In their closing act of the 2015-16 season, what remained of the Brooklyn Nets fell apart in the second half against what remained of the Toronto Raptors, blowing a 21-4 lead and losing 103-96 to a team that rested almost all of its rotation players.
It was a fitting ending to a dismal season. The Nets finished with a 21-61 record, outright the third-worst in the NBA and the fourth-worst in their NBA franchise history. They do not own their first-round draft pick this year (nor next year, nor the year after), having given their division rival Boston Celtics a 15.6% chance of landing the first overall pick. They’ll slip back to the 55th pick in the second round, thanks to a 2012 deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Midway through the season, they fired their head coach and their general manager stepped down. They lost their starting point guard to an ACL injury in January, their starting small forward to a playoff team in February, and their starting frontcourt to “rest” down the stretch. Their only hope comes in free agency, when almost every NBA team will have similar cap room to compete with them for free agents.
In light of all these facts, I asked a wide range of people, from our expert contributors to writers for other publications that paid close attention to the Nets this season, to answer one question:
All things considered, was this the worst season in Nets franchise history?
Be sure to give your own answer in the poll below & in the comments section.
Here’s their answers.
Ryan Carbain, TBG contributor
I get that 2009-2010 Nets had light at the end of the tunnel, but that will remain the worst season of Nets basketball I will ever witness. That roster held the promise of Brook Lopez and far-away draft picks. Nothing else.
This year, we got to view two rookies with promise. The two best players on the team developed skills many would write off: Thad Young improved his rebounding, Brook Lopez became a better passer. The Nets seem to be changing directions, too.
Even when the Nets were bound to lose, I could find something to watch. There was a group of young projects that might pan out. You saw it in Markel Brown’s elevation, Willie Reed’s hustle, Shane Larkin and Thomas Robinson’s speed, and Sean Kilpatrick’s quest for buckets.
So, nah, not the worst season I’ve watched. But maybe don’t ask me this question come draft time.
Zach Fisch, TBG contributor, @therealfisch
I can only speak to Nets seasons in my lifetime. This is definitely the worst.
Sure, 12-70 was bad, but at least the Nets had their first-round pick. Fans could watch John Wall highlight videos and hope for a better future in Brooklyn. This year, we got to watch Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young play their age-27 seasons on a team stocked with marginal NBA players and Andrea Bargnani; after December, the most compelling rooting interest was whether the Nets could finish above the depleted Suns for fourth-worst record in the league. They could not. The Nets will send a top-6 pick to a division rival that won 47 games this season.
Looming over this season is the black cloud of the next two seasons, which could be just as bleak, only this time with some non-marquee (and assuredly overpaid) free agents in the fold. Regardless of Sean Marks’ abilities, this rebuild projects to be a long slog. So much for that better future in Brooklyn.
Jonathan Griggs, TBG contributor, die-hard Nets fan, @WeMustBeNets
I have been a Nets fan since the 1989-90 season and this has been arguably the worst season I can remember.
I have endured dreadful seasons over that time while cheering for unlikable players, but those years promised something this year won’t: a chance to improve in the draft lottery. There was always that hope, even if it was in the form of draft busts like Ed O’Bannon or Yinka Dare, and that’s what got you through those tough times.
Thanks to irrational (and irresponsible) managerial decisions, their extreme losing will be for nothing when June rolls around. If you thought watching this team was difficult, just imagine how sick to your stomach you will feel when you see the Boston Celtics hit the jackpot at their expense. (You know it’s happening. Don’t kid yourself.)
What also made this year so awful was the so-called “youth movement”. Brooklyn’s guiding principle when building this roster seemed to be, “hey, if we throw enough against the wall, maybe something will stick.” I didn’t fall for it, and if anything it felt insulting to educated fans. You know who has a youth movement? The Minnesota Timberwolves. Slapping together a bunch of guys (many of whom seem D-League caliber) under the age of 25 is not remotely close to what’s going on in places like Minnesota, Orlando, and Utah.
I pride myself on being a loyal fan to my teams, but for the first time in my life I found myself checked out towards the end of the season. Hey, if the Nets can do that with Brook and Thad, why can’t I shut it down too? I think I’ve earned the right.
Chris Hooker, TBG contributor, Nets super-fa, @chrishooker9
It’s tough to answer “what was the worst Nets season?” So I manipulated it a little: “Which Nets season made me feel the worst?”
I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not this is an obvious answer, but I think the worst Nets season ever was the 12-70, 2009-10 disaster. Part of this response is that I simply wasn’t watching — or, quite frankly, alive — for many of the truly hopeless pre-Kidd seasons.
There really wasn’t anything redeeming about that season. Everything went wrong. The franchise said if they continued to lose, good things would happen. Here’s what happened instead: First, the Nets fired Lawrence Frank — arguably the best coach in franchise history — after a record-breaking horrendous start. They replaced him with Kiki Vandeweghe, a man who had never coached before, so it’s not even as though they had a plan following Frank’s firing. They could have easily just kept Frank and everything would have, at worst, gone exactly the same.
The Nets were so bad that season that I got angry when Vandeweghe didn’t play Chris Douglas-Roberts. I distinctly remember being a freshman in college, debating if I should spend my hard-earned work study money on a Douglas-Roberts jersey. No good has ever come from a season where that guy was an unironic highlight.
Okay, so then the Nets sucked all year. But the message then was, once they got to the offseason, everything would change because of CAP SPACE! I don’t know if anyone else remembers this but me, but LeBron James absolutely loving the city of Brooklyn was a big enough story that I was convinced he was Nets-bound. They didn’t win the lottery, but all of us won this stoic picture of Mikhail Prokhorov trying not to lose his mind.
To summarize the worst sports summer of my life: LeBron James did not go to the Nets, and neither did Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer or Amar’e Stoudemire. They drafted Derrick Favors (to get traded) and not John Wall, and gave Travis Outlaw $7 million per year over five years. Then Carmelo Anthony became available, and I spent the next year constantly refreshing Twitter and bothering everyone I knew. But more symbolically, that season represented the beginning of a slow, painful spiral to where things are now.
Fred Katz, Dime Magazine, @FredKatz
A 21-win season is technically only the sixth-worst year in the history of the franchise, but arguing if it’s better to win 12 or 17 or 21 times in an 82-game slate is like debating whether you’d rather be married to David Berkowitz or Charles Manson. Sure, you may have a smart take on why one is worse, but either way, you’re going to have to find a particularly clever way to unhinge yourself from that scenario.
And now, the Nets have basically turned themselves into Mrs. Manson without the personal assets to sneakily hire a divorce lawyer. The production isn’t there. The misery is drowning out even the quietly hopeful developments, like the emergences of Sean Kilpatrick or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
So yes, I’d say this is the worst season in franchise history. One bad season doesn’t always beget another. But when currency flutters away, hope follows it. And neither is coming back to Brooklyn any time soon.
Tom Lorenzo, NetsDaily, @TomLorenzo
A 21-61 record, no first round pick, and no Ally’s Item? Uh, yeah.
Ben Nadeau, TBG contributor, Nets super-fan, @nedough
There is no immediate hope for this Nets team. You might say: hey, doesn’t that mean this is the worst season in franchise history? But: is no hope worse than having hope only for it to be crushed?
I say no. With Deron Williams’ departure in July, the self-proclaimed bridge year, and lack of draft picks, everybody knew that this season would be a tough one for Brooklyn.
In 2009-2010, of course, the Nets had a young Brook Lopez and…? Terrence Williams? Chris-Douglas Roberts? With the Nets plummeting down to 12-70, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. His name was John Wall. That year, the Nets had a 25% chance of winning the lottery. Instead, they dropped down to 3rd. Franchise player? Gone. Those hopes and dreams at the nightmare season? Taken away. At least that can’t possibly happen this year.
We didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the first domino to fall in the Nets’ current predicament. Derrick Favors would be the major piece in the Williams trade, which then lead to Gerald Wallace for a pick, then Joe Johnson for picks, and eventually wrapping up with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for picks as well. So aside from the terrible on-court product in 2009 and missing out on Wall, it’s actually why the Nets are even in this miserable position today.
So, no. I’d rather have no hope than have it all dashed in a single ping-pong ball. It’s easier to deal with the sadness that way.
I started watching the Nets when Jason Kidd was traded to the team prior to the 2001-2002 season. I was spoiled from the start, but this season, in my opinion, has been the worst year in franchise history.
The faults of the season seem endless, but it wasn’t the result of one or two bad decisions. This nightmare season was brewing since the Nets moved to Brooklyn and management/ownership tried to force greatness. Here we are, four seasons deep, watching a 21-win Nets team with no draft pick to show for it. Instead, a likely top-3 pick is headed to a division rival: the playoff-bound Boston Celtics.
People will argue the 12-70 was worse, but at the time, the perspective was completely different. The Nets had a chance to nab John Wall in the draft and Brooklyn was only a few years away. There was light at the end of the tunnel (or bridge), something we can’t say about this season and the near future of this franchise.
While this Nets season has been a slow-moving disaster, I’d still rate the 2009-2010 season where they went 12-70 as worse.
While the Nets have no draft pick this summer, it seems like they’ve already hit rock bottom. They have a young, shrewd new general manager in Sean Marks and a nucleus of players they can build with, if not around.
Also, can you imagine losing 9-10 more games than what the Nets lost this season? And having to attend home games in New Jersey rather than Brooklyn? So hey, Nets fans: It’s not that bad here.
Elizabeth Swinton, TBG social media, @eswint22
From a Twitter standpoint, this Nets season was a nightmare. Going into it, we already lost #EEMULPNOSAM, #FEARZA, and every D-Will-ism. And of course, once Joe Johnson left, we lost perhaps the greatest of all: the clutch Joe Jesus picture, as well as the famous wink-GIF from one of the rare times Joe showed emotion. We stand at the end of the season with #BrookLopezIsVeryGoodAtTheBasketball, #MakeItWayne, and KilpaTREY, but the losses in the Twitter game this season are no doubt the worst in Nets franchise, and The Brooklyn Game, history.
At least we’ll always have #IanEagleOutOfContext.
Andy Vasquez, Nets beat writer for The Record, @andy_vasquez
It’s still too early to say if it’s the worst season in Nets history. It’s bad. Depressingly bad. Worse than the final season in New Jersey. The Nets are more irrelevant and less interesting now than they ever were in that campaign. But, in my mind, this still isn’t as bad as the 2009-10 season.
That record — 12-70 — is infamous. It’s a special kind of bad, seared into the brain of every Nets fan who had had to live through it. But something worse could happen on May 17. That’s the day of the NBA Draft Lottery. Given the Nets’ luck this season, I fully expect Boston to get the No. 1 overall pick — just the latest, most infamous moment in the team’s history.
If this season means that Ben Simmons is tormenting the Nets for the next decade and a half, this could very well be remembered as their worst season ever.
Worse than 2009-10? Hardly. The Nets were living in netherworld, otherwise known as Newark. The move to Brooklyn wasn’t finalized until late 2009 after many court cases and Mikhail Prokhorov, being prudent, wouldn’t take control of the club until May 2010, after all the legal niceties — remember “vacant possession?”– were completed.
The team had gone through three coaches (Lawrence Frank, Tom Barrise, and Kiki Vandeweghe), set one record for worst start in NBA history, and almost set another — for most losses, period.
Sure, they had draft picks, but they lost the lottery. Yes, the Nets are bereft of picks from now until the end of the first Trump Administration, but they play in New York in probably the coolest arena in the league, train in one of the best — if not the best — training facility, and seem to have embarked on a better path than in 2010, when it was all about getting a superstar.