2014-15 IN REVIEW
3rd in Atlantic Division
8th in Eastern Conference
Brooklyn experienced a lot of change prior to the 2014-15 season, especially when head coach Jason Kidd enforced a power play to Nets management just one year into his coaching career. Kidd was granted his wish, as Kidd was dealt to Milwaukee in exchange for two future second round picks, marking the first time an NBA coach was traded since Doc Rivers in 2013. Replacing Kidd was the more experienced Lionel Hollins, who spent the previous five years on the sidelines in Memphis.
The roster had a bit of a new look, as well. Paul Pierce moved on to Washington as a free agent, and the Nets acquired combo guard Jarrett Jack from Cleveland in a three-team deal that included the Celtics.
About halfway through the season on February 19, just before the NBA's trade deadline, Kevin Garnett was sent back home to Minnesota in a deal that landed younger combo-forward Thaddeus Young in Brooklyn. The deal made a lot of sense for both sides, as Young was unlikely to re-sign with the Timberwolves this summer, the Nets got younger and upgraded their talent while Garnett was gifted a chance to end his career where it all started.
Young appeared in 28 games for the Nets to close out the regular season, starting in 20 of them and putting up 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds on 50% shooting.
Brook Lopez began the season starting at center per usual in his first 16 appearances of the season, but a lower back straight would shake him up in December and once he returned eight games later, coach Hollins decided to keep Mason Plumlee in the starting five while Lopez returned to full strength. In fact, Lopez came off the bench for 28 of the next 34 games, limited to just around 25 minutes a night while Plumlee held his own as the ultimate utility player, producing 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 63% from the field through that stretch.
In early March, Lopez was re-inserted into the starting lineup and performed at a vintage level by racking up over 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game throughout the final 22 games of the regular season.
Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, the leaders of the team on the court in previous years, unfortunately were not quite themselves in 2014-15. Williams put together the least productive season of his career since he was a rookie in 2005-06, while Johnson posted 14.4 points per game, the lowest scoring output since his first year with Phoenix in 2002-03.
On the bright side, Jarrett Jack did a nice job picking up the slack in the backcourt. The 10th-year veteran accumulated approximately 12 points and five assists per game, but elevated his play to another level through 27 games as a starter, putting up 15.9 points and 6.6 assists per start.
Brooklyn finished the season with a losing record at 38-44, but in the Eastern Conference that is good enough to get you to the playoffs. Of course, that meant that they had to face the 60-win Atlanta Hawks, but they played them a lot tougher than most expected.
Throughout the first four games of the series, both sides took care of business and protected their home court as Brooklyn split the series at 2-2 behind a flashback 35-point outing from Deron Williams in Game 4. However, Williams followed up by shooting just 2-8 in Game 5 while the Hawks had three starters reach the 20-point plateau, earning a 10-point victory to take control over the Nets 3-2.
The Nets couldn't extend their season on their home floor in Game 6, getting blown out 111-87 and allowing the families of Nets personnel to book their summer vacations on schedule as expected.
SUMMER OF 2015
Key Additions - Andrea Bargnani, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Thomas Robinson
Key Losses - Deron Williams, Mason Plumlee, Alan Anderson
Brooklyn spent a lot of money this summer in order to retain big pieces of their frontcourt rotation, and ended up shelling out around $110 million for two guys. One-time All-Star center Brook Lopez agreed to stick around on a three-year deal worth $60 million, while mismatch nightmare Thaddeus Young inked a four-year deal that will earn him up to $50 million.
On July 11, the Nets and Deron Williams came to an agreement to buy out the remaining two years on his contract, giving him the green line to head home to Dallas as a free agent. Williams spent the last four and a half years with the Nets, averaging 16.6 points and 7.5 assists per game but was never able to reach the level he performed at when he was with Utah earlier in his career. Over the last two seasons in particular, Williams experienced a major drop-off and produced just over 13 points and six assists per contest, his weakest output since his rookie year in 2005-06.
On draft night, Brooklyn moved young center Mason Plumlee to Portland in a deal that landed them 23rd overall pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and veteran guard Steve Blake, who was later flipped to Detroit for Quincy Miller. Hollis-Jefferson stands as one of the best defensive prospects in this year's draft class, as the ultra-competitive 6'7" swingman will have a chance to earn a key role early in his career, especially since Alan Anderson left as a free agent this summer. He's got a long way to go in terms of shooting the ball and creating his own offense off the bounce, but he's a quality athlete that could become a solid two-way contributor in the future.
To fill out their front line, Brooklyn signed young journeyman Thomas Robinson to a two-year, $2 million deal and kept Andrea Bargnani in the state of New York on a two-year deal worth approximately $2.9 million. Bargnani has missed 175 games over the past four years, appearing in only 29 games last season and failing to suit up for more than 42 contests in a single season since 2011-12. The former number one overall pick has problems staying healthy and certainly has his limitations when he is active, mainly defensively and from a physical standpoint, but the Italian product stands seven feet tall and he can still really shoot the rock.
If Bargnani can finally put together a relatively healthy season, he might be able to give the Nets a decent offensive boost off the bench in 2015-16.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Brook Lopez / Andrea Bargnani
PF - Thaddeus Young / Thomas Robinson / Chris McCullough
SF - Bojan Bogdanovic / Rondae Hollis-Jefferson / Quincy Miller
SG - Joe Johnson / Wayne Ellington / Markel Brown / Sergey Karasev
PG - Jarrett Jack / Shane Larkin / Donald Sloan
X-FACTOR - Brook Lopez
Throughout the first three years of Brook Lopez's career from 2008-2011, he played in all 82 games each season. In two of the last four years, however, Lopez has missed the majority of the season with a broken foot. Last year, Lopez was able to suit up for 72 games, putting up over 17 points and seven rebounds per game, but he hasn't put together consecutive healthy seasons in quite some time.
Especially considering Brooklyn's thin depth up front, it is very important for Lopez to keep his body fresh and give the Nets some stability as the focal point of their offense. Deron Williams is gone, Joe Johnson isn't quite the player he used to be and the Nets don't have a whole lot of firepower in their second unit. Lopez will be heavily relied upon to produce in 2015-16, and this team could seriously struggle if he misses any significant amount of time.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
If the Nets stay completely healthy and everything goes as well as it could possibly go, you might see the Nets at least in the hunt for the eighth seed. With that said, I wouldn't go around breaking the bank betting money on that.
Joe Johnson isn't the same guy he once was, Bargnani has had worse luck with his health over the last four years than Lopez has and there is not a whole lot of stability on this bench. Don't be surprised if the Nets have a hard time winning games in 2016.
For the sake of the Celtics, who own Brooklyn's 2016 first round pick unprotected, let's hope the Nets have the worst season in franchise history.
4th in Atlantic Division
14th in Eastern Conference
Additional Nets Previews:
The Nets are looking to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. If you go around the blogosphere, most people have the Nets missing the postseason while being bad enough to get the Celtics a high pick in the 2016 Draft. The bottom of the Eastern Conference still isn't great, but the Nets probably aren't good enough to sneak into the playoffs this time.
I don't see the playoffs in their future and there's no reason to tank. But there is a reason to cut costs and trim payroll, and that's to prep the franchise for a sale. They can deny it all they want, but that sure seems to be the M.O. these days. Are they relevant? No. What a weird franchise this had turned out to be since leaving New Jersey. And they were really freaking weird before that.
What are the goals for this team? Of course to have a special performance by DJ Khaled and friends at a June parade in Brooklyn. Other than that, the goal should be to not give the Celtics a lottery pick in the same aforementioned June. No, no, no. Can’t do it. Nope, can’t. Other than that, steady improvement, coming closer as a team, and building on consistency are the goals.