May 31, 2017, 3:28 pm
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
On June 12, 2013, team owner Mikhail Prokhorov proclaimed, “Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets.” This was the day Billy King and Danny Ainge completed a nine-player, five-draft pick blockbuster that continues to haunt the Nets to this day and probably for years to come.
The Nets essentially sent four first-round picks to Boston to rent 37-year-old Kevin Garnett for two seasons and 35-year-old Paul Pierce for one. The 2014 pick turned into James Young but the 2016, 2017 and 2018 picks are the ones that hurt the most. The 2016 pick turned into Jaylen Brown, while the 2017 pick turned into the first overall pick and the 2018 pick could also be a top five selection.
Even with all this, Nets fans remain optimistic and they have good reason to be. They have many young, exciting players and with Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson at the helm, the Nets are poised to build on this season. Marks has preached character, culture and chemistry, while Atkinson’s modern offense should be a fixture for many years.
It was an entirely new cast of players for the Nets, except for three holdovers (Brook Lopez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sean Kilpatrick) so it is no surprise they finished with an NBA-worst 20-62 record. Their low point was a 1-27 stretch from December 26 to the All-Star break. One of the only times they made the news all season was when they rested their starters for the final game of the season, even though the game had playoff implications for the Bulls and Heat. David Stern even popped up to condemn their “inexcusable” actions.
As forgettable as this season was, there is reason to be optimistic. They finished the season strong, going 11-13 from March 1 to the end of the year. It was a season dedicated to developing the younger players and they may have found a couple core building blocks of the future while doing so.
Brooklyn assembled a roster full of serviceable players, meaning there was plenty of juggling on the wings and in the backcourt. The crowded depth chart didn’t do wonders for anyone’s fantasy stock but it was a worthwhile endeavor for the Nets to get a look at plenty of guys who could be a part of the team going forward.
Even though they lost the top pick in this year’s draft, they still hold three picks (22nd, 27th, and 57th) and have the possibility of buying a fourth pick for $3 million. Sean Marks could find some more steals as he turned the 20th and 42nd picks from last year’s draft into Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead. Development should, and will, remain the primary focus.
Kenny Atkinson was received well in his first year as a head coach. He is praised for his modern style motion offense, built around spacing and ball movement, much like that of the Spurs. He encourages his big men to shoot and stretch the floor, which opened a whole new dimension to Brook Lopez’s game. It was a team-wide phenomenon, as the Nets finished fourth in the league with 31.6 three point attempts per game. They might not have the personnel to capitalize on all those attempts, but Brooklyn seems well aware of the importance of the longball.
Additionally, the Nets always produce fantasy friendly games thanks to the quickest pace in the league. Their 103.6 mark was tops in the NBA and meant that both the Nets and their opponents were running up and down with plenty of chances for fantasy production. There aren’t many obvious advantages that this Nets roster has outright, but young legs is one of them.
Atkinson loves his job and the players love playing for him. The Nets have no incentive to tank and though they’re short on talent, the first-year coach had his team competitive and engaged more often than not. He has also done very well in the player development category and that’s what this year was mostly about. He should stick around for a while.
ADP: 35/34 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 32/37 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 35/40 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 75
The Nets lifer made a grand total of three triples in his first eight seasons and then out of nowhere led the team with 134 this year. He also passed Buck Williams for the title of Nets all-time leading scorer. Because of his 1.8 triples per game, his field goal percentage took a slight hit and dropped to .474, the first time since 2011 he’s been below 50 percent from the field.
His rebounding also fell to 5.4 per game from 7.8 a year ago. Lopez’s 1.6 offensive rebounds per game explain some of the dip, as it was again the first time since 2011 that he failed to average at least two per contest.
Lopez made some huge changes to his offensive game, becoming a major catch and shoot weapon after subsisting on post scoring and back to the basket moves for much of his career. In 2015-16, the Stanford alum saw 23.9 percent of his shots come on catch and shoot opportunities. Only 1.2 percent of his shots were catch and shoot three pointers.
This season, those numbers rocketed up to 36.1 and 29.6 percent, respectively. Full credit to him for adding a dangerous new element to his already potent offensive arsenal – now it’ll be interesting to see how teams deal with him after a year to adjust.
Perhaps most importantly, he stayed relatively healthy for a third straight season. Lopez probably won’t shake the injury-prone label thanks to some high profile ailments earlier in his career but he’s managed to play 72, 73 and 75 games over the past three seasons. Perhaps Brooklyn’s proactive rest program has done him some good. Given the overall fantasy package, owners will accept the occasional DNP-Rest and Lopez should remain a safe third round pick if the Nets don’t trade him in the offseason.
ADP: 83/96 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 211/228 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 62/79 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 36
Jeremy Lin missed 46 games this year with lingering hamstring problems but the Nets were clearly a better team when he was on the floor. They went 11-14 after Lin came back following the All-Star break. His attitude and grit somehow makes the players around him better and this is the first time he’s been put in a leadership role since he led the Knicks into the playoffs five years ago with Jared Jeffries, Steve Novak and Landry Fields as his supporting cast.
There were a few interesting developments despite the missed time, including a career high in free throw attempts and assists per game. Lin is very clearly the lead dog here and has an opportunity to play aggressively as one of the team’s best offensive options. He also hit a career-best 1.6 threes per contest, in keeping with the overall theme for Brooklyn. Of course, the added workload means a spike in turnovers.
Lin averaged 2.4 per game this season and that’ll just be part of the equation going forward. Expect them to rise in a full slate of minutes, which will really ding him in 9-cat formats.
He was a top-80 player on a per-game basis this year in only 24.5 minutes per game. Nonetheless, many people will pass on him in next year’s drafts because of the injury risk. If he does stay healthy, with the minute restriction lifted, he may be a steal in the late rounds.
ADP: 140/92 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 125/133 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 153/162 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
One of only three returning players from last season, Hollis-Jefferson found new life toward the end of the season when the Nets began starting him at power forward. He averaged 10.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks after the All-Star break in only 24.1 minutes.
RHJ was a popular preseason sleeper thanks to his penchant for racking up steals, though he could only muster 1.1 per game after picking up 1.3 swipes per contest as a rookie. Many also projected his playing time to rise, but he stayed fairly stable in going from 21.2 minutes per game last season to 22.6 this year. Still, the post-break numbers are a positive sign and showcase his defensive potential.
He is only 22 years old so there is plenty of room to grow. At power forward, his shooting deficiencies were not as prevalent but lack of size will prevent him from being a full-time big man. If he improves his three-point shooting, he will be a fantasy darling for many years to come as a small forward or shooting guard. Otherwise, the Nets will continue using him as an undersized big man when he isn’t working at the three.
ADP: 140/140 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 90/102 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 99/102 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 71
When Sean Marks repeatedly spoke about high-character guys and the culture of the team, Trevor Booker fit that bill perfectly. Not only has Booker been invaluable mentoring his young teammates, but he also had the best statistical year of his career. He was able to deliver 10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals on 51.9 percent shooting and had plenty of eye-widening double-doubles early in the year.
He was one of the top free-agent waiver pickups in most leagues prior to the All-Star break but once the Nets started focusing more on developing their younger players his playing time decreased and he became a drop candidate. Booker still finished hovering around the top-100 in standard leagues but his ceiling might be capped next season if the Nets continue to play Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at power forward.
ADP: 140/142 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 159/186 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 157/201 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 70
Signing the undrafted Sean Kilpatrick out of the D-League on February 28, 2016 was the very first move that Sean Marks made as general manager and it has paid dividends. He was the Nets’ third-leading scorer and fifth in both rebounds and assists. His per-36 numbers were 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists but he played only 25.0 minutes per game because of defensive issues and a crowded rotation. His best game of the year was when he torched the Clippers on November 29 for 38 points and 14 rebounds.
The Nets have to make a decision by June 5 whether to guarantee his contract for next season for $1.05 million. Seems like a bargain. The same could be said for fantasy owners willing to invest a late round pick in Kilpatrick, who possesses enough upside to make a worthwhile flier in deeper leagues.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 230/227 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 209/206 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 57
LeVert started 26 games his rookie year and in those games, averaged 24.0 minutes with 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.1 triples. His steals and treys had him near the top-150 in standard leagues over the final three months and it seems like the Nets got a steal with the 20th pick.
It’ll be interesting to see how he looks with a full offseason program, as he missed the first 20 games of the year with the same foot injury that led to some questions about his draft stock. LeVert didn’t jump right into full minutes either, so he could be looking at a slight boost in playing time.
His play-making and defensive ability has many people believing he might be a future star, but don’t expect it to happen next season.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 209/210 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 194/193 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 59
Spencer Dinwiddie didn’t latch on with the Nets until December but got some serious run for the first time in his career, averaging 22.6 minutes per game and making 18 starts. He was a popular waiver add when he was handed that starting job but returned to a bench role when Jeremy Lin reappeared towards the end of the year.
Curiously, he was nearly as effective coming off the bench – he shot better and grabbed more steals while only seeing dips of 1.3 points and 0.6 assists per game. Dinwiddie could emerge as a fantasy factor if Lin goes down and he emerges as a starter, but we wouldn’t count on it. He’s safe to ignore for fantasy purposes.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 214/194 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 226/197 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64
Justin Hamilton put together a nice first season in Brooklyn after spending a season overseas. The hardcore fans out there will remember him from the end of 2015 in Minnesota, where he was able to average 9.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks in 24.9 minutes per contest across 17 games.
It’s impressive work to put on your resume, even if the sample is admittedly small. Hamilton was to serve as Brook Lopez’s handcuff, meaning he could’ve found his way into a major role if injury troubles arose. That wasn’t to be, as Lopez stayed healthy and his backup managed just 6.9 points and 4.1 boards in 18.4 minutes per game. His defensive numbers plummeted but he was able to hit 0.9 triples per game. He’ll remain little more than a handcuff next season.
Stay the course and continue with Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson’s vision. They must also continue developing their young guys and build chemistry from within. With a healthy Jeremy Lin and a home run free agent pickup, they may crush this year’s win total.
After striking out with Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe last season, the Nets will once again be in the market for a wing upgrade. Current rumors have them targeting Otto Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Both are restricted free agents and may need huge offers to pry them away. Luckily for the Nets, they are projected to have the third most cap space in the NBA and only eight players with guaranteed contracts so they have plenty of flexibility to play around. They have nowhere to go but up.