The Brooklyn Nets made a move at the trade deadline but largely remain the same team that started the season 21-31. How will the Nets fare the rest of the season, and what can fans expect from some of their top players?
1. Nets Improve on .415 Winning Percentage
The Nets have won an underwhelming 41% of their games this season. For a team loaded with star power, a strong bench, and a chance to beat up on some of the Eastern Conference’s weaker teams, this is unacceptable for Brooklyn fans.
The Nets could be turning a corner soon however. After the Nets finish a brutal stretch of Western Conference opponents, the Nets see a final two months featuring games against the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic. The Nets actually have the highest remaining opponent’s win percentage in the Eastern Conference, facing the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks twice during the rest of the season. Even if this games are all losses, the Nets can negate this by sweeping weak teams like the Knicks and Lakers and improving their play versus mid-tier teams.
Health is and will remain a factor for the Nets success for the remainder of the season. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, both former All-Star players, have missed significant time due to injuries this season, and if they remain healthy the Nets will be much more competitive on the court.
2. Lionel Hollins Continues to Toy with Starting Lineup, Resulting in Great Bench Production
Coach Lionel Hollins has rolled out 15 different starting lineups this season, partly due to injuries but also due to the sheer number of options the current roster presents on the floor. Immediately after the Kevin Garnett trade, it was not newly acquired Thaddeus Young that started at power forward, but rather typical small forward Joe Johnson.
The Nets have options from top to bottom. At point guard, Jarrett Jack and Deron Williams have split starts in recent games. Whichever player doesn’t start is usually a prime scorer off the bench with the second unit. In the frontcourt, Hollins has Mason Plumlee, Brook Lopez, and Thaddeus Young all as very capable big men, as well as young developing players in Jerome Jordan and Cory Jefferson. With at least one of the Nets trio of talented big men coming off the bench any given night, rim protection and offense in the paint is always available on the court.
Digger a little deeper in the Nets roster, Bojan Bogdanovic, Alan Anderson and Sergey Karasev have all made multiple starts this season. The Nets roster creates a very flexible starting five, which means production can come at any time for some players. The Nets depth and flexibility will prove a major asset for the rest of the season..
3. The Nets will have Six Players Average Double Digit Scoring
Having multiple players averaging double digit points a night is a good indicator of ball distribution and a balanced offense. The Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers are two teams that show this balance, with five players each averaging 10.0+ points per game.
The Nets are already at this plateau, with five players averaging double digits, and could push the number to six. Johnson leads the way with 15.7 points per game and will likely remain the Nets leading scorer the rest of the season. If he’s unseated, it will likely be by Lopez, averaging 15.5 PPG. The point guard duo of Williams and Jack follows closely with 12.9 and 12.6 PPG, respectively. Plumlee rounds out the top five with 10.2 PPG, and will need to keep his offensive production up to not slip under 10 points per game.
The sixth member of this scoring club could be the newest Brooklyn Net, Thaddeus Young. Young has put up 14.1 points per game this season in Minnesota, and while he might see a slight decrease in minutes in Brooklyn, and consequently, scoring, he should still be able to maintain at least 10.0 PPG. This would put the Nets in an exclusive club of teams with six players averaging double digit scoring. Again, this is a testament to the depth and balance on the Nets roster.
4. The Indiana Pacers Pass the Nets in the Standings..
Just behind the Nets at 22-33, the Pacers may be making a late postseason push. Playing without Paul George up until this point, the Pacers have struggled to score but have excelled defensively, allowing the sixth least points in the NBA. Winning five of their six games in February, the Pacers look to finish strong and squeak into the playoffs only a year after being one of the East’s best teams.
The Pacers biggest asset in their playoff push is the anticipated return of George sometime in March. George, one of the best two way players in the NBA, hasn’t suited up once this season after his gruesome injury suffered with the USA Olympic team. If the Pacers can stand pat in the standings until his return, the will be in a good position to extend their season. George would easily address their biggest need in scoring, as well as give the team an identity and leader. As well as the Nets do, the Pacers have a generally soft schedule to finish out their season, which will earn them a playoff berth.
5. ..but the Nets still make the Playoffs.
The Nets currently sit 0.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets, eighth in the Eastern Conference, and one game behind the Miami Heat, seventh in the conference. The Nets can easily grab either seed if they finish out the season strong. So if the Indiana Pacers pass the Nets and take the 7th seed, the Nets can still qualify for the postseason as the 8th seed.
The Hornets haven’t fallen off as much as expected after Kemba Walker’s injury, hovering around a .430 winning percent, but have dropped their last three. The Hornets will likely to continue to win at this rate, about four out of every ten games taking home a win. The Nets can’t count on the Hornets to falter, but simply must pass them by winning at a more consistent rate.
The Miami Heat, on the other hand, can’t seem to catch a break in the injury department and will proabably fade down the stretch. With Dwayne Wade set to return soon, blood clots have been discovered in Chris Bosh’s lungs, likely ending his season. With the Heat giving up four players including Norris Cole and Danny Granger for the Dragic brothers, their roster may be weaker than it has been all season. The Heat lose their most consistent star in Bosh, as well as overall depth lost by their traded players. The Heat were set to at least contend after LeBron James’ departure, but now a playoff berth in a very weak conference seems bleak.
This leaves the Brooklyn Nets in the eighth slot in the Eastern Conference after a less than stellar first half of the season. While it’s been a disappointing season, Nets fans may get the chance to at least see a playoff series, maybe even a game win or two. The Nets aren’t built to knock off a top-seeded team this year, but a postseason appearance would at least give a glimmer of hope to a fanbase facing an uncertain future.