New-look Nets look for tenth win in Denver

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Time: 9:00 PM EST
Location: Pepsi Center
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports Go
Listen: WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM

With the NBA trade deadline passing on Thursday, Brooklyn was one of the most active teams, completing two trades to bolster their roster for the rest of the season. The Nets first completed a deal with Washington on Wednesday to send Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough to the Wizards for Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton (who was later waived), and an unprotected first round pick in the 2017 draft. Then, with an hour left before the trade deadline, the Nets acquired K.J. McDaniels for cash considerations. McDaniels and Nicholson will make their debuts in Denver on Friday as the Nets look to integrate their new pieces and, maybe, win a game in the process against the surging Nuggets.

Oh, and that guy Jeremy Lin is back too! Lin has been out since December 26th due to a setback on his hamstring, an injury that has caused him to miss all of 12 games this season.

The Nuggets currently hold the 8th seed in the West despite being 7 games under .500 at 25-32. Nikola Jokic has blossomed into a unicorn-esque superstar this year, posting 21-point, 12-rebound, and 5-assist per game totals per 36 minutes this season. Jokic is the kind of prospect the Nets hope to land with their two selections in this upcoming draft. The fact that Sean Marks was able to turn an expiring Bojan Bogdanovic for as many first round draft choices as the Kings were able to get for DeMarcus Cousins shows that the Nets have a front office that is able to extract maximum value for its players.

This is, of course, why Brook Lopez is still on the team despite constant rumors that the team was looking to deal him. Marks isn’t settling for pennies on the dollar and has shown he has the ability to turn good-but-not-great pieces into draft choices, which is key to a team facing a long rebuild.

With a showdown in the Mile High City looming and the Nets hoping that their influx of new (and returning) talent will translate into on-court success, here are 3 things to look out for:

1. He’s back!

Lin was the team’s prized acquisition this offseason and the Brook-Lin pick and roll combo was supposed to be the backbone of Kenny Atkinson’s offensive scheme. With Lin being sidelined most of the year, Lopez has had to pick up the slack in a major way, scoring most of his points in isolation (just 58% of his points have come off of an assist) and even added a three-point shot to his arsenal to mitigate the lack of a drive and kick option in the offense. Well, with Lin now back in the fold, the duo can torment defenses with both a pick-and-roll/pop with Lopez converting on a respectable 34% of his three-point attempts.

Look for Lin to make things easier for the 9-year Nets veteran as well as the rest of the team.

2. Jokic no Joke

Jokic has truly broken out this season and figures to give the Nets all they can handle. The Nuggets have long lacked a superstar talent despite possessing impressive depth, but Jokic appears to be the franchise’s new cornerstone. With shooters like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler flanking the perimeter, you can look for the Nuggets’ inside-out approach to give the Nets problems tonight.

3. Welcome aboard, Andrew and K.J.!

In a season like this one, where heartbreaking losses have been the norm and young talent must go through growing pains, it’s always nice to see how new faces can help improve morale and perhaps add a few wins to the bottom line. Andrew Nicholson is a sturdy big who struggled all season to crack Scott Brooks’ rotation.

Nicholson hasn’t played much in his career, but he has shown flashes of being a solid NBA big. Nicholson scored 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds per game while shooting 52% from the field in his rookie season per 36 minutes in 28 starts. If Atkinson can tap into that potential down the stretch, Brooklyn may just have a piece for the rebuild, despite the lengthy contract.

As for McDaniels, the Clemson product has largely sat the pine since being acquired by the Rockets in 2015. While in Philadelphia, a team that was in a similar position as Brooklyn is in now, McDaniels was a defensive stopper and used his elite athleticism to accumulate 5 rebounds, a steal, and a block per 36 minutes in his rookie year.

Nicholson and McDaniels will receive more opportunities in Brooklyn this season than they ever have before. It will be up to the duo to prove that they can be building blocks for this Brooklyn team as they search for long-term answers.