at the same time, it isn’t a good sign when you’re beginning to look forward to next NBA season for a team and we’re not even at Thanksgiving.
Y-Toronto Raptors 46-36 (7)
The Toronto Raptors are coming off of their best regular season in franchise history, but will they be able to take the next step in the NBA Playoffs? The Raptors have won the Atlantic Division is each of the last two NBA seasons, but it hasn’t resulted in success in the postseason as Toronto has been bounced in the first round each year. Under general manager Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have been a guard oriented team with their big men mainly focusing on rebounding. This philosophy is good enough for the Raptors to win Atlantic Division in the regular season, but the postseason is a different animal.
The Raptors two leading scorers recently have been shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is an athletic wing player while Lowry is a grizzled point guard. Lowry has shed a few pounds during the off-season in the hope of being able to endure the grind that is the NBA season. Together, DeRozan and Lowry have the ability to put the Raptors on their back which could lead to another division title.
The Raptors do have some size in their frontcourt in center Jonas Valanciunas and power forward Patrick Patterson and they’ll need to improve on the boards as they were just 26th in the NBA in rebounding last season while the acquisition of power forward Luis Scola and small forward DeMarre Carroll should provide Toronto with some extra depth and scoring options up front.
For Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, “small ball” will once again be in effect for his team which should lead to another division title, but they will more than likely be hung out to dry next spring in the NBA Playoffs.
X-Boston Celtics 43-39 (8)
It wasn’t pretty at times, but the Boston Celtics found a way to make the NBA Playoffs last spring. The Celtics went 40-42 to grab a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as the rebuilding process under head coach Brad Stevens is paying off. Stevens is set to begin his third season as the head coach of the Celtics and his squad in Boston is reminiscent of his teams when he was the head basketball coach at Butler University. The Celtics might not have the overall talent of other teams in the NBA, but they scrap, claw, and play as a cohesive unit on a nightly basis which is something that you’ll see from them once again in the upcoming NBA season.
Like some other teams in the NBA, the Celtics have become a guard oriented team. The Celtics acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas last season from the Phoenix Suns. And in 21 games with the Celtics, Thomas averaged 19.0 points per contest. This season it would not surprise me to see Stevens employ a three guard lineup at times with Thomas, along with fellow point guards Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley as they all possess speed along with the ability to score and facilitate.
In the Celtics front court, they are hopeful that this will be the season in which power forward Jared Sullinger will be able to remain healthy. Sullinger in entering his fourth season with the Celtics, but he has only appeared in 177 games. At 6’9″, 280 lbs., Sullinger gives the Celtics an imposing presence in the post, but he cannot help the team if he is not playing. This off-season the Celtics acquired power forward David Lee from the Golden State Warriors. And if Lee is healthy, what he’ll be able to provide the Celtics with is a player that is always active who doesn’t need many offensive plays called for him in order to contribute which will fit into Stevens’ system.
Swingman Evan Turner is a solid wing player while small forward Jae Crowder, power forward Amir Johnson, center Tyler Zeller, and center Kelly Olnyk give the Celtics depth and size in their front court; especially coming off of the bench.
The Celtics won’t be able to sneak up on teams this season, but a favorable schedule to begin the NBA campaign along with solid determination will have them once again contending for a postseason berth.
Brooklyn Nets 41-41
In their first year under head coach Lionel Hollins, the Brooklyn Nets posted a losing record, but they still were able to navigate their way to the postseason. And in the upcoming NBA season, the Nets are out to prove people wrong who are ready to write them off as far as being able to be a contender.
It was addition by subtraction for the Nets when they parted ways with point guard Deron Williams over the summer. Williams had developed a reputation in New York City of being a “high-priced diva”. And when your production doesn’t equate to your paycheck in the Big Apple, the fans and media alike there don’t have a problem in letting you know that. The Nets would simply buy out the remainder of Williams’ contract as they decided that it was time for them to move on from their former franchise player.
The Nets are the seventh NBA team that point guard Jarrett Jack has played for. Last season with the Nets, Jack averaged 12.0 and 4.7 assists per game as he was splitting time with Williams. But with Williams now with the Dallas Mavericks, Hollins is giving Jack the opportunity to be a starter which is something that he hasn’t consistently done in the NBA. What Jack gives the Nets at the point guard position is a player who is a veteran floor general that can get his teammates involved while staying within the realm of what Hollins wants to have executed on the floor.
After flirting with trading center Brook Lopez last season, the Nets have decided to keep their big man around as he has begun to display the aggression that Hollins consistently needs from him in the post. Lopez has always been a solid scorer, but not a superstar. And if the Nets are cool with Lopez hitting his career averages of 17 points and 7 rebounds per contest, then they’ll have a solid contributor on their hands. Whereas the Nets traded center Mason Plumlee to the Portland Trailblazers over the summer, they are raving about the potential that power forward Thaddeus Young possesses. Nets general manager Billy King drafted Young into the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2007. And even at the age of 27, we still don’t know how good that Young can truly be as a player due to the fact that he’s never had a solid opportunity to be a focal point of a team which we should see more of this year.
The Nets still have veteran sharpshooter Joe Johnson who is in the final year of his contract. Johnson is set to earn $24.9 million this season and if he or Brooklyn gets off to a slow start this season, I could see him getting shipped out of town. But Johnson is still a solid three-point shooter that could benefit from pick and roll action with Jack along with playing off of Young and Lopez in the post as he looks to join the 20,000-point club this season.
The Nets reserve players will consist of point guard Shane Larkin, swingman Bojan Bogdanovic, and veteran small forward Andrea Bargnani who all have something to prove this season after up and down campaigns last season to say the least.
The Nets will embark on a difficult schedule to begin the NBA season which includes games against the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls, but Hollins is a good motivator and he knows how to adjust as the season goes along which should allow Brooklyn to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
New York Knicks 30-52
For some folks it may appear that there is a dark cloud hanging over Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks. The Knicks have not won the Eastern Conference since 1999 and they have not won the NBA Championship since 1973. But in recent years, the Knicks have become a laughing stock in professional sports. The Knicks are coming off of their worst season in franchise history as they went 17-65, and to make matters worse, the ping pong balls didn’t bounce their way at the NBA’s Draft Lottery as they received the fourth overall pick of the draft. The Knicks would select forward Kristaps Porzingis which was welcomed by a chorus of boos in New York City. Porzingis is a 20-year old native of Latvia who Knicks team president Phil Jackson is classifying as a “project” and only time will tell will tell how good that he can be. But the problem is that the folks in New York City don’t want to hear about a player being a project as they are looking for a winner right now which is something that they shouldn’t hold their breath on with this current Knicks team.
When Jackson came on board as the Knicks president, he wanted to do things his way which meant him bringing his famed triangle offense to town. Jackson hired Derek Fisher to be the Knicks head coach last year due to his familiarity with Jackson’s system during his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers. But Fisher is the one who is coaching the Knicks and not Jackson and the message of the triangle is not getting across to the players in New York.
In Fisher’s first season with the Knicks, he appeared to be lost for the most part as their has been a steep learning curve for him as he made the quick jump from NBA player to being a head coach without any period of transition as an assistant coach. Fisher also hasn’t helped himself or the Knicks being that he is now embroiled in a saga involving himself and the ex-wife of current Memphis Grizzlies small forward Matt Barnes. And although the Ringling Brothers Circus no longer comes to Madison Square Garden, there is still plenty of circus action around 33rd and Broadway due to the calamity of errors that the Knicks have become.
Small forward Carmelo Anthony is the Knicks best player, but at 31-years of age, and coming off of knee surgery, can he be the same player that he once was? For his 12-year NBA career, Anthony has averaged 25.2 points per game. Anthony is a phenomenal scorer that doesn’t make the players around him better and with the triangle offense predicated on ball movement, it seems to be a marriage of oil and water between he and Jackson’s system.
With a team president that is out to lunch, a head coach that is searching for answers and a superstar player in Anthony that has a scorer’s mentality, fans of the Knicks don’t have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming NBA season.
Philadelphia 76ers 20-62
There’s bad and then there’s how bad that Philadelphia 76ers have been recently. During the 2012-2013 NBA season, the 76ers won 34 games. But over the last two NBA seasons, the Sixers have won a combined 37 games. And by the look of things, you can expect more of the same in Philadelphia from them during the upcoming NBA season. Sam Hinkie is entering his third season as the 76ers team president/general manager and even though he wants people to trust the process, it is time that he produces some positive results for this team.
The Sixers owned the third overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft which they used on center Jahlil Okafor whom they are hopeful will be a building block for them, but at the same time will they stick with him long enough to develop? Under Hinkie, the 76ers have a history of giving up on some of their young players quickly while they’ve also made turned the NBA Draft into a joke due to the fact that they select players that are injured as they’ll once again be without the services of center Joel Embiid for the entire season.
Under head coach Brett Brown, the Sixers have a young team, but they must find a way to become more competitive as they lost 23 games last season by at least 15 points. Right now the Sixers are not a respected organization around the NBA which means they are going to have to earn respect, but by the looks of things, they don’t have the personnel to be that competitive.
There’s something quite unique about the bond between twin siblings as they have a bond between them forever. The journey of NBA centers Brook and Robin Lopez began in North Hollywood, California. The Lopez twins would play high school basketball at San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno, California before attending Stanford University in Palo Alto, California as they are West Coast guys at heart. As a sophomore, Brook would average 19.3 points and 8.2 rebounds as he was named as a Third-team All-American. In 2008, the Lopez twins would each forgo their final two years of eligibility at Stanford in favor of the NBA Draft. Brook Lopez would be selected by the New Jersey Nets with the tenth overall pick while Robin would go to the Phoenix Suns with the 15th overall selection.
Brook has spent his entire NBA career with the Nets which has included moving with the team from Northern New Jersey to Brooklyn, New York in 2012. And with the Nets, Lopez has gone on to become a cornerstone of their franchise which culminated in an All-Star Game appearance in 2013. Robin on the other hand has had to work a little harder to find stability as he has been traded twice, but at each stop along the way he has provided energy and a presence on the defensive end of the floor.
The Lopez twins each hit the free agent market this summer looking to cash in on a big payday, but nobody expected what we’ve seen from them. Brook decided to return to the Nets while Robin decided to join him in the Big Apple. Robin wasn’t going to join the Nets and be his twin brother’s backup; so instead he opted to take his talents to the other side of the East River and join the New York Knicks on a four-year contract that is worth $54 million.
The past three years have seen the Nets make the NBA Playoffs, but they haven’t been a real title contender while the Knicks are coming off of a season where they only managed to win 17 games. What the Lopez twins have done is to put a spotlight on NBA basketball in New York City once again as sports reporters will have plenty of material to now go off of in order to drum up a story in regards to the brothers.
The Nets-Knicks rivalry goes back to 1976 when the then New York Nets joined the NBA after the American Basketball Association folded. The Nets had to pay the NBA $3.2 million due to the league’s expansion fee and $4.8 million to the Knicks for “infringing” on their territory. This left the Nets in financial peril and they were forced to sell the contract of Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. And thus the first die was cast in the rivalry between the Nets and Knicks. The Nets would then move to New Jersey where they would meet the Knicks three times in the playoffs, but the rivalry never truly amounted to anything. There was hope that the rivalry would intensify when the Nets moved to Brooklyn, but it has been lukewarm at best. However the rivalry stands to reach another level just due to the fact that the media in New York City will run the notion of Brook playing for the Nets and Robin for the Knicks.
On the court, the Lopez brothers have different styles even though they both are mellow. Brook is more the scorer while Robin tends to provide size off of the bench while grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. Brook had to prove himself this past season to new Nets head coach Lionel Hollins who wanted the seven-footer to be more aggressive. Robin played a big role for the Portland Trailblazers last season as he helped them win the Northwest Division Title for the first time in franchise history. Robin now joins the Knicks to play in the famed “triangle offense” of team president Phil Jackson. Lopez should have success with the Knicks due to the fact that he plays well without the basketball as Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony is known to play a ton of isolation ball. But one things is for sure as the newspapers in the Big Apple will have something to talk about game day between the Nets and Knicks.
In the NBA it is tough to win a championship without a quality big man as you simply cannot coach size. And most teams that have gone on to raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champions have had a player checking in at 6’9″ or taller play an integral part in their success. Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez doesn’t have the footwork of Hakeem Olajuwon, the power of Shaquille O’Neal, the tenacity of Moses Malone, or the hook shot of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he is still a viable player. Lopez has a player option for next season of $16.7 million which he is more than likely going to walk away from this summer and become a free agent. The Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly interested in Lopez’s services, but would the Nets really allow him to leave Brooklyn?
In his first season as Nets head coach, Lionel Hollins wasn’t an overwhelming fan of Lopez. Hollins felt that Lopez wasn’t tough enough and aggressive enough at times which led the head coach to benching the 7-footer. The Nets even put Lopez on the trading block and he appeared to be a goner until a three-team deal involving the Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Hornets fell through. Lopez never complained about the benching or trade rumors and instead he let his play do the talking as he became vital in helping the Nets obtain the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this past spring. And for the season Lopez averaged 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds for a Nets team that needed every bit of it.
But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Nets allowed Lopez to leave Brooklyn as they have been a poorly constructed franchise for the majority of their existence. This is the same franchise that was broke when they joined the NBA in 1976 and thus they were forced to sell Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. After that the Nets were an afterthought in the NBA until they acquired point guard Jason Kidd in 2001 and he led them to their only two Eastern Conference Championships in 2002 and 2003. The Nets attempted to rekindle that magic in 2011 when they acquired point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz. But all that the Nets have gotten out of Williams is an overpaid prima donna who has become a lightning rod for criticism in the New York media. The Nets bloated payroll is a luxury tax nightmare as even without Lopez on their roster for next season, they would still be over the NBA’s salary cap.
When Mikhail Prokohrov purchased the Nets in 2010 with an impending move to Brooklyn in 2012, he tried to have an instant winner which has blown up in his face immensely as money alone and bloated contracts cannot win a championship. But allowing Lopez to leave Brooklyn wouldn’t make things any easier for the Nets going forward.
The Nets have allowed themselves to get caught up in the New York media shuffle as they’ve tried for the quick fix as opposed to building a stable and consistent contender and in the process they’ve overestimated Lopez’s skill set on the basketball court. Lopez is not going to average 25 points and 15 rebounds per game, but there are not too many players currently in the NBA that can put up those numbers of a nightly basis. And even though Lopez is not the most athletic center in the NBA, he has still averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds for his career which most teams would gladly take.
One man’s trash could be another’s fortune and if Lopez were to join the Bucks, he would once again be under the guidance of Kidd as his head coach as the former point guard coached him in Brooklyn for one year. If Lopez were to join the Bucks, he would also be a part of a team that has a young nucleus and they have the look and the feel of a team that is ready to do some damage in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee is also one of the smaller media markets in the NBA and it would be a place where Lopez wouldn’t have any added pressure as he would be removed from the spotlight of the New York media and his numbers could improve there.
Nets general manager Billy King must find a way to pool all of his resources together in order to keep Lopez in Brooklyn this summer. The Nets have previously tried build a team around Williams and it hasn’t worked. Point guards in the NBA are a dime a dozen, whereas 7-footers such as Lopez that can score don’t come around the bend that often. Williams is due $21 million next season and there is an early termination option on his deal for the 2016-2017 NBA season. The Nets don’t intend to buy Williams out, but it is definitely time to move on from him while keeping their options open on Lopez, or it will be the same phrase that has become too familiar with their franchise which is starting over.
The Brooklyn Nets currently find themselves in the middle of a playoff race. If the Nets are able to win out, it will mark the third consecutive season in which they’ll be bound for the NBA Playoffs. But unlike the previous two seasons, this one has been more difficult for the Nets to navigate through. Lionel Hollins is in his first year as the Nets head coach and he is also the fourth different head coach that Brooklyn has employed over the last three years. Hollins is a no-nonsense coach that doesn’t have a problem putting his players in their place. Hollins’ tough persona hasn’t meshed all season with a Nets team that at times has been labeled as “soft”. But Hollins and his players have found some common ground as of late and in spite of the Nets having a losing record, a postseason berth is within their grasp.
The Nets haven’t been above .500 since mid-November, but they have won eight out of their last eleven games to get back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. And a big part of the Nets recent surge has been the play of center Brook Lopez.
Lopez has been with the Nets since 2008, and at 7’0″, he has had lofty expectations placed on him from his first day on the job. If you’re looking for a player to average 25 points and 13 rebounds per game, then Lopez is not your guy. But for his NBA career, Lopez has been more than serviceable as he has averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds.
This month alone Lopez has averaged 22.1 points and 9.7 rebounds as the Nets are hopeful that they’ll be able to take the B-train all the ways to the NBA Playoffs. Lopez has also developed a knack for making the clutch shot which was recently highlighted by his game-winning shot against the New York Knicks on April Fool’s Day. But it always hasn’t been that smooth for Lopez this season.
Earlier this season Lopez and Hollins were not on the same page and the Nets had placed their big man on the trading block. Hollins even went as far to remove Lopez from the Nets starting lineup this season. But when a deal fell through that would have sent Lopez to the Oklahoma City Thunder, cooler heads prevailed in Brooklyn and both the Nets and their big man have become better from it.
Amid all of the trade rumors that were surrounding Lopez, he never complained, nor did he publicly bash Hollins or the Nets organization. Instead Lopez has found a way to become more aggressive and fit into Hollins’ system. With the Nets, Lopez has always been that laid back kind of guy and Hollins really needs to consistent and dependable back-to-the-basket player. Prior to joining the Nets, Hollins was the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies and he had to luxury have two quality and skilled big men in center Marc Gasol and power forward Zach Randolph. And Hollins knows that if the Nets are going to make any progress going forward, then they’ll need to have solid play from Lopez.
Part of Lopez’s improved play cab be attributed to Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Garnett. The Nets traded Garnett to the Timberwolves earlier this season. But in Garnett’s brief time with the Nets, he did work with Lopez on both the physical and mental aspects of the game. And who better for Lopez to learn from than Garnett who is one of the better big men to have ever played in the NBA.
It would not have worked out for the Nets had they traded Lopez to the Thunder due to the fact that you cannot coach size in the NBA as finding a big man that can score is hard to find. Even if the Nets make the playoffs this season, they aren’t expected to go that far being that they are facing the possibility of meeting the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. And aside from being the best team in the Eastern Conference this season, the Hawks have had their way with the Nets as well. Lopez has a $16.7 million player option for next season and unless he decides to opt out, he’ll be with the Nets next season. If that’s the case, it will give Hollins and Lopez more time to get on the same page as you simply cannot spell Brooklyn without Brook.