The 2016-17 NBA season is coming to its climax. As the off-season looms, decisions need to be made. There are many questions facing the Brooklyn Nets going forward. The Nets were the cellar placed team in the league last season and though progress is evident, many moves need to be made.
Questions Facing Brooklyn Nets Going Forward
Question 1: What to do with star center Brook Lopez
One of the few bright spots for the Nets last season was the play of center Brook Lopez. Lopez led the Nets in scoring and started a team-high 75 regular season games. No other Net player started more than 55. Offensively, Lopez performed very well. He led the team in win shares (4.9) and player efficiency rating (PER of 20.4). Lopez’s three-point shooting was a revelation to the league. He led the Nets in attempts and makes per game throughout the season. Lopez free throw shooting was outstanding as he finished the season with 87 percent accuracy from the charity stripe. Surprisingly, Lopez finished eighth (8th) in the league in blocked shots per game (1.65).
The knock on Brook Lopez is his defense in general, and specifically his rebounding. For all of his offensive brilliance, Lopez is never mistaken for a rebounder. Standing legitimately seven feet tall, Lopez throughout his career most notably never averaged as much as nine (9) rebounds per game. This season proved no different as Lopez averaged a meager disappointing 5.4 rebounds per contest. The Nets allowed the fourth most offensive rebounds by any team in the league last season. This is due in no small part to the impotence of the center position in this regard.
General Manager Sean Marks, notably himself a former NBA center has expressed confidence in Lopez. However, Marks also tried moving Lopez at the trade deadline. The Nets sought at least two first round draft picks for Lopez. Ultimately that price was too steep and Lopez remained a Net through the conclusion of the season. Moving forward, it is worth looking at the decision Marks inevitably makes. Will he draft a center in the upcoming draft like Harry Giles, Ivan Rabb, or Caleb Swanigan? Perhaps sign a restricted free agent like Kelly Olynyk or even go after unrestricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas again. Remember Motiejunas signed an offer sheet with the Nets last offseason only to see it matched by the Houston Rockets. This is the most important question the franchise faces.
Question 2: Who are the free agents that fit the Nets new culture?
Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson preached a philosophy of toughness and effort. The handle “Brooklyn Grit” embodied the Nets franchise and captured the fanbase. Now to continue the ascension to respectability, improvement of personnel becomes essential. As with the trade of Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets continues to seek and acquire assets. In terms of free agents, the Nets are searching for dual threat players on the cheap.
Shaun Livingston is an outstanding option if he wants to return to the borough. Livingston previously played for the Nets before leaving to join the Warriors. With the Warriors having to resign both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant presumably, Livingston most likely will be squeezed out of Oakland. Livingston provides everything the Nets seek. He is a big guard standing at 6’6 who plays both positions, and guards all three wing positions. Most notably, as a player, Livingston is pass-first oriented.
P.J. Tucker is another option. Tucker brings physicality to the wing positions. Though his skill set is “limited”, he fits perfectly into what the Nets are about. Tucker is a “3 and D” player that’s unafraid to mix it up. A wily veteran with a lower than average price tag is exactly what Marks and the Nets front office seek. The only drawback is the fact that Tucker is 32 years old.
Dewayne Dedmon is the surprise of the NBA season. Playing for Coach Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, Dedmon showed his true colors this season. Dedmon is a defensive demon inside reminiscent of Ben Wallace (only taller). His leaping ability affords his team much needed vertical spacing which is important in today’s NBA. Still only 27 (he turns 28 in August) Dedmon will anchor a team’s defense for years to come at the fraction of the price tag of fellow free agent Nerlens Noel. The issue is, will he choose Brooklyn over the rest?
Joe Ingles. The Nets should seriously consider offering Ingles a king’s ransom. To prove the point there’s this, Joe Ingles led the league in three-point accuracy this season. Furthermore, standing at 6’8 Ingles (during the recently concluded series against the LA Clippers) showed an ability to guard Chris Paul for extended spells. Ingles is a restricted free agent so the Utah Jazz likely matches any offers made to him.
Jonathon Simmons‘ story is heart warming. Here’s a player who needed to borrow money to register for a D-League tryout. Those days are behind him now, as he was a key cog in the Spurs rotation last season. The Nets are familiar with him as he played for their Summer League team in 2015. Simmons also embodies the toughness and desperation this Nets organization loves.
Omri Casspi brings both youth and experience to the table. He’s 29 years old and an eight-year veteran. Casspi holds the dubious distinction of the player having played the most games and not yet made the playoffs. The last two seasons were curtailed by injury, however, he is expected when training camp opens. Standing at 6’9, Casspi is an all-around type player with deadly accuracy from behind the three-point line. For a reasonable price, a team does much worse than signing Omri Casspi.
Question 3: Should the Nets pursue signing a maximum contract player?
Especially relevant, fans remain excited about the Nets continued improvement. This is based primarily on how well the Nets finished the 2016-17 regular season. Citing this “success”, a question arises; Should the Brooklyn Nets consider pursuing and signing a Max player? The quick and easy answer is, NO. How much aid would Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Jrue Holiday, Otto Porter, Kyle Lowry or Gordon Hayward ultimately provide this young team? Would the financial sacrifice be worth it in the medium or long term? Those are a few questions Marks must answer.
It would serve the Nets well to remember a rebuild takes time. It was the quick-fix mentality by the previous regime that forced the Nets into this terrible situation, to begin with. Gradual steps and incremental progress is the way to go here. Look at the development of Caris LeVert, Sean Kilpatrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Isaiah Whitehead as evidence of that.
In closing, Sean Marks and the Brooklyn Nets are in a very solid position financially right now. One must play that the shrewd decision-making skills exercised the last off-season continues moving forward.