April 21, 2016, 1:28 pm
After finishing eighth and getting eliminated in the first round of the 2014/15 NBA playoffs, the Nets began their transition into a rebuild. The 2015/16 season was a very rough season for the franchise, as they saw plenty of turnover in both management and on the floor. Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what in Brooklyn this past season.
After multiple years of mortgaging the future for older veterans in an attempt to win-now, the Nets’ fall from mediocrity was sharp and steep. After leading the Nets to a playoff spot last season, Lionel Hollins was fired midway through the season and replaced by Tony Brown on an interim basis. General Manager Billy King stepped down and was replaced by former Spurs Assistant GM, Sean Marks.
But it didn’t matter who was the coach or GM this season, as the poorly constructed roster filled with glaring holes simply wasn’t good enough to compete in the NBA today. The Nets finished 27th overall in offensive efficiency rating and 29th overall in defensive efficiency rating. The defense ranked either dead last or near the bottom in FG%, 3PT%, 2PT% and points allowed. Were it not for the Philadelphia Sixers, the Nets would arguably be the worst team in basketball this past season.
The Nets transitioned to playing their younger players by moving on from longtime mainstays Deron Williams in the offseason and Joe Johnson midway through the season. The problem is the majority of their younger players are nothing more than end of the roster players, and despite only winning 21 games and owning the third worst record in the NBA, the Nets’ only draft pick in the upcoming draft is 55th overall. The draft pick situation isn’t much better in future drafts either. In the 2017 draft, the Nets only own a first-round pick that the Celtics own the right to swap their first-round pick with (but if the Celtics do so, they give up their second round pick to the Nets). The Nets have no picks in 2018 and have no second-round picks in both 2019 and 2020.
The 2015/16 season was just the beginning of a long and unenviable rebuild that the Nets find themselves in. The current roster, for the most part, resembles a D-League roster. But the franchise is in good hands with GM Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson – the sixth Nets Head Coach since 2012 – now at the helm.
Earlier this week, the Nets hired Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson to be their new Head Coach. Given the state of their franchise, Atkinson may have been the perfect hire for the Nets. Realizing that the Nets will likely be rebuilding for the next half decade, GM Sean Marks elected to hire a coach widely known for his player development. Considering the Nets have a very young roster without many draft picks in the next few years, player development will be key for their future success – especially for the raw but talented Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough.
In terms of Atkinson’s schemes, he used a space the floor approach with movement and a heavy emphasis on the pick-and-roll in his time as Head Coach of the Dominican Republic National team. The Nets current roster severely lacks shooting but the space the floor approach should still be beneficial fantasy wise for most players on the roster. It will be a long road for both Atkinson and the Nets in their return to respectability, but the team is in the right hands. Player development – not winning – appears to be the number one priority, as it very well should be.
ADP: 33 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 41 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 25/26 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 23/23 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 73
Perennially labeled as an injury risk, Lopez’s 73 games played this season – he was rested for seven of the final eight games – was the third time in four seasons that he played at least 72 games. His health wasn’t the only good news, as Lopez put together arguably the best season of his eight year career. On the season, he averaged 20.6 points (his career-high is 20.7 points over 17 games in an injury shortened 2013/14 season), 7.8 rebounds (his highest since 2010/11), 2.0 assists (his highest since 2010/11), a career-high 0.8 steals and 1.7 blocks on 51.1% shooting from the field and 78.7% shooting from the charity stripe. He out produced his ADP in both total value and per game value in both 8 and 9 cat leagues.
Simply put, Lopez was one of the best big men in basketball this season. He may not be the best rebounder given his size, but that’s most due to his focusing on boxing out his opponent. His defense as a whole was underrated as well, as he can bang with the best of them and provided the Nets with good rim protection. He was consistent in the mid-range game and continues to be efficient around the basket. Heading into next season, he needs to continue doing what he has been doing. Staying healthy is the biggest hurdle for Lopez. If he stays healthy, expect him to return second or third round value again, as he’s sure to be the number one option again for a rebuilding Nets team.
ADP: 85 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 90 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 43/44 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 41/45 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 73
A 27 year old veteran on a rebuilding team, Young had himself a fantastic first full season with the Nets. Drafted as a mid-round guy in most fantasy leagues, he consistently performed at an early-round value all season long. On the season, he averaged 33 minutes, 15.1 points, a career-high 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks on 51.4% shooting from the field and 64.4% shooting from the charity stripe. Although he had a fantastic season, Young continues to become predictable on the offensive end despite being one of the more versatile players in the league. This season he continued his trend of decreasing his 3PT attempts – accounted for only 3% of his total FGA – as well as decreasing his mid-range jumper – accounted for 17.4% of his FGA. A staggering 77.8% of his FGA come within 10 feet of the rim, up from 67.3% the year prior. Now although his FG% spiked as a result, he needs to better use his versatility if he is going to maximize his value – especially with Brook Lopez operating down low.
With the Nets bringing in Kenny Atkinson – an assistant under the space the floor offenses of Mike D’Antoni and Mike Budenholzer – Young could very well have himself a career year next season. But in order to better utilize his skills, he needs to improve on his jump shot. Although he may never be a good 3PT shooter, he needs to become a threat from the mid-range to help open up the lane for his teammates. He should remain a key cog of the Nets next season, and should once again post early-to-mid round value. If he improves his jump shot, expect it to be more towards the early round value.
ADP: 120 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 62 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 244/265 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 70/100 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 32
Coming into the season, Jack was one of the weakest starting point guards in the NBA. But despite being on the wrong side of 30 and with his best days behind him, he still performed relatively well before tearing him ACL on January 2nd. Prior to his season-ending injury, he was posting mid-round value on a per game basis with averages of 12.8 points, 1.0 three, 4.3 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.2 blocks on 39.1% shooting from the field. His 7.4 assists per game were easily a career-high, as he was doing a great job getting everyone involved in the offense. But despite his improved playmaking ability, his poor shooting – especially the 30.4% conversion rate – was troublesome on a team without many shooters to space the floor.
Given his age and the fact that he was already on the decline, the torn ACL isn’t good for Jack’s prospects of remaining an impact player. Most importantly, he needs to avoid re-injuring his knee during the rigorous rehabbing he will endure this offseason. Even if he avoids further injuries, he will miss the majority of next season and shouldn’t be on any fantasy radar of any size. It’s very possible that we have seen the last of Jack being relevant in both reality and fantasy.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 295/312 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 134/156 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 29
On a team filled with either veterans or end of the roster players, Hollis-Jefferson is a ray of hope with potential to be a future star. After getting off to a promising start, RHJ fractured his ankle and was sidelined for three and a half months before returning for the final few weeks. But the injury did nothing to hurt the potential that he possesses. His season averages of 5.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks on 45.7% shooting from the field aren’t impressive when looking at them in a vacuum, but that’s because his defense is his strength. RHJ possesses very good athleticism, is extremely long, is disruptive in passing lanes, and has the strength and quickness to move laterally with the best players in the league – he received compliments from LeBron James following a game late in the season. He has all the tools to become one of the premiere defenders in basketball. The problem is that he is still very raw offensively. His athleticism gives him the ability to get to the rim and convert at a high rate, but because he is such a poor shooter, defenders just sag off of him. He needs to develop a consistent shot – specifically a 3PT jump shot – if he is going to take the next step in his development. He should already be on standard league radars going into next season even without the development of a jump shot.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 367/378 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 186/209 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 14
Signed to multiple 10 day contracts late in the season, Sims only appeared in 14 games down the stretch. With Brook Lopez shut down for the final six games, Sims was given a chance to start and showcase himself for a roster spot next season. Unfortunately, Sims just doesn’t have much to offer. Despite his length and wingspan, he isn’t a great rim protector, nor is he a consistent mid-range shooter or finisher around the basket. He’s still relatively young at 25 years old, is a smart basketball player and works very hard when he is on the floor, so he may find himself at the end of a roster next season. But he likely will never be fantasy relevant.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 136/159 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 161/197 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
One of the smallest players in the NBA, Larkin took advantage of the Jarrett Jack injury and had himself a career best season. He either posted a new career-high or tied a previous one with 7.3 points, 0.5 treys, 2.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.2 blocks on 44.2% shooting from the field and 36.1% shooting from deep. Playing for a rebuilding team obviously helps as it gave him more opportunities to produce, but he continued to progress and improve his shooting. He may never be a starter on a good team due to being a defensive liability. But as long as he continues to improve his shot and break down defenses using his quickness on the offensive end, he should remain a contributor off the bench.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 322/327 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 213/225 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 31
The leading scorer in the D-League with 26.4 points per game, Kilpatrick got his chance with the Nets when he signed a 10 day contract on February 28th. He impressed so much that just 20 days later, he signed a 3-year deal with the Nets. While with the Nets, the rookie posted 13.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.5 treys, 1.1 assists and 0.4 steals on 46.2% shooting from the field (36.1% shooting from deep) over 23.2 minutes.
Kilpatrick showed his impressive scoring ability, putting the ball in the basket in a variety of ways – beating his man off the dribble, converting on nearly 70% of his attempts at the rim, shooting 46.8% on mid-range jumpers, and spreading the floor with a respectable 3PT shot. For a team lacking depth and future draft picks, he appears to be a diamond in the rough. He needs to work on his lateral quickness to improve as a defender, as well as continue to work on his 3PT shot. But he was instant offense off the bench and should play the role of the sixth man next season – putting him on the standard league radar.
ADP: 142 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 140 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 173/188 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 210/231 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
Coming off an impressive rookie season, Bogdanovic really struggled out of the gate and likely found himself on the waiver wire rather quickly in most fantasy leagues. But as the season progressed, Bogdanovic caught fire and turned himself into one of the premiere 3PT specialists. Converting on only 33.8% of his 3PTA through the end of January, Bogdanovic shot 43.8% from deep from February through till the end of the season. Overall, despite the slow start, Bogdanovic improved in almost every statistical category and posted career-highs with 11.2 points, 1.6 treys, 3.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.4 steals on 38.2% shooting from deep. His FG% of 43.3 was down from 45.3 in his rookie season, mostly due to his regression from 63% efficiency within 10 feet of the rim in 2014/15 to 50.7% efficiency.
Although he failed to live up to his ADP this season, his very strong finish to the season is sure to have him drafted in the late rounds again next season. Arguably the only player on the Nets roster with the consistent ability to spread the floor, Bogdanovic is sure to play a major role on the once again rebuilding Nets in 2016/17. Expect his FG% to improve as efficiency around the basket improves from this season’s 50.7%. At the very least, he will be a premiere 3PT specialist.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 228/241 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 226/240 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 61
Buried deep on the depth chart, Sloan didn’t receive significant minutes until Jarrett Jack’s season ended short due to a torn ACL in early January. Sloan took full advantage of the minutes and opportunities left vacant by Jack’s injury and posted career-highs over multiple statistical categories – 21.6 minutes, 44% shooting from the field, 38.4% shooting from deep, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 0.5 steals. He reduced the amount of the pull up 3PT jumpers, and in turn, became a respectable 3PT shooter. Sloan is a poor defender who will never be more than a back-up point guard, but he has shown that he can be fantasy relevant as a fill-in starter.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 353/361 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 260/269 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 24
The 28th pick in last June’s draft, McCullough’s draft stock fell due to a torn ACL. Although he spent the majority of the season rehabbing his knee injury, he showed promise and potential in the 24 games he managed to play in. He is a long, athletic and agile with quick feet and a pretty shooting stroke – averaged 1.4 treys per game. He’s still relatively raw and needs more seasoning and a better understanding of the game on both defense and offense, but he can be a 3 and D specialist as early as next season. As long as McCullough continues to refine his game and work on his shooting stroke, he’ll be an impact player and part of the Nets future for years to come.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat & ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 216/229 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 268/285 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 76
Brought in to be a veteran presence and spread the floor with his shooting ability, Ellington had a very disappointing season on a Nets team riddled with injuries. His averages of 7.7 points, 1.3 treys, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists on 38.9% shooting from the field were all down from his previous season with the Lakers. Expected to stretch the floor, his 35.8% shooting from deep was his worst mark since the 2011/12 season with the Wolves. He is still a smart and capable defender who has shown the ability to provide offense off the bench, so he is sure to find himself a role on a bench somewhere in the NBA provided he finds his shooting stroke. But to be clear, his days of fantasy relevancy are over.
The Nets need to cash-in on the healthy and productive seasons of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young by trading them for younger players and future draft picks. They also need to sign a couple of veteran free agents on one or two year deals to help with a very young roster. Most importantly, they need to prioritize the development of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough above all else.