After a forgettable first year with the Brooklyn Nets, Jeremy Lin has playoff dreams for the 2017-18 season.
Would going from 20 wins to plus-40 be one of the most puzzling turnarounds in NBA history? Undoubtedly, and that’s what Lin is proclaiming for the Nets upcoming campaign. During a meet-and-greet over the weekend, the Harvard product said Brooklyn is “making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else tells me.”
This isn’t the most bizarre comment we’ve heard in recent months, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Not only did Brooklyn finish with a 20-62 record last year, but they were also four games worse than the Los Angeles Lakers, and they did their best to spend the last few weeks tanking.
It wasn’t pretty.
What’s peculiar is that the Nets weren’t as bad as their record indicated. Yes, no other team won fewer games than them, but there were nights when Brooklyn took the court and actually made you think that they weren’t at the bottom of the league’s totem pole.
Given the circumstances, it was a solid first year rebuilding. Sean Marks has facilitated some deals that landed D’Angelo Russell and DeMarre Carroll, and he’s done a stellar job putting a core together that can grow alongside one another.
The ironic thing is that Lin is making bold statements after playing just 36 games. Hamstring injuries kept the 28-year-old on the sideline for most of the year. I’m not saying the Nets are a playoff team when he’s healthy, but there’s a chance they win a few more games and leapfrog the Lakers in the standings. When Lin was lucky enough to grace the court, his play was the best we’ve seen since Linsanity. Kenny Atkinson did an outstanding job with his rotations, and Lin averaged just 24.5 minutes a night. In that time, he poured in 14.5 points and 5.1 assists with a true shooting percentage of 56.6.
Lin’s a fundamental part of the Nets offense, and he’s poised to have a huge year if he stays healthy. I said the same thing leading up to last season. His skill set, combined with the other pieces, isn’t enough to bring Brooklyn to the postseason, but there’s the chance they make a lot of noise.
The Nets, who didn’t have much talent, played significantly better with Lin on the floor. He brings an added dynamic that teams need to account for. Lin loves to play downhill, and he and Brook Lopez — whom we’re going to miss — were perfect pick-and-roll partners. From there, he would get to the line, kick it out for an open three or score, and his newfound accuracy from downtown only added to his lethality. Lin shot a career-best 37.2 percent from three, opening the floor just enough for Sean Kilpatrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie to attack the basket. Those three are among the host of players returning from last year, and, even though they didn’t have much success, the down year gave all the young guys a chance to experiment with their game and find out what worked best.
Looking at the depth chart, Brooklyn just doesn’t have the talent to be one of the Eastern Conference’s eight best teams. Moreover, I don’t believe they have the chemistry on both ends of the floor. The offense is further along than the defense, and that’s going to take a lot of work. They finished 29th in points allowed per game (112.5) and 23rd in defensive rating (110.7 points per 100). It’s not going to turn around in one season and, despite a handful of stars going West, the East still has too much firepower.
Of the conference’s 14 other teams, 11 of them are definitely better than the Nets. The leftovers are the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic. You could make the argument that all three of these squads are better than Brooklyn, but at least it’s debatable. In a perfect world, they are. But the NBA is far from a utopia. Things happen that we don’t plan for, and that may be why I’m giving the Nets so much credit.
Philadelphia has three key guys who have dealt with injuries; the Knicks are, well, the Knicks and the Magic… I don’t know what they are.
I’m excited to watch the Nets this upcoming season, but I’m not fully behind the playoff train yet. It would be incredible, and I love the irrational confidence, but part of me wants to sit back and be real. However, there’s nothing I want to see more than Brooklyn make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. It’d be a reason to celebrate, and the rebuild would be light years ahead of schedule.