In 2014 the Brooklyn Nets made a decision to go “all in” by acquiring future hall-of-famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to round out their rotation of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson. The famous cover of Sports Illustrated still circulates social media with the quote "Who Wants A Piece Of Them?". The Net's were trying to make a name for themselves in Brooklyn after leaving New Jersey but this trade would cost the Nets a kings ransom, and unknown at the time, would set the franchise back a few years.
Spoiler alert: the Nets didn’t win a title with Garnett and Pierce. In fact, both posted severe statistical declines the year after the trade. The team would post a losing record that first year and nosedive in the standings the following years. Both pieces fo the trade would move on to their next and final landing spots of their storybook careers and the Nets would nosedive in the standings averaging only 23 wins over the next three full seasons.
They were a joke.
The year is now 2019 and after making a regrettable decision almost 5 years ago, the team has been on a streak of good decision after good decision and heres how they did it.
They stock piled a collection of talent between 6’7-6’9. This was pointed out to me by Richard Ivanowski on twitter (@ivanowskinab). This has been the secret sauce to teams success. Just look at the Warriors, Rockets, Raptors, and Bucks. They all have a glutton of tall players that can switch all game long. Keeping this in mind while team building was their fist success. Then they went on to finding personnel.
The Nets were without their first round draft picks for years leaving them to acquire talent in unique ways such as taking on bad contracts with picks like when they acquired Kenneth Faried’s contract and received a first and second round pick for doing so.
They’ve also taken a chance on young draft picks that didn’t preform up to expectations on their original teams. They acquired the second overall pick in D’Angelo Russel who has been a Most Improved Player candidate and just won Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his gameplay from January 14th through January 20th. Russell is posing career highs in points and assists with 19 and 6, while maintaining career highs in shooting percentage at 44% and 38% from deep. If he can continue to improve his decision making, he’ll be living up to expectations that were set four years ago when he was drafted #2 overall and will give the Nets something to think about this offseason with him being a restricted free agent. I’m sure a team like Phoenix would love to pair him with his good friend Devin Booker.
Another young prospect they acquired was Caris LeVert who is on a $1.7 Million contract this year and a $2.6 Million contract next year. Though he has only played 14 games this year due to injury, he was playing like a man with something to prove. Coming out of college at the University of Michigan, Caris LeVert wrote a letter to all 30 GM’s in the league convincing them that despite having three surgeries on the same part of his foot in a 22 month period, he could be a great building piece. The Pacers selected him at 20th overall and traded him a couple weeks later for Thaddeus Young.
LeVert started the season with a 27 point outing, then followed it up with a 28 point performance against city rivals New York Knicks. Caris’ go to move is his hesitation drive. He has elite level handles and is able to change speeds, stop, and accelerate on a dime. He can shoot well from deep, but it’s not necessarily his strength. Caris can playmake as well, which is can make up for Russell’s decision making. LeVert often finds Jarrett Allen rolling to the basket or Ronde Hollis-Jefferson backdoor slashing to the basket. But his game doesn’t just stop on the offensive end of the floor, for a shooting guard he has excellent length, with 6’10 wingspan that he uses that length to pick off passing lanes.
Through the first 14 games of the season, while LeVert was healthy, here is how he stacked up against some of the leagues top SGs.
The Nets rounded out their backcourt rotation by taking a chance on Spencer Dinwiddie who spent time in and out of the G League after being selected by the Pistons in the second round in 2014. The young guard turned down offers from Harvard because he wanted to play college basketball in a more competitive conference. After his knee injury in college he told Zach Lowe “I was mentally prepared to go in the second round so I wasn’t fearful of that.” He’s always known his role was a facilitator, having a career 3/1 assist/turnover ratio, but has shown this year that he can hit from deep. He has hit 37% from deep and showed off his skills by scoring 9 points in the final 30 seconds of regulation sending the game into overtime against the Rockets. A performance that was just as impressive as his game winning shot in overtime against his former Detroit teammates. Spencer signed a friendly 3 year/$34 Million extension in December and will serve as an excellent sixth man for the next few years.
In 2017 the Nets had a late first round pick and were able to steal the big man Jarrett Allen with the 22nd pick. Jarrett projected as a lottery pick to some and has since made a name for himself by making must see blocks on some of the best dunkers in the league including Blake Griffin, Giannis, and even LeBron. Jarretts style is a bit more of a rim runner and compares well to Clint Capela if he can continue to develop.
So, now we know who is on the team but lets talk about cap space.
Depending on what moves they make and what cap holds they will have, they are looking at an unprecedented $63-$71 Million to spend this offseason. Enough for two max players. Many have talked about Kyrie and Butler joining up together. Kyrie is a New York/New Jersey guy and Butler has said that he wants to play with Kyrie. But the Nets cant offer Irving the same super-max that the Celtics can, and we just spend a while chatting about the Nets riches at guard.
Tobias Harris would be a great fit here. A sharp shooting forward that can rebound as well will be in high demand and would slide into Brooklyn seamlessly.
My fear is that this team strikes out in free agency and turns into another version of the Miami Heat, giving huge contracts to average players because they have it to spend. Then get stuck in the 6-7 seed purgatory.
I would love to see Brooklyn rise among the top of the East in the next few years. A huge market team with a new stadium and excellent marketing is a basketball fan’s dream. The Nets have a chance to start making a new name for themselves and are off to a great start.
Make sure to follow Kyle Brandon @Goodluckkyle and check him and Ben Brown out every Monday for a new podcast episode.