Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” How can this be applied to the 2017-18 Brooklyn Nets?
Expectations were relatively high for this year’s Brooklyn Nets, who acquired former number two pick D’Angelo Russell over the summer. Especially when you take into account that the team got rid of franchise star Brook Lopez to obtain him from the Los Angeles Lakers.
It didn’t stop there. Jeremy Lin publicly promised fans a trip to the playoffs. It brought a whole new meaning to ‘Linsanity.’
A team that just went a league-worst 20-62 suddenly saddling up and hitting the postseason? No one bought in. Except maybe Nets fans, who were welcoming in plenty of new faces in DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, and rookie big man Jarrett Allen.
The season started off and immediately offered fans a cruel realization. Lin ruptured his patella tendon in the season opener and was ruled out for the entire year.
So, the ‘Dloading’ show began. And it started off quite well. Russell posted averages of 21 points, 5.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per game over his first 12.
That is until he was sidelined by arthroscopic knee surgery. Russell would miss 33 games, in which the Nets went 11-22.
Quite the blow, to a team who was looking to win, after years of doing the opposite. Then came a silver lining in the absence of Russell. His name is Spencer Dinwiddie.
The Nets’ backup point guard went ‘super saiyan,’ and was the lead contributor to the team’s 11 wins over that span.
Russell came back to find that not only was his team better, but he once again had a partner in the backcourt. The experiment hasn’t yielded great results just yet, but we’ve seen flashes of true potential from this guard combo.
As if the setback from Russell and Lin’s injuries wasn’t enough, the Nets lost Caris LeVert for eight games and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for eleven. Those two are the backbone of this team, and they’re glue guys in the locker room.
Both Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert made their returns at full strength, adding an extra boost to the Nets drive to win. Since they came back, Brooklyn has gone 2-4.
Now, Brooklyn is just looking to win as much as they can in the final stretch. But, success for this team can be so much more than winning games.
There are a few Nets narratives that have been fulfilled, and a few that have yet to be carried out. All four of them insist that this season has not been in vain, but a success in the long view.
D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie’s Chemistry
It’s no secret that Brooklyn will soon face a logjam at the guard position. Come the 2018-2019 season, the Nets will arguably have four starting-caliber guards on the roster.
Lin, Russell, LeVert, and Dinwiddie. That’s a hard rotation to work, even with Lin having been injured the last two years. It’s going to raise some questions.
Which is why the Nets’ coaching staff can find success this season in finding out whether Russell and Dinwiddie are going to work.
Lin already had experience playing the two guard next to Kemba Walker, and Russell plenty of experience running an offense. It seemed like a definite fit.
But for Dinwiddie and Russell, the answer isn’t so clear.
There’s a good chance this backcourt combo isn’t meant to be, and it would be ideal to get something back in return before a player can walk away in free agency.
DeMarre Carroll, Still Not A Salary Dump
One of Sean Marks’ three summer deals, Carroll was acquired in exchange for Justin Hamilton, who was later waived. An eight-year veteran, the trade was considered a salary dump by Toronto.
That couldn’t have been any further off. In fact, Carroll can be credited for much of the team’s success. He’s contributed on and off the court, offense and defense, night in and night out.
He’s played 61 of 66 games and is averaging career-highs in points (13.7), rebounds (6.6), and assists (2.1) per game.
Carroll’s risen from the grave of late-season injury and earned his near $15-million dollar paycheck.
With franchise cornerstone Brook Lopez gone, and Jeremy Lin injured, Brooklyn really needed a veteran guy to be the voice in the locker room. They were successful, as has been Carroll.
Maximizing Jarrett Allen’s Exposure
To start the year, head coach Kenny Atkinson took things slow with rookie center Jarrett Allen. However, injuries forced his hand, and more minutes were handed to the rookie.
He seized the opportunity and is now looking like one of the more underrated players out of this past summer’s draft.
Once timid and lost within the post, Allen is now recording a poster dunk nearly every night. Check his most recent against the Charlotte Hornets.
You can always count on @_bigjayy_ to bring the energy ⚡️
Check out the @BlueRockEnergy High Energy Play of the Week! pic.twitter.com/Iy20hCzWL7
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 10, 2018
Continuing to play Allen in as many scenarios possible through the final 16 games will be crucial. He’s averaging 10.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game over his last 10.
Developing the former first-round pick into an NBA ready center by his sophomore year would certainly be considered a success.
Winning a Minimum of 25 Games
Okay, forget what I said. These Nets should be aiming to win as much as possible. That’s the only way this team can reach other means of success.
At least four more wins by the end of the year would do this team some good. That would put them at 25-56 to end the season, a five-game improvement from last season.
My honest prediction? They’ll finish with something like 27.
30 seems out of reach, but 25 almost seems too low considering their recent play.
Looking at their schedule, Brooklyn will play plenty of tanking teams in the Magic, Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Bulls (twice). Not to mention the Hornets, who are in denial, but tanking nonetheless.
There’s no reason a team that gave Golden State hell until the fourth quarter can’t win all of those games.
It would certainly mean a lot to a young team who was robbed of another promising year.
The 2017-2018 Brooklyn Nets true ceiling will remain a question mark.
With 16 games to play, this team needs to prioritize blending their backcourt, playing their rookie, and just winning games.
All four of these narratives contribute to a more preparedness for next season, which is shining bright with promise.