After a 20-win season, the Brooklyn Nets find themselves in a similar position they were in the year prior. Brooklyn will have to yet again reevaluate which players should remain to move forward with in their rebuild, and which should go to make room for potentially bigger signings in free agency.
The good news is the Nets are already finished with the first rebuilding stage — the “tear it all down” phase. This was marked by the momentous releases of previous foundational blocks Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and even dealing fan favorite Thaddeus Young on Draft Day last year.
The bad news… well, they still have ways to go to churn out an on-court product that can compete with the likes of the NBA’s top-tier teams. And, this will conceivably involve more trial and error with countless new faces that will come and go in Brooklyn.
This season, we got a glimpse of what could possibly lie ahead for the Nets. It was by no means a sustainable model for success, but in a no pressure, no expectations climate, the Nets managed to remain competitive and look far more alive than their counterparts in 2015-16.
A lot of the Nets’ experiments with players even took place during the 2016-17 season. 21 players suited up in black-and-white this season, and it looked like almost every night, head coach Kenny Atkinson threw a new combination of players on the floor.
Of course, constant tinkering with the roster resulted in numerous goodbyes in Brooklyn. Some players were released due to injury (Greivis Vasquez), while others simply did not meet expectations (Anthony Bennett, Chris McCullough).
The Nets’ various lineups and multiple signings of players to 10-day deals might even overshadow the mass exodus that took place the prior offseason. Entering the 2016-17 season, only Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic, Chris McCullough and Sean Kilpatrick were remaining from the 2015-16 Nets roster. Remember when the Nets had Andrea Bargnani and Shane Larkin? Good times.
Another roster restructuring should be the expected outcome of this offseason. Perhaps it would not be to the same extent, but like all rebuilding franchises, Brooklyn will have to keep going through this process of trying out and dropping experimental players for the foreseeable future. Nothing is set in stone, and I’d argue that only the rookies, Isaiah Whitehead and Caris LeVert, have solidified their places as the foundation of the Nets’ long-term plans.
It’s clear that until the Nets finally have all the right pieces in place, they won’t be able to get past the hump of being viewed as one of the NBA’s biggest laughingstocks. There’s no telling how much time this will take — as always, Nets general manager Sean Marks preaches “patience” and wants fans to focus on the “big-picture view.” Hopefully, Brooklyn will move further in the right direction this offseason, through acquiring desirable free agents and talented, young prospects in the Draft.
In terms of offseason needs, Marks previously stated in an interview for YES Network’s Nets Magazine that the 3 “needs to be addressed” this summer.
Versatility became the common thread of the Nets’ roster coming into the 2016-17 season, resulting in a considerable amount of players who can be used on the wings. Some fall under the umbrella of combo guards (Randy Foye, Archie Goodwin, Isaiah Whitehead), while others are the more traditional definition of swingmen (Caris LeVert, Joe Harris). Still, the 3 spot, in particular, has taken a hit, especially with Harris sidelined for the last 22 games due to injury, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson moved up to starting power forward for the second half of the season.
(Note: Hollis-Jefferson is now listed as a “Forward” on the Nets’ online roster, which could mean Brooklyn plans on using him at the four moving forward. He was previously listed as a “Guard-Forward.” “Forward” also insinuates he could be used at the 3, but that leaves just him, LeVert and a questionable Harris. The Nets could certainly use an upgrade.)
Potential offseason acquisitions
Based on rumors flying around as of late, the Nets will likely shoot their shot at Washington Wizards starting small forward Otto Porter. Porter was a vital piece to the Wizards’ playoff run this season. He posted the best numbers of his career thus far — 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the field. Plus, he’s only 23 years old, so he’ll have plenty of time to further develop his game — perfect for a rebuilding team.
The Georgetown alum is set to be a restricted free agent and will be seeking a maximum contract, which the Nets can provide. If the restricted free agency gods decide to play the cards in the Nets’ favor (contrary to last offseason), then Brooklyn will finally be due for a successful restricted free agent signing. Fingers crossed.
As far as young talent with high potential, Porter is as good as it gets for free agent small forwards. Brooklyn might look at older, more experienced veterans such as Thabo Sefolosha and Andre Iguodala, though the windows would certainly be closing for what the pair of 33-year-olds could provide.
The Nets can also turn to the Draft to get a boost at the 3, but there isn’t an abundance of options they could get at their selection points. One wing who’s been paired with the Nets is Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon, who’s described as a “muscular wing with microwave-scorer upside” by the Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. On NBADraft.net’s mock draft, Bacon is currently set to go to the Nets with the No. 27 pick. (However, I must point out that Bacon’s draft stock on many other sites has been far lower: DraftExpress and everyone on the Ringer’s Draft Guide has Bacon down as a second-round selection).
No matter which route the Nets decide to take to address their offseason needs, the inevitable roster shakeup is on the horizon. Likely to get the boot are Randy Foye, Justin Hamilton, and Andrew Nicholson — players whose minutes have fluctuated and become fairly sparse throughout their first year in Brooklyn. Well, it was a fun ride while it lasted, right?
Actually, rebuilding isn’t fun (no surprise there). To get to the light at the end of the tunnel, Brooklyn will have to endure loads of roster turnovers, and unfortunately, unlike journalism, there isn’t a deadline for when the Nets will finally become good. Let’s hope that at the very least, the Nets are successful at fulfilling their offseason needs this time around.