Tuesday, July 7, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Brooklyn Nets

BROOKLYN NETS
[] 38-44
[] Offensive Rating: 105.2 (19th)
[] Defensive Rating: 108.2 (23rd)
[] Net Rating: -3.1 (22nd)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Lionel Hollins

The Deron Williams era is over in Brooklyn, as the Nets cut ties with the former superstar PG this summer.  Buying out the remainder of Williams' contract was the right move on and off the court.  His play hasn't lived up to his $100M deal for a few years now, and his reportedly toxic attitude was having a negative effect on the Brooklyn locker room.  Jarrett Jack will slide into the starting PG spot and probably give the Nets something close to, but a little less, than what Williams offered last year.  Mason Plumlee, who started 45 games in the Nets frontcourt last year, is also gone after he was shipped to the Portland Trailblazers for rookie SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.  Hollis-Jefferson gives the Nets more potential in the long run, but Plumlee's absence will likely be felt as his minutes fall to some combination of Andrea Bargnani, Thomas Robinson and Willie Reed.  All things considered, Lionel Hollins almost certainly has less talent on the roster this year, and will have to do his best work to turn an assumed improvement in team chemistry into enough wins to sneak into the playoffs. They'll be in the running for the Eastern Conference's final spot along with about three or four other squads. They'll need all hands on deck to lock the 8th seed down.


Projected Starting Five

PG: Jarrett Jack - 6'3, 200 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
80
12.0
14.6
22.6%
52.2%
26.7%
.179
88.1%
.278
27.3%
17.2%

The spot that used to belong to Deron Williams goes to Jack by default, as the other PGs on the roster are extremely unproven.  He'll certainly be cheaper and less divisive in the locker room and among fans than Williams, but his play probably will be more or less as productive as Williams was last season overall.  Jack had a down year as a shooter last year, and his 3P% should jump back up into the mid-30s this season.  He'll turn 32 before the start of the year, and is under contract through next season.  This is a spot Brooklyn will be looking to upgrade going forward.

SG: Bojan Bogdanovic - 6'7, 215 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
78
9.0
11.6
17.2%
56.2%
35.5%
.444
82.1%
.184
5.8%
11.1%

Bogdanovic turned an efficient scoring season into a second team All-Rookie selection.  He'll more than likely slide into the starting spot that he occupied 28 times in 2014-15.  His three point shooting is much-needed in the Nets lineup.

SF: Joe Johnson - 6'7, 240 - 15th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
80
14.4
14.1
20.3%
52.3%
35.9%
.329
80.1%
.172
7.7%
17.1%

Johnson isn't an All Star caliber player anymore, but he's still serviceable enough to be what the Nets need him to be on the wing.  His outside shooting and playmaking abilities are important to Brooklyn's offense, and those qualities still make him a capable starting SF.  Based on his size and pure physicality, he should get to the FT line more than he does.  He's in the last year of a ridiculously large deal that the Nets will be glad to see come to an end.

PF: Thaddeus Young - 6'8, 230 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
76
14.1
15.7
21.5%
50.7%
33.0%
.119
65.5%
.207
9.6%
12.4%

Young played excellently after he was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the trade deadline.  His increased efficiency (53.9 TS% in 28 games w/BRK) was built on a stretch of hot shooting that he's incredibly unlikely to repeat (38.0 3P%, 32.3% career).  There's value in Young's leadership and he's not a bad player, but he doesn't rebound much, and he's not very efficient as a scorer.  Brooklyn is probably going to get Timberwolves Young instead of the Young they got after the deadline

C: Brook Lopez - 7'0, 260 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
72
17.2
22.7
26.3%
55.8%
14.3%
11.5%
17.1%
81.4%
.278
2.2

Lopez, now 27, enters his prime coming off of a year that saw him remain mostly healthy and produce close to his career average levels.  He'll be the focal point of the Nets offense again this year, and his ability to remain healthy is the only thing stopping him from being in contention for the second All Star bid of his career.  He's missed a combined 160 games over the last four seasons.


Bench

PG: Shane Larkin - 6'0, 180 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
76
6.2
10.9
13.6%
50.4%
30.2%
.269
78.2%
.181
19.4%
15.1%

Two years into his professional career, Larkin has yet to show signs of why he was the 18th pick in the 2013 draft.  He's struggled to shoot the ball, doesn't offer much from a playmaking standpoint, and he's not a quality defender.  He's playing to stay relevant at this point.  He'll battle Donald Sloan, and to an extent, Ryan Boatright, for the majority of the backup PG minutes.  If he doesn't improve, that's a battle he'll lose.

PG: Donald Sloan - 6'3, 205 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
53
7.4
13.1
18.6%
50.3%
31.1%
.369
77.9%
.217
27.5%
14.3%

Sloan had a solid season for the Pacers last year, which covered 21 games starting in place of an injured George Hill.  He's not going to be an elite backup guard, but he's more established than Larkin and Boatright.

PG: Ryan Boatright - 6'0, 175 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
3P%
FT%
34
17.4
4.1
3.8
42.3%
41.1%
85.0%

Boatright went undrafted out of UConn, but signed a partially guaranteed deal prior to summer league play.  He averaged 14.1 PPG between Vegas and Orlando, which is a step in the right direction toward making the team.  

SG: Wayne Ellington - 6'4, 200 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
65
10.0
11.6
18.5%
50.4%
37.0%
.394
81.3%
.104
10.2%
7.2%

Ellington had his best season from a raw production standpoint last season, playing the heaviest usage role of his career.  His efficiency suffered though, as his TS% was the lowest its been since 2011-12.  The Nets need him to provide reliable outside shooting off the bench.

SG: Markel Brown - 6'3, 195 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
47
4.6
9.1
15.3%
45.9%
26.6%
.305
82.5%
.271
7.4%
10.3%

Brown played a bigger role after the All Star break, starting 29 of the 30 games he played in and averaging 22.9 MPG.  He could start again this year, but I think the Nets will go with Bogdanovic, for offensive reasons.  Brown is the better/more athletic defender, which appeals to Lionel Hollins, so don't be shocked if it's Brown at SG.

G/F: Sergey Karasev - 6'7, 205 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
33
4.6
10.5
14.4%
50.8%
29.6%
.403
76.3%
.284
12.3%
13.7%

Karasev also started a few games on the wing for the Nets last season.  He opened the game at SG in 16 games prior to his season ending with a knee injury.  Efficiency was an issue, and he really needs to shoot the ball better to stay relevant.

SF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - 6'7, 220 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
3P%
FT%
38
11.2
6.8
1.6
50.2%
20.7%
70.7%

The Nets acquired the 23rd pick in the draft for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton, a 2nd round pick.  Hollis-Jefferson is known for his defensive exploits, again something that appeals to Lionel Hollins.  He'll struggle offensively early in his career, especially shooting the ball.

F: Chris McCullough- 6'10, 230 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
16
9.3
6.9
2.1
47.8%
56.3%

McCullough suffered a torn ACL in January of his freshman season at Syracuse, but decided to turn pro anyways.  Brooklyn rewarded him by making him the 29th pick of the draft.  He's expected to be ready for action by the start of the season, but the Nets won't rush him back.  There's enough opportunity in the frontcourt that he could earn legitimate minutes once healthy.

PF: Thomas Robinson - 6'8, 240 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
54
5.7
15.3
20.2%
50.2%
20.5%
12.6%
28.6%
52.8%
.408
0.9

The Nets are Robinson's fifth team in four seasons, generally not a good sign for a player of any age.  However, it's particularly bad for a guy who was a top five pick just three years ago.  There aren't many options for depth in the Nets frontcourt, so he'll get every opportunity to make things work in Brooklyn.

F/C: Andrea Bargnani - 7'0, 225 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TRB%
29
14.8
16.6
26.4%
52.7%
36.6%
.114
81.3%
.296
11.3%
9.3%

Bargnani had a decent third of a season with the Knicks last year, having his best three point shooting season since 2009-10.  That's the good news.  The bad news is, Phil Jackson called Bargnani a "big tease", claiming that the Italian big man milked his injuries and didn't give full effort when he was on the floor.  Not a good look for a former #1 pick who most see as a bust.  He'll play minutes at both frontcourt spots.

C: Willie Reed - 6'10, 235 - Rookie (2014-15 D-League stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
48
16.4
12.1
1.9
60.3%
56.8%

Reed's been productive in the D-League for the last few years, and at 25, it looks like he'll be making his debut at the NBA level.  He's got a sizable partial guarantee, and there isn't much competition for the role as the team's third center behind Lopez and Bargnani.

Outlook

It's hard to look at the Nets roster and project them in front of any of their main competition for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  It's going to take a big year from Brook Lopez, a renaissance year from Joe Johnson and enough support from Thad Young and Jarrett Jack to keep the offense viable.  The depth is also questionable, as Wayne Ellington and Andrea Bargnani are arguably the team's top two reserves.  Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Shane Larkin emerging as viable candidates to play big minutes could go a long way towards bolstering the Nets playoff chances.  If that doesn't happen, Brooklyn's starters are going to have to play heavy minutes.  Much like the other outsider candidates for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Brookyln has their fair shares of holes.  I think the errors are more glaring here than they are in Boston, Detroit or Charlotte though.  A step back to 35 wins is what I think the Nets are in store for.

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