New Faces: Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Justin Hamilton, Randy Foye, Caris LeVert (R), Chris McCullough (R), Isaiah Whitehead (R), Anthony Bennett, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick
2015-16 Regular Season Record: 21-61
2015-16 Regular Season Achievements: 1st: Free Throw Attempts (Defense), 3rd: 3-Point Attempts.
Leading Scorer: Brook Lopez, 20.6
Leading Rebounder: Thaddeus Young, 9.0
When the Nets washed their hands of the Deron Williams experiment last summer because it was an abject and colossal basketball failure, they had to figure out where to go next. Who to trust as the leader? Williams, in happy times, was the face of the Nets franchise but he came to New Jersey from Utah with baggage, a personality that was edgy and sullen. His psyche aside, he couldn’t stay healthy; his ankles were a mess. He struggled with confidence and slowly crumbled under the pressure of the New York media. His idea of leadership was to sulk and pout. In his absence, the Nets slashed payroll and added a bunch of average, underachieving or old players to the roster and this too: they didn’t have a true point guard.
Not much has changed.
One season without Williams, though his salary is still on the books, the Nets are in a massive re-do. They have a new GM, Sean Marks, who came over from the Spurs to salvage this wrecked ship. What Marks has to do is rewrite the recent Nets history, or perhaps take a giant red marker and x out a lot of the chaff. Start with Mikhail Prokhorov’s “brilliant” idea to sign aged veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a win now scheme that brought the Nets nothing but lost draft picks. So here they are.
They took last year’s team and gutted it. Gone is Jarrett Jack (Hawks). Gone is leading rebounder Thaddeus Young (Pacers). Gone is Andrea Bargnani (Spain). Gone is Wayne Ellington (Heat). Gone is Joe Johnson (Jazz). Gone is Shane Larkin (Spain). Gone is Thomas Robinson (free agent).
This much is clear. The Nets are a long way from the playoffs. They have retooled with young players, average players, above average players and old players.
They signed Jeremy Lin in hopes of creating Linsanity 2.0. Lin had a productive year last season with the Hornets. It was a bounce back year after his disaster with the Lakers where he was benched, got a DNP, and Jordan Clarkson, a second round draft pick, was favored over Lin. In Charlotte, he shot the second lowest field goal percentage of his career (41.2%) and the second lowest three point percentage in three years (33.6%) and posted the lowest PER (13.8) of his career. Though Lin had slumps during the season, he was a quality defensive player who moved the ball and fit well within the offense, despite his offensive struggles.
Lin regained confidence in Charlotte. He is the Nets starter at the point. Except, Lin performs better coming off the bench. He has to be much more efficient with the ball, similar to his 44.6% he posted in New York and Houston and his 6+ assists from 2011-2013. And he’s going to be responsible for stopping guards like Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Good luck.
Randy Foye was a good spot up shooter three years ago. He hasn’t shot 40% since the 2013-14 season with Denver. Expecting a square peg to fit into a round hole is the Foye dream. He is what his stats say he is, a 32 year old who can’t shoot consistently.
Luis Scola’s better days are behind him. At 36, he doesn’t have the explosiveness to stay with younger players. He can’t guard pick and roll. Last season was his worst field goal percentage of his career. He hasn’t played 27 minutes in four years.
The Nets are going to rely on the pick and roll between Lin and Brook Lopez. Lopez played in 70+ games last year, avoiding the injury bug, which is a good sign. But because the Nets had Thaddeus Young, Lopez had someone else to lean on as far as rebounding. Not so this season. Lopez is the Nets best player. A 25 win season is dependent on Lopez staying healthy.
Bojan Bogdanovic will drain some threes but his defense will determine how consistently the Nets will stay in games. They don’t have a lot of consistent firepower you can trust night in, night out, to make their games shoot-outs.
The Nets are trying to revive the career of Anthony Bennett. Good luck with that. The former #1 pick has been a failure everywhere he’s been. Last season he shot 29.6% and averaged 1.5 points. He played 4.4 minutes a game. Let that marinate.
Greivis Vasquez is a decent Lin back up but a miserable three point shooter. He has size, plays hard, is coachable and is a good fit if Lin goes down. To fit the theme of the Nets signings, Vasquez shot a career low, 32.6%, last season in Milwaukee.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is who the Nets are banking on for their future. His development in his second season will be the blueprint for the Nets future. Is he good enough to be a starter? Is his game consistent and efficient? We know he can defend? But can he score when guarded by A-level defenders? Does he have counter moves? Is he versatile? Has he worked on this three point shot?
Kenny Atkinson, the new Nets coach, is in charge of this cast of characters, making sure they give effort every night. Atkinson was an assistant of ball moving coaches Mike D’Antoni and Mike Budenholzer so it is safe to say the offense is going to be dependent on ball movement and player movement. Unfortunately that won’t be enough to salvage this season for the Nets.
photo via llananba