Early projection ranks Nets as 5th-worst NBA team

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It’s never too early for projections, and Sports Illustrated predicts an eight-game drop for the Nets after the team’s offseason moves, putting them at a projected 29.7 wins.

The ranking projects them to finish 13th in the Eastern Conference, with the fifth-worst record in the NBA.

It’s worth noting that the projection system is simple: it takes the number of win shares earned by players last year, and uses those numbers to project how teams will do with their new players, with an average for rookies based on their draft position. It’s certainly crude, as players develop (or decline) from year to year, and new situations and environments can have a drastic impact on player performance.

The Nets are banking that they can ride Brook Lopez & Thaddeus Young to competence and competitiveness after finishing last season 13-6 in their final 19 games. They also hope that their rag-tag group of journeymen — Andrea Bargnani, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and Thomas Robinson, to name four — take the next step in their careers and add a few extra wins across the board.

Also worth noting: the total number of win shares adds up to about 1,289, meaning this projection has the NBA going 1289-1171 against itself. (Hey, we’ve been saying for a while that this will be a good year for the league… we just meant financially.) If you adjust the league down evenly, the Nets are projected at closer to 28 wins.

The projection method obviously has flaws, as all do. But given what the Nets have done, it may not end up being that far off… And if it holds, they’d give up a likely top-five pick, unprotected, to the Boston Celtics.