Thanks to Brooklyn, Sixers fan isn’t so depressed anymore. His team isn’t the worst in the NBA. He can credit that to Joel Embiid who is the hands down Rookie of the Year and the reason the Sixers have hope of being a force the next five years. Ben Simmons hasn’t even taken the floor and Sixers fans can imagine what that combination of inside- outside, athletic dunk here, reverse jam there is going to do to the Sixers trajectory from bottom feeder to playoff team. It will put in the rear view mirror these last few years of purgatory, not to mention $10.00 tickets. The same kind of Durant/Westbrook growth for Embiid and Simmons may indeed take the Sixers into the playoffs.
Taking the Sixers place in hell, the team with the worst record in the NBA, 8 wins on the season, are the Brooklyn Nets. Usually, fans can groan and complain and then anesthetize their emotions with college basketball’s stars who may wind up in their city when their teams are as bad as the Nets.
Let’s see: there is Lonzo Ball out of UCLA, a Jason Kid 2.0. There is Malik Monk the athletic shooting guard for Kentucky who drops points in bunches and set a record for most points as a freshman in a single game (47 against UNC). There is Markelle Fultz, the combo guard who plays in the Pac-12 and who dropped 30 and 6 dimes plus 7 rebounds the first time he played a college game. There is Josh Jackson the Kansas small forward who has three 20 points games, three 17+ point games, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks.
None will be in Brooklyn.
The busted Brooklyn dream ends (or begins) on draft night. Missing all of the top tier franchise changing talent, the Nets have to seize the day, meaning, figure out Plan B and C.
On the one hand, the Nets are doing everything right. They are losing. They are losing the way you need a team to lose. They compete hard. They just don’t have the personnel to win NBA games. They are taking a lot of threes, the third most in the NBA. They just don’t make enough threes when it counts, and their defense is wretched. So here they are, currently with 8 wins in their back pocket. The NBA requires you to be horrifically bad before you can be good so the Nets are doing their part. They are making their way through this season, competing but not winning, with a young coach and GM and a bunch of players who don’t fit and who probably won’t be in Brooklyn in three years.
But it adds up to a fat zero because there is no help coming. None. No free agents with any kind of elite game will be riding to the Nets rescue. No young phenom to develop either. The Nets don’t have a lottery pick in 2017. They have won 8 games, are on track to win 20 games. But no LeBron-like savior at the front door.
Mikhail Prokhorov mortgaged the future to win right now. The future is here. So if the Nets do get the number one pick or the number two pick or the number three pick they will hand it off to the Celtics who will be in the playoffs with a top four seed. It doesn’t seem fair until you realize and accept that the front office of a NBA team determines a franchise’s trajectory as much as a star player. The front office can set a franchise on the path to greatness or into the valley of despair.
Despair it is.
The Nets will have the Celtics pick, probably #21. There will be talent there, just not All-Star, face of the franchise talent. It will allow the Nets slow growth, perhaps to win 25-28 games in 2017-18.
Let’s say the Nets get the 21st pick. Who has been selected at that number?
- 2016: DeAndre Bembry (Hawks). 11 games. 2.3 points.
- 2015: Justin Anderson (Mavs): 88 games. 5.2 points.
- 2014: Mitch McGary (Thunder): 52 games. 4.4 points.
- 2013: Gorgui Deng(Wolves): 250 games. 8.7 points.
- 2012: Jared Sullinger (Celtics): 258 games. 11.1 points.
It’s always a mixed bag in the lower lottery. You can get quality role players who have long careers or you can get players who eventually wind up in Europe. It’s a crapshoot. On the plus side the Nets have a stable of players they can develop until they are able to fight for elite talent and then get free agents.
But until that day comes this is the Brooklyn future. Play hard. Take a lot of threes. Build a system and a culture. Curse Prokhorov. And wait.
Sounds a lot like The Process.
photo via llananba