After a litany of offseason moves, the Brooklyn Nets enter the 2016-17 season with new faces, new expectations, and the same reality. With the Knicks stockpiling several big name, injury-prone assets, the Nets remain the No.2 team in the Big Apple.
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be an entertaining team to watch this season. Late last month, the Nets unveiled several of their newest assets, including guard Joe Harris, Trevor Booker, Jeremy Lin, Justin Hamilton, former first overall pick Anthony Bennett, and this year’s first round pick Caris LeVert.
Lin, previously known for his improbable run with the Knicks four years ago labeled “Linsanity,” is back in New York but in a different borough. Lin was solid as a bench player for the Hornets playoff team last season, averaging 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 78 games.
He’s also realistic about the team he’s joining.
“I believe in this. I believe in what we’re capable of becoming, and we’re not there right now and we all know that, but that’s O.K,” Lin said (via New York Times).
It’s going to take a lot of worst case scenarios for the Nets to match or attain a lower record than their 21-61 regular season last year – the third worst in the NBA. It’ll also be hard to play like last year’s squad because Bojan Bogdanovic and Brook Lopez are the only players on the roster that have played two or more seasons with the team.
The team took an aggressive approach in getting younger, trading their best player, Thaddeus Young, on NBA Draft night to the Pacers for the 20th overall pick; added pressure to select an impact player since the Nets didn’t have a second-round pick.
LeVert, 21, spent four seasons with the Michigan Wolverines. Last season was by far his best as he averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in 30.9 minutes per contests. He also enjoyed a strong increase in field goal percentage, going from .315 percent in his rookie season to .506 percent in 2015-16.
While foot injuries limited him throughout his college career, LeVert is still a solid scorer who the Nets expect big things from in the future. On draft night, LeVert expressed similar sentiments to Lin, thinking long term future, not immediate.
“Yes, for sure. I'm a long-term thinker, a long-term type of guy, always have been,” LeVert said. “I'm just excited. I know it's a lot of work to be put in right now, but I'm just excited to get to this point.”
Booker, Hamilton, and Harris will be role players, much like they have been in years past. Their roles, however, will be more important than expected since the team lost out on restricted free agents Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson. After agreeing to offer sheets with Crabbe (four years, $75 million) and Johnson (four years, $50 million), the Blazers and Heat, respectively, swooped in to match the offers, enabling them to return to their original teams.
Having lost out on those players, the Nets did not go out and throw money at other assets just for the sake of making moves. Instead, they held on to the money and figure to be serious buyers in the trade market this upcoming season and in next offseason’s free agent market.
"Often teams with salary cap space who miss out on free agents will deviate from their initial plan and make rash decisions," writes Bobby Marks of SB Nation’s Nets Daily. "Brooklyn, however, showed restraint and kept flexibility after the offer sheets on Johnson and Crabbe were matched. Although the Nets had $40 million-plus in cap space, Brooklyn went the one-year route with veterans [Luis] Scola, [Greivis] Vasquez and [Randy] Foye."
Plus, if Bennett can finally put together the talent that made him a first overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Nets could become a sneaky team to watch in the lower slots of the playoff picture.
However, until the Nets can lure that elusive marquee free agent to Brooklyn, Barclays Center figures to be more popular for New York Islanders hockey than Nets basketball next season.