The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.
Last Season: 20-62
I know what you did last summer: The Nets traded for D'Angelo Russell, leveraging a willingness to absorb an overpaid Timofey Mozgov. The same strategy also netted DeMarre Carroll (plus draft picks) and Allen Crabbe. Brook Lopez departed in the Russell trade, but Brooklyn drafted Jarrett Allen to groom at center.
THREE QUESTIONS THE NETS MUST ANSWER:
1) How will D’Angelo Russell develop? Russell is now the Nets’ most valuable asset, at least until they can finally use their own first-round pick again in 2019. He wasn’t ready for prime time, on or off the floor, with the Lakers. But he’ll get an opportunity to grow in Brooklyn. He’s just 21. His future remains largely uncharted.
Russell has shown flashes, but he must ease into a more efficient offensive role. He can accomplish this by tightening his shot selection or, ideally, successfully making more plays in his high-usage role. It’d also help if he became a better defender, though plenty of guards skate by on that end if they excel offensively.
Brooklyn is fortunate to have such a promising player. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson is known for his player-development abilities. Russell will be his most important charge yet.
2) How will Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen develop? Russell gets his own section, but the Nets have wrangled a few other players on rookie-scale contracts who could contribute to a winning team some day. From hiring Atkinson to its playing style, Brooklyn is seemingly emphasizing player development. If these players progress nicely, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes a little brighter.
LeVert must turn his promise into steadier production. Hollis-Jefferson must improve his jumper or become more comfortable as a small-ball power forward. Allen must learn to handle contact.
The Nets should give all three plenty of opportunities to work through their shortcomings.
3) Can Jeremy Lin, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Timofey Mozgov, Trevor Booker and Quincy Acy make Brooklyn respectable? The Nets will probably be bad. But with their first-round pick going to Cleveland and their second-round pick going to Philadelphia or Charlotte, they have no incentive to be.
Brooklyn has the aforementioned veterans, players capable of contributing to winning teams. Lin was mostly injured last season. Acy was a mid-season addition. Crabbe, Carroll and Mozgov are newcomers. The Nets will miss Lopez, but they’re now far deeper with productive veterans.
The No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference isn’t the highest bar. It still seems extremely unlikely Brooklyn seriously enters the playoff, but there’s no reason not to try. Even winning 30-something games and being more competitive would be worthwhile considering the lost draft picks. Again, even that might be too lofty, but the Nets will give it their best.