You know what would make me an extremely happy fan of the NBA? If following that awful trade made by Brooklyn in 2013, the Nets reached the NBA finals before Boston. For years that trade has left Celtics fans saying Danny Ainge owns the Nets when in reality, it hasn’t translated to a championship appearance yet. Classic Boston fans.
The Celtics are still one of the top teams in the East and it’s not to say that they don’t have legit shot at making it to the finals this year or to say that Brooklyn won the trade if they get there first. Billy King is still a fool. BUT, seeing the Nets rebound so quickly after not having a top draft pick or talent for years would be remarkable.
Can Brooklyn realistically contend to win the East this season? Or miss the Playoffs?
The Case to win theEast:
It’s a stretch to say the least, but I believe it’s at least realistic, if they get into playoffs.
As of right now, Brooklyn is sixth in the east, three games above the ninth seed and 6.5 games behind the fifth seed. With 21 games left, the Nets will have to face the 5th most difficult SOS with 6 games against the top five teams in the east. Excluding Indiana, the Nets have beaten each of the top five teams in the East, including Philly twice. Overall however, Brooklyn is just 8-17 against teams above .500 while 23-13 against teams below .500. Their next seven games are against teams below that mark while 11 of their final 13 are against teams above .500.
Kenny Atkinson’s guys always play hard but that stretch is brutal for a team trying to clinch a playoff spot. I see them clutching up during this stretch and clinching at least the eighth seed in the east. No it won’t be easy, but the roster surprisingly has a lot of talent given their lack of high draft picks. Let’s break down their roster:
D’Angelo Russell has been amazing for the Nets all season, earning his first all-star appearance; but in my opinion the best player on the team is Caris Levert. Levert is the heart of the Nets’ defense and everyone seems to play better with him on the court. He not only leads the team in steals with 1.6 per game, but I think he would have made the all-star game over D Lo if he hadn’t gotten hurt in November.
When the Nets’ playoff chances seemed gloomy following Levert’s injury, Russell stepped up and has become an elite scorer. If you’re a fan of excitable announcers like Ian Eagle, check out this clip:
Jarrett Allen not only has great hair, but was a steal at the 20th pick in the 2017 NBA draft class. His 3.1 DBPM is 16th in the NBA and he is a fearless defender down in the paint.
Joe Harris>Steph Curry? Heck yeah!
Spencer Dinwiddie has also improved leaps and bounds this season and when he returns from his thumb injury will be a huge piece for Brooklyn.
Veterans such as Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis, and DeMarre Carroll round out this roster well while second-round rookie, Rodions Kurucs, has been a pleasant surprise for the Nets.
Theo Pinson was good in college. Jared Dudley should hit the gym.
Theoretically, this upcoming draft would have been the first in years where Brooklyn would have had a lottery pick, but they decided to try and make the playoffs instead. So much for trying to get Zion!
Indiana would be the best matchup for the Nets in the first round since Oladipo got hurt. With their difficult stretch of games in March and April, I don’t think it’s realistic for the Nets to jump up to the fifth seed or higher. If they can win 5 or 6 of their next seven and then go 6-7 or better in their final 13, it should be solid enough to earn the sixth seed. Now, let’s say the Pacers hold on to the third seed and play the Nets in the first round, that could be a favorable matchup for Brooklyn. It sucks that Dipo got hurt and while Wes Matthews is a solid pickup, the Pacers just don’t have enough to be a serious contender to make the finals. 50% chance the Nets beat Indiana in a seven game series.
After Indiana, they would have to play the winner of the 2/7 series: a combination of Milwaukee/Toronto against Orlando/Detroit/Charlotte/Miami. For our sake let’s say they have to play Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Kawhi Leonard is obviously the man they have to key in on, but I think Levert can at least be an adequate defender. Brooklyn has done a solid job guarding the perimeter; teams shoot 34.3% from deep against them, seventh-best in the NBA. The trade for Marc Gasol obviously makes the Raptors’ starting lineup better, but it limits their depth to some degree. Former Net, Jeremy Lin, gives them some more playmaking, but I would argue the Nets’ bench is better. It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t think it’s impossible for Brooklyn to take Toronto down. Getting Spencer Dinwiddie back will help a lot. 10% chance of beating Toronto.
After a miracle upset against Toronto, the Nets play one of Milwaukee/Philadelphia/Boston. Let’s break down each matchup:
Of the three, the Bucks are easily the worst matchup for Brooklyn. Not to say that they are the best of those three, but the Nets would have the hardest time beating them. The Bucks are only 18th in opponents’ three point percentage so that would be the key for Brooklyn: kill them with the three ball. We will need a lot more rejections like this one from Jarrett Allen on Giannis but overall I can’t realistically see Brooklyn beating Milwaukee in a seven games series. I’ll be generous and give them a 10% chance of beating Milwaukee in a series.
This series would be awesome. I can totally picture it: Boston fans coming in cocky and still seeing the Nets as the team they had hosed 6 years ago, only to get stunned… but not really. Boston has the second best defense in terms of opponents’ shooting percentage, which means they will need Russell to be at his best the whole series. I can see them possibly taking this series to a game 7, but Boston is a tough place to play and it’s hard to imagine Brooklyn winning this series. The Celtics have sputtered lately so let’s give Brooklyn around a 15% chance to win this series.
Of the three, easily the most favorable matchup for Brooklyn would be the Philadelphia 76ers. In their three matchups this season, Brooklyn has beaten them twice, with their one loss coming from a Jimmy Butler game-winner. Sure, the Sixers acquired Tobias Harris since then but they still lack depth to a certain degree. Also, for whatever reason, Spencer Dinwiddie goes off every time he plays Philly; he’s putting up 27.3 ppg in three games against them compared to 17.7 ppg on the season. Joel Embiid is battling a knee injury and Boban Marjanovic went down Monday night with a knee injury though it’s not expected to end his season. Overall, I would still take Philly to win this series, but it certainly wouldn’t be a walk in the park. 25% chance of winning this series.
And then once they’re in the finals, they’ll beat GSW in 4, right?
No I’m not going crazy. If you asked me today who I think will come out of the East, Brooklyn would still be my fifth or sixth choice. What I’m trying to get at is that for a team with few expectations and no young lottery picks, it’s encouraging to see their rapid development. If not this season, they have the pieces and cap to become a force to reckon with in the future. I’d give them a 1% chance of making the finals, but certainly not impossible.
The Case to miss the Playoffs:
Of course, we are talking about the Brooklyn Nets.
Looking at the standings right now (2/27/19), Brooklyn sits in sixth, 1.5 ahead of Detroit, 3 of Charlotte, 4 of Orlando, and 4.5 of Miami. As I mentioned, the final 13 games for Brooklyn are brutal. Also, they still have to play 3 back-to-backs. If they can’t clean up in their next six games, it will leave the door wide open for the rest of the East. At their worst let’s say they struggle and go 7-13 in their final 20, which would give them a 39-43 final record.
Let’s start with Detroit. Their remaining schedule is relatively favorable, 20th most difficult with 6 games against Phoenix, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland. Detroit has been hot lately, winning winning six of their last seven and Andre Drummond has been playing at a high level. Should they win the games they’re supposed to they should be able to go at least 500 on the season. Final record:42-40
After a recent tough loss to the Nets, the Hornets will face an uphill battle in passing them. They have the third-hardest remaining schedule with six games against teams over the .600% mark. Inconsistency has plagued them and they have lost many games to teams they should have beaten. Still, being it’s the scenario where Brooklyn chokes, let’s say Kemba gets hot and the Hornets go 12-10 or better; that would put them above the Nets’ mark. Final record:40-42
1 game out of the playoff picture and 4 games behind the Nets are the Orlando Magic. Despite choking a 16 point lead to all-star Henry Ellenson and the Knicks Tuesday night, the Magic have been good lately, winning 8 of their last 11. One thought about that is what that says about Mo Bamba. Orlando is 18.1 points better per 100 possessions with him on the court than off, and it might not be a coincidence that he has missed the past 10 games. So much for my ROY pick; I think he’ll turn it around in the next few seasons...sigh. Orlando should stay hot as they have the 26th-most difficult remaining schedule, with a stretch of 7 straight games against non-playoff teams. Only 7 of their 20 remaining games are against current playoff-bound teams as well. Let’s say they finish with a 12-8 record in the last 20, that would give them a 40-42 record, knocking Brooklyn out.
Miami has been in a slide, having lost 8 of their last 11; it will take 2006 D Wade to put them above the Nets and that’s not happening.
The Nets have screwed up so much over the past few years, and it would be sad to see them miss the playoffs. But, things seem to have turned around; I think Levert and Russell can keep them afloat enough to make the playoffs, and once there who’s knows what could happen.
How will the Nets finish this season?
This poll is closed
Win the NBA Finals... LOL
Make the Finals
Eastern semi-conference finals
Lose in the first round
Miss the playoffs
Comment your thoughts below!