We took to NBA Twitter to ask members of the community about the current state of the Brooklyn Nets; here’s what they had to say…
Hello naysayers, enthusiasts, pessimists, optimists, overreactors and those who are calm in a blazing inferno! Yeah, I’m talking about Nets Twitter, what gave it away? I’d like to formally introduce you to ESNY’s first NBA roundtable of the decade! Yeah, the decade! I can’t understate the magnitude of the situation, this is a big deal. We took to NBA Twitter to seek out prominent members of the community to ask them about the current state of the Brooklyn Nets.
Should fans deter their initial predictions from the preseason? Should Sean Marks make a significant splash this summer? How is Caris LeVert going to be re-incorporated into the rotation, and what can we expect from him? All these questions were accounted for.
This week, @brooklynsbeat, @MattBrooksNBA, @EvanDecruz, @J_Thomas_24 and @_kristinf_34 were all gracious enough to join this inaugural episode and answer some, well, rather difficult questions. Let’s get into it.
Q: Do you believe a significant trade is on the horizon? Who would you want to trade for?
I do. With all of their picks moving forward, tradeable contracts at varying figures, and young assets, the Nets have the tools to acquire a third bigtime star in a trade, and I believe Sean Marks will swing on one this summer. Yes, it would be tough to see a combination (read: not all) of Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and draft picks depart. However, if Marks can add a third star, history says he cannot pass on the opportunity. Three-star teams have won big throughout NBA history, whether it was the Lakers and Celtics in the 1980s, the Heat, Cavs, and Warriors in recent years, or the 2008 Celtics. Teams rely heavily on their starters in the playoffs, which enhances the value of stars and decreases the value of depth. Put three stars on one roster, and you have a fantastic chance of winning a title.
What star comes available this summer? That, as of now, is not clear, although a Bradley Beal or Karl Anthony Towns leverage play would not surprise me—after Paul George set precedent for forcing a move with multiple years left on his deal. When you look at recent NBA history, it is likely that a star will demand a move this summer. Accounting for players doing this two or three times, we have seen a bigtime star walk in free agency or force a trade to a new franchise 26 times over the last ten years: LeBron James (3) Jimmy Butler (3), Kevin Durant (2), Kawhi Leonard (2), Kyrie Irving (2), Chris Paul (2), George (2), Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Deron Williams (gulp), Gordon Hayward, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kristaps Porzingis. That makes for 2-3 players per year as a matter of course. As a GM, you can count on stars hitting the market in the modern NBA.
I believe Marks will remain patient at the deadline, and do virtually nothing despite the team’s struggles this season. He will wait for the summer and will swing on a trade for a third star.
Q: What should we expect from Caris LeVert upon returning to the roster?
In an idealistic world, Caris LeVert’s return to action resembles Thanos’ rude swindling of the final Infinity Stone from the noggin of poor Vision. I’m sure you can recall the famed Avengers: Infinity War scene with relative ease; Thanos towers overhead the fan-favorite hero, cackling audibly. With a twist of his giant fingers, he gouges the Mind Stone out of Vision’s cranium, before tossing the now-perished Avenger to the side like a worthless rag doll. With the stone now in Thanos’ possession, he softly places that baby in his Infinity Gauntlet and BAM! A full-fledged power-orgasm for that dastardly a-hole Thanos, and with a snap of his fingers, he toasts his remaining competition into dust. Yeah, I hope Caris’ return looks just like that; he dissipates Brooklyn’s foes into thin particles and electrons and, um, photons? (I never was a science guy). That’d be cool.
In all seriousness, Caris fills a void, no, better yet, a fucking chasm the size of Prospect Park in terms of secondary playmaking. Right now, Brooklyn’s main source of isolation scoring, ball-movement and, erm, basic dribbling comes from 33-year-old Garrett Temple, Theo Pinson (vomits profusely), Krusty the Clown, a wet paper napkin and the ghostly spaceman from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode “Spooky Space Kook.” (Pardon me as I exit this column to binge some more old-school Scoob episodes.)
All Caris really has to do upon returning is keep the offense afloat when Spencer Dinwiddie sits. Per NBA stats, the Nets are 14.8 points per 100 possessions worse when Spence ruefully plants his butt on the pine. You want some more juicy numbers to snack on? Since Kyrie Irving went down with… whatever the hell is going on with his shoulder, Brooklyn’s bench unit has averaged the fifth-fewest points per game with 29.7 on average.
However, all four of the other members of this not-so-illustrious top-5 boast productive starting units to balance out those stinky, smelly benches; that’s right, the starters in Houston, Portland, Philadelphia, and Utah score at a top-6 rate (in that order). Brooklyn’s starters, meanwhile, sit at spot number 15. Good lord this team stinks at scoring. Don’t get it twisted, LeVert’s got some things to work on; namely, turnovers, as coughing up the rock on 17.4% of his total possessions isn’t exactly ideal. But if he can consistently keep his eyes up while dribbling, survey the floor and recognize oncoming defenders with decent regularly, then perhaps Caris will actually ascend into that de-facto point guard role; a projection I fervently hammered home as his 2020 upside during one of my pre-season columns here at ESNY.
Q: How should the Nets incorporate Caris LeVert back into the rotation?
Initially, the first thought is to insert Caris back into the starting lineup. I mean it makes sense. A player of his ilk shouldn’t be coming off the bench even if he has been sidelined for a few months. However, at this point in the Nets season, his skill set is best served to play along with the second unit. Let’s not mince words. The Nets’ second unit is horrendous. Kenny Atkinson has jumped through hoops trying to find consistency with this group. Yes, the plethora of injuries have been a factor in this piecemeal unit which is exactly why they need Caris. Before the injury, LeVert was on his way to a possible All-Star candidacy.
Before injuring his thumb LeVert was averaging 16.7 points, 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 42% from the field and 36% from 3-point range. Caris currently boasts a 108.3 offensive rating which is fourth on the team (excluding Kyrie) behind Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince, all of whom are in the starting rotation.
There is nobody on the Nets current second unit with an ORTG over 100. Dzanan Musa has the highest at 99.5 followed by DeAndre Jordan at 98.9. This in itself is why LeVert must be apart of the second unit. It’s like pulling teeth watching this unit try and find offense while the starters are on the bench. No offense – see how I used that double entendre – to any of those guys but they just aren’t skilled enough to sustain a consistent offensive flow.
What Caris provides is a jolt on offense. We’ve seen what he is capable of offensively and he may not even be at his full potential. Ideally, he would be the primary ball-handler. Last season LeVert was given ample opportunity as the primary ball-handler while playing alongside D’Angelo Russell or Dinwiddie. An underrated aspect of LeVert’s game is his playmaking ability. The pick-n-roll chemistry between him and Jarrett Allen last year could very much be replicated on the second unit with him and DeAndre Jordan.
As much as we all love, or hate, Theo Pinson he is not the answer at point guard for the second unit. By having LeVert come off the bench you’re not only getting someone that can get their own shot but also penetrate and find shots for others. Opposing teams don’t respect anyone on the Nets bench right now. But they will respect them if Caris is in the fold.
Q: Is this amongst the most disappointing seasons to be a Nets fan?
The 2019 Nets season is amongst the worst to be a fan but it’s not the most disappointing. In order to be disappointed, I would have to have very high expectations, which was never the case. I thought the Nets would be lucky to be the 6th seed and they are just slightly below that expected seeding.
I never expected Kevin Durant to return. I expected Kyrie Irving to miss time due to injury but I did not anticipate such a severe shoulder injury. I did not expect Taurean Prince to be an X-Factor. On those fronts, no expectation was truly subverted.
I am disappointed that Caris LeVert missed close to 2 months due to a thumb injury, Nic Claxton has missed over a month due to a hamstring injury and David Nwaba tore his Achilles and is no longer a Net.
I’m also very disappointed that core young players like Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa and Jarrett Allen have not improved much, if at all, in terms of adding skills. I thought their development would be crucial for the future. There’s still time for it to happen but I’m losing my patience.
Aside from the frustrations over injuries and stagnated youth development I’m just generally vexed by the erratic nature of the team on the court. It seems like they either have a great defense or a great offense for long stretches of the season but never both in any one individual game.
They’ve lost games they should have won and won games they should have lost. It feels like they don’t have an identity. The only real bright spot has been Spencer Dinwiddie and even he has been slightly slumping lately.
In summary, it feels like one of the worst seasons to be a fan but as far as most disappointing goes there have been worse seasons. If the Nets don’t make it to an NBA championship before the Durant-Irving era is over these next 2-3 seasons will be the most disappointing seasons ever in my opinion. That would be hard to argue.
Q: With the schedule about to get tougher, do you still think this team can win 45-50 games?
Originally, I had the Nets penciled in for 45 wins. Part of that is why I haven’t been as reactionary and alarmed as others. And I still think they can get to 45.
Here’s the thing though: despite this current losing streak there’s a part of me that believes “well, it can’t get any worse”. Caris is coming back from an injury. That’s gonna help take a ton of pressure of Dinwiddie who looks mentally and physically exhausted. I also strongly believe in Rodions Kurucs’ ability to be a spark plug, in a similar sense as to what we saw last season.
Nets Twitter is never shy from stating that this team needs a defensive spark plug, that can also contribute on the other end. Well, Rodi is all that. I think off the court matters have been a setback for him clearly. But I also think Nets fans collectively underestimate just how big of an adjustment to play with superstars on the roster.
We saw that early on with Kyrie. Spencer was pressing and everyone was standing around watching him. The only ones who looked semi-comfortable were Joe Harris, who played with Kyrie in Cleveland, and Caris LeVert, who knows Kevin Durant personally. That’s absolutely not a coincidence. Kenny has had to adjust and get to know the new personnel on the roster. And while I sometimes get antsy about his reliance on Prince and Temple, it’s also apparent to me that with all these new players and new expectations it’s a blank slate and there’s gonna be experimentation.
The other thing is that the East is so wide open and there’s, in general, a ton of parity in the NBA and I think it’s great. Anyone can beat anyone on any given night. The Nets need one hot streak and they can be close to the 5th or 6th playoff seed. This roster can do it with or without Kyrie. Although Kyrie obviously would be huge in more ways than one. There’s so much basketball left to be played. I trust Sean Marks implicitly. This roster is talented and still coming together. I expect a strong rest of the season.