by Fox Doucette
There’s something to be said for grade inflation, as asking if the Brooklyn Nets are “good” is a question with an obvious answer, while asking “do they completely suck or is there hope here?” is a completely different question with a less obvious one. After all, if a straight-F student at least starts pulling a C-minus once in awhile, there’s hope that you can put them through community college and they might just end up with a decent job someday, while other straight-F students wash out and die of drug overdoses in alleys.
The Nets have looked like the junkie in the alley ever since their win-now fleecing at the hands of the Celtics hit the fan in about 2015.
This obscures the fact that they actually went 11-13 in the last 24 games of last season. So…yeah. Confusion all round, really.
But all questions deserve answers in this NBA sorting algorithm (hat not included), so let’s get to it.
2016-17 record: 20-62
2018 over/under: 27
D’Angelo TMZ Russell
Man, Swaggy P really got the better end of that Hollywood scandal, didn’t he? Not only did he not have to marry Iggy Azalea, he also got to go join the Golden State Warriors when he punched his ticket out of Lakerland. Dude might just win a title and be the Swaggiest of the P’s, swaggier than P. Diddy and swaggier than Master P.
Meanwhile, Russell gets to take his trash shooting (.405/.352/.782), garbage advanced stats (113 Defensive Rating, .033 WS/48, and 0.7 VORP), and snitches-get-stitches penchant for gabbing to the media and try to be…well, OK, better than Spencer Dinwiddie. Did we mention this team lost 62 games last year?
Wherefore Art Thou, Brook Lopez
Whether the Nets have a dropoff at center depends largely on whether Brook Lopez was actually good or whether he just looked good because he was the competent NBA player on a bad team.
Doing the Mythbusting is Timofey Mozgov? Really? Someone took his bloated contract off the Lakers? That minus-3.6 Box Plus/Minus and minus-0.4 VORP…just wow. He’s a trash rebounder (13.1 percent total rebounds), was a negative On/Off Net Rating split guy despite having a minus-8.5 split with the Lakers last year, and just generally sticks out like a sore thumb as one of the reasons Lonzo Ball is currently on Los Angeles and got there with the second overall pick.
If this team upgrades at center, it will be because Brook Lopez was overrated. This is replacing him with a Letter League guy.
Sweet zombie Jesus in a strip mall church, what unholy horror show is .434/.224/.751 supposed to bloody stand for on the wing?
On the bright side, Hollis-Jefferson is a fantastic defender (107 Defensive Rating on an outfit as bad as Brooklyn’s was last year? Hell yes.) He’ll keep points off the board. He just won’t put any on it.
OK, Allen Crabbe is legit, and Portland needed to move him because it’s a crowded house above him on their depth chart and he deserves to be a starter.
That .602 True Shooting and 44.4 percent beyond the arc are Hollis-Jefferson’s polar opposite, but then again, Crabbe can’t defend an actual crab out there, posting a 114 Defensive Rating.
Brooklyn could try to Voltron their wing forwards, but they’d probably just get a guy who can’t shoot and can’t play defense with their luck.
Linsanity Was Five Years Ago, Guys.
Hey, remember when Jeremy Lin’s 2K rating went from 56 to 81 in a midseason patch? That was NBA 2K12, and I still own that one because MyPlayer sucks now and those cutscene-ridden “career mode” disasters are in the way when I just want to play basketball.
Anyway, what was I talking about? Right. Jeremy Lin. Mediocre, passable NBA starter. Rarely much better than league average from three, a horrid finisher (55.3 percent inside three feet), but he picked up a great taste for passing last year that actually made the guys around him better to such a degree that he had a plus-3.5 on/off split per 100 possessions.
He’s not an All-Star. But he is legit. This will also be only the second time in Lin’s career he plays a second season on the same team. Let’s see if continuity helps him any or if he just ends up fighting Russell to the death for playing time.
They Got DeMarre Carroll? Wait, Was There An Expansion Draft Or Something?
Carroll was and is the “Most Likely To End Up On The Supersonics” expansion-bait player of the year every year.
He fell off a cliff in Toronto after the Hawks sold high on him, dropping all the way to a horrendous .400/.340/.761 slash line last year. His defense went from above average to even good down to league average to a bit above average.
Oh, and his PER was 11.9 for two straight years.
He’s a terrible rebounder (a career-worst 8.3 rebounding percentage last year), but a .097 WS/48, 1.0 BPM, and 1.4 VORP at least speak to a guy who’s a passable player if he’s not making too much money…
He’s making $14.8 million. In today’s salary cap regime, that’s downright reasonable.
Oh, And Also…
They got Tyler Zeller. Ask Celtics fans how that’s going to turn out. He can’t rebound either, and he’s a negative-VORP guy. He was also one of the precious few Boston players who managed a negative on/off Net Rating split last year, which is practically unheard of on conference 1-seeds.
So he sucks. But he’s backing up Timofey Flipping Mozgov. Oh Brook Lopez, where art thou?
Some angles, you look at this team and they almost look like a feisty 35-40 win squad. Other angles, you realize that nobody on this team is any better than a borderline starter; their starting five will likely be Russell, Crabbe, Carroll, Trevor Booker’s .516/.321/.673 slash line but at least he’s a good defender, and Timofey Goddamn Mozgov.
That’s not a playoff team. But neither is it a Letter League team. These guys legitimately look a little feisty out there, and they should clear their 27-win expectation with ease. They have one more draft pick they don’t own (it’s in Cleveland now thanks to the Kyrie Irving trade), so why not try to win some ballgames?
Then again, they tried to win ballgames last year and went 20-62. Still, this team looks just promising enough and has just enough more to play for than the other rebuilding teams that the “nothing to lose” factor will have them possibly within shouting distance of the 8 seed even if they’re nowhere near good enough to actually get it.
But hell, Nets fans, you deserve a break. Plausible it is. Stranger things have happened.