Since moving to Brooklyn, the Nets’ win total has dwindled each year. add in Deron Williams’ stumbles, the drama surrounding Mikhail Prokhorov and Brook Lopez’s potential free agency and you’ve got a super important summer for the franchise.
The Brooklyn Game tackled the hard-hitting questions that will define the Nets this summer and for many years down the line.
1) Were you satisfied with this season? Did the two wins against Atlanta save it?
Ryan Carbain: Rough, rough season. But: it was great to see Brook Lopez get healthy, Bojan Bogdanovic & Markel Brown turn the corner, and Alan “Pocket Aces” Anderson brush those shoulders off. I started the Atlanta series thinking I’d be happy if they even got to six, and I felt a little sense of pride with how they competed.
Ben Nadeau: Following Paul Pierce’s departure and the rapid rise of gold medalist Mason Plumlee, I didn’t know what to expect from this season going into October. I was only sure of two things: the Nets wouldn’t win an NBA championship, but they were better than Atlantic Division rivals in Toronto and Manhattan. At the end of the day, both were true.
But there are no moral victories in basketball, and winning two games doesn’t do much. It was nice to be reminded of what could have been, but that Game 6 shocked me back to reality.
Mike Smeltz: Unsatisfied with the overall team’s season, but I’m fine with certain players. I feel good about Brook Lopez; he showed he’s still a top-three offensive center despite the foot problems. I’m satisfied with Bojan Bogdanovic and what he will contribute to the team going forward.
But as a team, they never should’ve been the 8th seed. With the amount of talent they have — not great, but better than sub .500 — they should have finished with a better overall record. So it’s great they took two from the Hawks and were competitive in five of the six games, but five slightly satisfying games don’t make up for the rest of the season.
2) Who will be back? Who’s gone?
Ryan Carbain: Pocket Aces would be wise to leave and I’m not sleeping on a Mirza Teletovic departure. Spurs interest scares me and, well, I don’t think Teletovic and Hollins have a warm and fuzzy relationship. The rest is too early to tell.
I know the franchise isn’t an early adopter to the analytics movement, but here’s a little equation I worked up: Bold GM + cost-cutting ownership – reasonable media market = ?!?!?
Ben Nadeau: Given the recent rumors that general manager Billy King’s contract may be extended, I’d be willing to guess that the band will be back together in 2015. If I had to predict someone’s departure, I’d say Joe Johnson. He’s about to be a very large expiring contract and can still elevate a team when they need it most. (Utah Jazz for a year, anybody?)
Mike Smeltz: Lopez and Thaddeus Young come back… and so do Williams and Johnson. Let’s run it back!
I don’t think there’s a big market for Young, and the Nets offer at least a reasonable chance to make the playoffs every year, something he hasn’t had in the past few seasons with Philadelphia and Minnesota. Lopez comes back because the Nets can offer him more money than anyone else and I don’t see any contender having enough money to pull him away if Brook is in a just-win mindset.
As for “Brooklyn’s Backcourt,” the market is so low on both that the only way the Nets can get them out of town is if they take equally bad contracts in return. Firstly, there aren’t many more onerous contracts out there — Williams’s might just be the worst in the league right now, considering that it goes into the 2016 free agent bonanza. Secondly, Billy King is going to get cents-on-the-dollar offers, like the Lance Stephenson rumor, and may figure it’s better to stay put than possibly make a deal that could make the team’s future worse. So yes, everyone returns.
3) Will the Nets cut ties with GM Billy King?
Ryan Carbain: Nope. Ownership seems heavily invested in King, though I’d give it a second look. The Nets have two major impediments at the moment: they’re hopelessly capped out, and outsiders don’t exactly consider the franchise “stable.” At this point, better to let King scrape along the bargain bin — probably the strength of his tenure — and re-evaluate when the franchise has cap space to use.
Ben Nadeau: Should they? Yes. Will they? No. Give King credit for building a competitive team, something the Nets franchise has lacked since they traded Jason Kidd (the first time!) back in 2008. Since then, King has compounded bad moves with more bad moves. From $40 million for Gerald Wallace, to swapping a first-round pick with the Hawks, to ceding the immediate future to the Boston Celtics for one year of Pierce and Garnett: it’s been a terribly bumpy ride.
Mike Smeltz: They should wait one more year and then let him go. Few prospective general managers would want to take control of this team now. At least after next season, the team will have cap space. I think ultimately if they have another season like this one, he’s gone.
4) Is there any hope for the Nets franchise in the near future?
Ryan Carbain: There’s cap space two seasons away, and I love the versatility at the forward spots between Young, Johnson, Teletovic and Bogdanovic. They can switch defensive assignments, shoot from outside, put the ball on the floor, pass and… and… look like the type of forwards on a modern NBA franchise!
So, I guess it could be worse?
Ben Nadeau: For all of King’s shortcomings, he’s done a fairly decent job drafting, to be fair. Markel Brown will be another year wiser next season and Bogdanovic was incredible to say the least. Plumlee plateaud in a major way, but King has drafted well for the franchise recently with very little.
King needs to grab athletic players in the worst way. Look no further than the injection of Young and Brown as to why the Zombie Nets surged towards the finish line. If King is smart, the days of the slow, plodding Nets are done.
Mike Smeltz: Hope? I am not familiar with that word.
5) Your offseason prediction?
Ben Nadeau: Joe Johnson will be traded. His “I don’t see us coming back as the same team” admission seems pretty ominous, doesn’t it?
Ryan Carbain: There will be a major shake up at the point guard spot. Jarrett Jack and Deron Williams won’t be top two on the depth chart next season.
Mike Smeltz: If the Nets do trade Deron Williams, it will only be because they included Mason Plumlee in the deal.