When an NBA player switches teams, it’s typical for him to pile on the superlatives about his new teammates — even if these plaudits are little more than lip service. But when new Nets point guard Jeremy Lin spoke to the media over the weekend, the nicest thing he could say about Brooklyn’s roster was that it was “a blank slate,” which he genuinely meant as a compliment. Needless to say, the Nets are in shambles.
It’s been just three years since the Nets’ now-infamous Sports Illustrated cover, but it feels like an eternity. Of the five players pictured — Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson — only Lopez remains on the team, and Jason Kidd was a whopping three head coaches ago. For any team that’s considering mortgaging their future for a short-term championship window, the Nets should serve as a cautionary tale.
If the 2013–14 Nets were a nuclear disaster of outsize expectations, and last year’s Nets showed the effects of fallout, then this year’s Nets are the metaphorical cockroaches left in its wake. I mean, get a load of this shit:
To clarify: No, that’s not the Nets’ summer league roster — that’s basically their projected regular-season depth chart. After losing out on the Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson sweepstakes, Brooklyn’s starting shooting guard might be second-round pick Isaiah Whitehead, who shot 37.5 percent from the field in two years at Seton Hall. Meanwhile, after Lin, power forward Trevor Booker was the team’s biggest free-agent signing, and he averaged a measly 5.9 points per game for the Jazz last season. At best, the Nets will have two Olympians in Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia) and Greivis Vasquez (Venezuela). Feel the excitement, Brooklyn!
It’s officially in play: The Nets could unseat the Philadelphia 76ers as the worst team in the NBA this season. Between no. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, free-agent signing Jerryd Bayless, and the anticipated debuts of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, the Sixers should finally show signs of life in 2016–17. The opposite is true for the Nets, who enter this season without last year’s second- and fourth-leading scorers (Thaddeus Young and Joe Johnson, respectively), to say nothing of departed rotation guys like Wayne Ellington and Jarrett Jack. Moreover, the Nets came out of the draft with just two additions — the aforementioned Whitehead and Michigan’s Caris LeVert, who made headlines for his poor combine showing. Worst of all, while the Sixers were essentially trying to lose in order to optimize their draft position, the Nets don’t really have any forthcoming draft assets to point to as hope for the future: The Celtics are allowed to swap first-rounders with the Nets in 2017 and will be gifted the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder. In essence, the Nets will boast all of the Sam Hinkie–era Sixers’ losing, but none of the benefits of pursuing Philly’s strategy.
Who wants a piece of them? Pretty much everyone in the NBA, as it turns out.