This season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Brooklyn Nets. Is it officially time to smash the panic button?
Do you remember the optimism surrounding the season in the summer? You miss it, don’t you? When any prediction that didn’t involve a fourth-seed finish and 45-50 wins for the Brooklyn Nets were deemed blasphemous or hell… downright unethical!
Now here we are, faced with the unfortunate, cruel reality of the situation in the dark days of winter. You see that panic button over there on the top shelf? Yeah, right beside the Deron Williams bobblehead, do you mind passing it over here? Ah yes, hello old friend. I didn’t expect to see you so soon.
You see normally I’m a very optimistic guy. I’m Canadian; it’s entrenched into my DNA. We are made in factories, programmed to apologize to people that hit us with their shopping carts because we were in the way. Were nice to people, have silly jargon like “eh” and “give’er” and man, do we love Tim Hortons.
However, I’m not going to sit here and type up a fluffy article stating that “everything is going to be okay.” Why? Because I’m genuinely concerned about the roster as constructed, and apparently Kyrie Irving is also.
It’s been a season of disappointment
This season is not panning out according to expectations, in fact, it’s stunk. Sorry.
The Nets are in a vulnerable state. Take that as you will. You might think I’m horrendously overreacting, after all, look at the injuries sustained! Yes, it’s true, injuries have been a huge detriment to the season. But at the same time, this team played their best basketball without their key stars, so go figure.
Without Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert in the lineup, the Nets went 13-13. With them, they’re 5-9. I agree that there are several factors and intangibles as to why that is, but at the end of the day, that just isn’t good.
Despite that, Irving made public the lack of talent, in terms of complementary pieces, on the team.
Kyrie Irving was asked after tonight’s loss to Philly about this game against a top East opponent showing how much work the Nets still have to do in order to compete at the highest level while waiting for Kevin Durant to return. Here’s Irving’s answer: pic.twitter.com/NAqA4OvQk2
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 16, 2020
He does make a point, however. No matter which way you try and spin it, the complementary pieces currently on this roster have underwhelmed with the team at full health. Some may respect the transparency Irving provided, others want desperately to avoid a similar situation as to what happened in Boston, others are somewhere in the middle.
Is Kyrie Irving an All-NBA talent that has proven he can win at every level? Yes. Is he currently the best player active on the roster? Yes. Is he deemed untouchable by the front office brass? Yes. But were the comments warranted? In my opinion, no. You don’t have to agree with me, I don’t expect you to. However, though such a statement might not alienate anyone exclusively, it definitely doesn’t help bring a locker room together.
As it stands, the chances that Sean Marks makes some phone calls and shuffles the deck this upcoming summer are quite probable. This roster as constructed has yet to find any consistency. Again, this was never meant to be the season in which Brooklyn plays basketball in June. But they definitely weren’t meant to be an early sacrificial lamb to a juggernaut in the conference come April, either.
In the immediate future, don’t expect anything drastic—especially nearing the trade deadline. With LeVert and Prince’s contract not kicking in until the summer, the logistics don’t work in favor to obtain that proverbial “third star” to save the season.
The clock is ticking until KD returns
So for the time being, this is the roster the Nets have to work with. There still are 42 games left, but the clock is ticking. Not just for the players on the roster but head coach Kenny Atkinson as well. He’s made his bones as a coach that can do less with more, but can he be the coach that his superstars respect and trust to take them to the promised land? Honestly, that’s yet to be proven.
I don't care if I get flamed for this.
I understand the injuries, I understand it takes time to form chemistry, find a rhythm, etc. However, the complementary pieces on this roster—and Kenny—have the next 42 games to show us something. Thus far, they haven't. Sorry.
— Nolan Jensen (@N_Jensen1995) January 16, 2020
Atkinson has faced his fair share of criticisms this year and plenty have been warranted. However, I want to be clear: I think he deserves the opportunity to coach this team once Durant returns, but he does have his issues. Questionable rotations, lack of in-game adjustments, and sometimes a bit too much fondness with analytics immediately come to mind.
Take for instance a Dec. 19 game against the San Antonio Spurs, the best mid-range shooting team in the NBA at the time. Who also has one of the best mid-range aficionados in the game, LeMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge has made a career fading off pick-and-rolls and knocking down mid-range jump shots. That shot was there for him several times throughout the contest without much contention.
I’ll add in two more clips for good measure.
And the last one.
It may seem like I’m nitpicking but I assure you, this is a recurring theme. Allen doesn’t come out for the full-fledge contest because analytics say it’s not worth it, despite the personnel. Maybe that’s an outlandish take and not the Nets’ intention, but I can only go off this team’s defensive body of work.
Chris Paul had his way against Brooklyn’s drop coverage, the Pacers took full advantage of open mid-range jumpers off of high pick-and-rolls, etc. It’s admissions as mentioned that concern fans, especially come playoff time. There is a serious lack of adjustments as the game continues.
Though this team is heavily analytically-inclined, after all, they have two elite catch and shoot perimeter threats and a rim-running big that is amongst the better weakside rim protectors in the league, the numbers aren’t exactly in favor.
The Nets currently have the 24th ranked offense in the league and 13th ranked defense. They’re 28th in the NBA in three-point percentage, despite being sixth in attempts. It’s true that they are 4th in points in the paint, but the eight-win Atlanta Hawks are fifth, the Pelicans were first last year and ended up winning the lottery.
So yes, going off the first 40 games of the season, I have my concerns. The Nets have yet to find synchronized harmony between their three primary ball-handlers, the three-point shot isn’t falling, and they seem undermanned against premier opposition.
Is that to say the next half of the season is doomed? Of course not, there still is some serious skill on this depth chart. However, these next 42 games are going to tell us a lot about which personnel survives to the 2020/21 season. But for now, go ahead, panic, I won’t judge you, I might even condone such behavior.