The Nets are Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Watching the Nets this season, one of my biggest concerns revolves around what should I ultimately be rooting for.

Yes, I’m a Nets fan, so I’m instinctively pulling for them to win every time they step on the court. I want to see Devin Harris score and Brook Lopez rebound and block shots. I want to see Courtney Lee become a star, and Yi Jianlian justify the lottery pick he was selected with. I want to see Chris Douglas-Roberts build on his great preseason and old stalwarts like Jarvis Hayes and Bobby Simmons catch fire and shoot the 3-ball at a 40 percent clip all season-long. I want these things because that means the Nets are likely winning games – lots of them. If all of these things click at once, the Nets could potentially be one of the better teams in the East.

But, I understand the unlikelihood of all these things coming together so quickly and effectively. By most accounts, the Nets are not going to be a very good team this season. While people recognize their potential, they also recognize that there are going to be many nights where Devin Harris is shut down, Brook gets dominated by a more polished big man, Coutney Lee, Yi and CDR struggle and Jarvis and Simmons are ice cold.

So that’s why I ask, what should I be rooting for? Do I want to see this team exceed expectations and sneak into the playoffs as an 8th seed, or do I want to see them take their lumps, struggle, and get a high lottery pick in next year’s draft, where they could select another potential star, while luring a few quality free agents with all of the cap space they have coming to them?

The way I see it, there are significant plus and minuses to each scenario. If the Nets are playoff-bound, it’s very unlikely it would be any higher than a 7th or 8th seed because of their talent-level. With the top heavy east, the Nets would likely be swept away by the likes of Cleveland or Boston or Orlando. Yes, the playoff experience would be great for such a young team, and a 40+ win season would validate the direction they’re headed. But by the time June rolls around, the Nets wold be picking in the middle of the first round, grabbing more of a complimentary piece, or even a player like Sean Williams or Josh Boone, who will never mature into anything beyond roster-filler. And looking at recent history of the NBA Playoffs, the league is full of teams that sneak into the playoffs and never evolve beyond that. For every Atlanta Hawks, there’s a Golden State Warriors.

On the flipside, if the team wins less than 30 games, it’s going to create a losing culture around the franchise. Why would any free agents want to play for the Nets if they can’t get out of their own way? A move to Brooklyn would add some legitimacy to the franchise, but what good is geography if you can’t win? Then again, a losing season could get the Nets an impact player in the draft. It would allow the team to play its youth without the pressure of trying to win now. I would rather see what I have in Terrence Williams, then watch him lose minutes to the likes of Rafer Alston or Keyon Dooling if the team is a few games out of a playoff spot with a month to go. We’ve watched a number of teams transform themselves after scoring a few high lottery picks. Teams like the Portland Trailblazers.

I want to think what’s better for the long-term direction for the organization. I don’t think it’s so cut and dry. You always want to see winning basketball, but you want to see the organization take the right path to victory. That usually comes in the form of an electric young core of players, intermingled with cagey veterans and solid complimentary players. I want to see this team win, but I am seriously concerned about what a mediocre season actually means for the Nets.