The Nets were a playoff team last year and were at one stage a sneaky chance to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Yet my model has them winning just 31 games, finishing 11th in the East and having the eight worst record in the league, how is this possible you ask? Well they’ve lost Deron Williams, Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic and haven’t exactly replaced them with anyone who can contribute this season, but the main reason is well, the rest of the East has gotten better and this roster still sucks. Last season, this team also completely overachieved, having a differential of -2.9 but still winning 38 games, an overachievement of four wins. Where would 34 wins have placed them in the East last season? 10th. Where does the point differential of -2.9 place them among last years Eastern Conference? 11th. Combine this with losing three key contributors and the outlook for the Nets is bleak.
However, when looking for a positive for the Brooklyn franchise that traded away five years worth of draft picks to acquire Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett – the latter two no longer on the roster – loook no further than Brook Lopez. During a 13 game stretch at the end of last season, Lopez averaged 26.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks on 59% from the field, a period in which he was physically imposing and absolutely dominating on the interior. In fact, traditionally poor rebounder Lopez averaged over nine rebounds a game after the all star break and the Nets were a top ten offensive team when he was on the floor. However, the troubles for the Nets will once again be defensively. Lopez is a notoriously poor rim protector and has some of the slowest feet in the entire NBA on that end of the floor (despite being sneakily athletic). To combound this issue, when this seasons starters Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson and Bojan Bogdanovic shared the floor, the Nets had a defensive rating of 114.5 per 100 possesions, a number nearly five points per 100 possessions worse than the league-worst defense of Minnesota (per Tim Bontemps).
This team does have one of the better coaches in the NBA in Lionel Hollins and I wouldn’t put it past him to turn this mess into a playoff team, but it’s a hard task. If he and the Nets can find a way to make the worst defensive starting five in the league (throwing in Thaddeus Young at PF), they may be a playoff contender, but if not it could be a long season for a team without any draft picks. The Nets are forced to compete this season and if they can’t do so, it will be another year of hurt for a fanbase longing for success.
Projected Record: 31-51
My Predicted Wins: 26-31
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