The New York Knicks might be the better team now, but the Brooklyn Nets are poised to have more long-term success.
Entering the 2017-2018 season, these new-look Brooklyn Nets aimed to shatter all the disappointing expectations. Full of young, prosperous talent, these Nets have shown the league that Brooklyn basketball is back.
How was general manager Sean Marks able to pick the franchise out of mediocrity? Well, the rebuild was nothing short of outstanding.
Marks successfully went out and got himself a true leader in Kenny Atkinson. He traded longtime Nets’ big man Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. The trade blew up NBA headlines but more importantly, it was a huge step in the rebuilding process but has rebirthed the winning mentality for these young Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets are ready to take over the basketball throne in NY. Brooklyn’s rebuilding process has been outstanding compared to the New York Knicks rebuilding process.
The New York Knicks have young talent as well. The Knicks are also in rebuilding mode. Stars like Kristaps Porzingis and rookie Frank Ntilikina are key pieces for the Knicks to build around. There have been many problems with the Knicks while in rebuilding mode. The biggest of these problems for New York has been revolved around team ownership and front office operations and their expensive front-court.
The New York Knicks front office has been a crazy roller coaster over the past few season. Phil Jackson was a disaster for the New York Knicks last season. Jackson may have just taken the Knicks job just for the money. Jackson’s biggest controversy while in the front office was how he handled Carmelo Anthony. Anthony and Jackson were at constant stalemates which lead to Anthony wanting out of New York.
The Knicks were finishing the second half of last season confused due to the Anthony-Jackson feud. Jackson wouldn’t talk to Anthony face-to-face, either texting him or expressing his thoughts through the media.
For example, there was the time that Jackson told ESPN’s Nick Friedell and Ian Begley: “We’d like him to have success.The opportunity is narrowing. We’d just like him to have success somewhere. We’re not going to be there. Hopefully, we’ll be maybe a playoff team next year. It would be tough to consider us a possible champion.” Jackson was later asked whether or not he would want Anthony back in NY next season. Jackson responded “He has a no-trade contract, I think I expressed what I felt. I can’t express it any better. I thought it was well-said, even though a lot of you didn’t feel quite that way.” This controversy carried on through the rest of the 2016-2017 season and lasted until the offseason. The Knicks played the rest of the season with their leader, Anthony, not wanting to be in New York.
Knicks owner James Dolan had enough with the Jackson-Anthony drama. In late June, Dolan fired Jackson. Anthony was traded to the Thunder this past offseason. The ownership and front office play has been a main reason why the Knicks rebuilding process hasn’t been smooth. Often ridiculed for draft selections, contract signings, and player moves; the New York Knicks need a change of scenery and need change starting with the owner.
The Knicks’ front-court is definitely an expensive one. Joakim Noah, who signed a four-year, $72.6 million dollar deal in the 2016 offseason, is clearly overpaid. Porzingis is up for a new deal at the end of the season. The Knicks are likely to offer him a max contract extension but will Porzingis take the deal with whats going on in New York? He is expected to stay with the Knicks but he hasn’t guaranteed anything. The Knicks currently are two games in front of the Nets in the Atlantic Division.
These young Nets are in a fast-paced rebuilding mode stage. The Nets were not expected to finish their rebuilding till 2020, but Marks has been making moves to get the rebuilding done fast.
Atkinson has a strong connection with his team which is very important for him. It is very important for a coach of a young team to have a great connection with the team. Atkinson is known for being a great player development coach. He has groomed and developed many young Nets over the past two seasons such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson has doubled his stats from last season and has stepped up as a leader. Atkinson fits the Nets system perfectly due to the Nets young talent on their roster. With Atkinson around and helping the Nets rebuild, the talent will only continue to grow.
These young Nets have had many surprises in the first two months of the season. Many of these young Nets have stepped up as leaders and improved their play which has led to Brooklyn improving success. Brooklyn has an extremely bright future on the horizon. For Brooklyn to secure their expected bright future, these Nets stars need to stay healthy and play at elite levels.
Russell has shown he wants to be the leader of the young Nets team. When healthy, Russell is a dangerous offensive powerhouse. The young point guard can become a lethal three-point shooter and a consistent shooter. He has also made others around him better. When Russell is on the floor for the Nets, the offense becomes more confident in their play. With the recent addition of Jahlil Okafor, Russell can confidently dish the ball down low. Russell and Okafor can become a huge threat to opponents if strong chemistry is formed between the two. Unfortunately, the young point guard has had some serious trouble staying healthy. Russell injured his knee against the Utah Jazz and hasn’t seen action since. He had surgery on the knee in early November. There is no timetable for his return.
Hollis-Jefferson has exceeded expectations this season. The versatile power forward is proving he has not only developed as a player but as a leader. He has improved his shooting confidence, defense, and rebounding over the offseason. Hollis-Jefferson is having a career year; doubling all his stats from last season. He has been dealing with reoccurring injuries this season. When Hollis-Jefferson is not on the floor, the Nets run their offense differently. With Russell, Okafor, and Hollis-Jefferson on the floor, the Nets can become an offensive powerhouse.
The Nets are proving they are no longer a team opposing teams can get an easy win against.
The Nets are confident they have found their big man. Opposing teams have destroyed the Nets in the paint this season. Players like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic have had career nights against the Nets just by dominating down low. Okafor is a perfect piece down low for Brooklyn’s rebuild. He has a lot to prove. The big man did not see much court action over the past couple of seasons. With only playing twenty-five minutes this season, Okafor is ready for more minutes. The Nets can solve that problem. Okafor is likely to become the starting center for the Nets. Brooklyn is hoping for Okafor to play like he did when he was a freshman at Duke.
He was a monster in the paint, snagging offensive and defensive rebounds to go along with his post up moves that were unstoppable. Okafor does need to improve his shooting. He is not known for his shooting and rarely displays that portion of his game. He also needs to work on his defense. Okafor was highly bashed for his defensive effort in Philly. If the defensive effort is present, Okafor will become not only a better player but a better contributor to the young Nets team.
Coach Atkinson should make some adjustments to the offensive game plan with the addition of Okafor. The big man brings a new element of scoring to Brooklyn. Atkinson can use Okafor like he used Brook Lopez last season. Both players play at the same tempo and style. Okafor is ready to prove he’s the real deal. With Okafor being surrounded by other young stars, he can become a major piece for Brooklyn and eventually a player the Nets will need to keep around for years to come.
Russell, Hollis-Jefferson, and Okafor should be the pieces the Nets should build around. These three players if developed can eventually lead to eastern conference All-Star selections. The Nets have a great team full of offensive talent. The guard play from Brooklyn has been impressive. Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe, and Spencer Dinwiddie have been consistent and improving all season. These sharpshooting guards let Brooklyn spread the floor and shoot the long ball. Now that Brooklyn found their big man in Jahlil Okafor, the rebuilding puzzle is coming together.
Brooklyn is ready to take over the basketball crown in New York. The primary focus for Brooklyn has been to get younger and develop players. GM Sean Marks has accomplished that extremely well this season. The Brooklyn Nets are currently only two games behind the New York Knicks. Both teams have been good as of late. Both Brooklyn and New York are teams built from young proud talent. The Nets are inching closer to become New York’s team over the Knicks.