The Brooklyn Nets were the worst team in the NBA last season – that can’t be disputed. They went 20-62 in 2016-2017, with their win number salvaged somewhat with a late-season surge. Unfortunately, the Nets won’t have the No. 1 draft pick – or even a lottery pick. (Sorry for pointing that out once more.) But the Nets do have two first-round picks – at the 22 and 27 slots, with the assets and flexibility to add even more if General Manager Sean Marks sees an intriguing prospect.
Obviously, the Brooklyn Nets have nowhere to go but up after a disastrous season. So anything – and everything – would be an improvement over last year. Kenny Atkinson has established a modern NBA system that’s reminiscent of some of the best NBA teams, including the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. So the sheer influx of talent imbued by this month’s draft will help.
Previously, the Brooklyn Nets’ front office has shown a willingness to take risks. They drafted Caris LeVert with the 20th overall pick, a player projected to be a late second rounder after numerous foot injuries. Fortunately, Sean Marks’ gamble paid off, with LeVert looking like the best Nets prospect in years. (I know, the Nets haven’t exactly had the most exciting crop of young players since like…Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson.) Even compared to other rookies, LeVert looked like a bonafide NBA player. The Nets also selected Isaiah Whitehead in the second round, another risky selection.
But what, specifically, do the Nets need? Let’s take a look.
Length and Size
The Brooklyn Nets have emphasized small ball in Kenny Atkinson’s offense. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6’7” athletic wing, blossomed as the Nets’ starting power forward after he slumped for most of his sophomore year. On the bench, Trevor Booker, Quincy Acy, and Andrew Nicholson were the Nets’ reserve power forwards, ranging from 6’7” to 6’9”, a bit undersized – and seemingly not athletic enough to compete with other small ball 4’s. Brook Lopez and Justin Hamilton were the only Brooklyn Nets taller than 6’10”. Those two also projected more as perimeter threats, especially with Lopez’s transformation to a long-range assassin.
So the Nets need height. They were second to last in the league in opponent rebounds per game and ranked 27th in offensive rebounds in 2016-2017. They also lacked in rim protection, especially in reserve lineups with Trevor Booker as a center. The addition of a big, rim protecting presence would help the Nets’ defense, which ranked as one of the worst in the NBA after their defense clamped down in their last 20 games. A big target would also help offensively, with Jeremy Lin and Spencer Dinwiddie finding effective pick and roll partners.
Luckily, the latter portion of the first round of the NBA Draft features several intriguing big options, including Isaiah Hartenstein, Harry Giles and Anzejs Pasecniks. Some mid-first projected big prospects like Justin Patton and Jarrett Allen could drop to the Nets at 22 or 27 too.
The Nets shot a ton of threes in 2016-2017! They shattered previous team records in three-pointers attempted and made. Unfortunately, Brooklyn ranked 26th in the league in three-point shooting percentage, per basketball-reference. Out of last season’s roster, only Joe Harris and Quincy Acy were spot up shooting threats. The Nets’ offense borrows heavily from the Atlanta Hawks system that emphasized a four-out, one-in approach.
Only four Brooklyn Nets shot above the league average of 35.8% from three last season. Several players, including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Archie Goodwin, Trevor Booker, K.J. McDaniels and Isaiah Whitehead have obvious flaws in their shooting strokes and may be subpar shooters for their careers. Adding shooters would open the floor up for Jeremy Lin to knife his way to the rim, or Brook Lopez to pump fake and drive like a 6’5” shooting guard.
In the Nets’ first round range, they may need to reach a little to find a shooter. After Rodions Kurucs withdrew his name from the draft, their prospects slimmed even more. Terrance Ferguson, Semi Ojeleye, D.J. Wilson and Tyler Lydon seem like solid prospects Brooklyn could take a chance on to stretch their offense.
The Nets struggled mightily with Jeremy Lin out of the lineup for a large chunk of the year. They also lost Greivis Vasquez early in the season as well. The team really saw a dearth of playmaking, starting unnatural playmakers. Sean Kilpatrick and Randy Foye were shooting guards tasked with setting the offense. Isaiah Whitehead was a rookie combo guard thrown into the starting point guard fire.
Overall, the Nets committed the second-most turnovers in the league, while also ranking only 20th in assists. The Nets were top 10 in passes made this season, per NBA.com, but many of their passes were inefficient, either mindless or missing.
The Nets have been linked to veteran point guards like Milos Teodosic and George Hill in the free agent market, but they could look to the draft as well. Outside of the Markelle Fultz-Lonzo Ball class of playmakers, this draft is particularly weak in pure playmakers, with many projected as second rounders. Derrick White was productive at Colorado and fits the Nets’ fascination with big guards. Jawun Evans is a speed demon, although a bit undersized. Kostja Mushidi, Kobi Simmons and P.J. Dozier are interesting in a vacuum but seem to be long-term projects.
A Big Day for the Brooklyn Nets
This draft may have huge ramifications on the Nets’ future. That could be said for any team, but rings especially true for the Nets. They have ZERO picks in the 2018 draft so far. No firsts (you're welcome, Boston) and no seconds (until 2020.)
If Brooklyn nails their picks, even eking out reserves at 22 and 27, that could be a win for the Nets, who are simply looking for progress. Even drafting a player that makes the roster, or an intriguing stash at pick 57 would help tremendously.
The Brooklyn Nets are essentially starting with a blank slate this offseason. They have tremendous flexibility and have seemingly 1000 ways to get better (or 1000 ways to die.) It may be cliché, but the NBA Draft could impact the Nets’ immediate and long-term future.
Stay tuned for my Brooklyn Nets NBA Draft Guide across multiple sites. New content, profiles and projections every day leading up to the draft!