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Brooklyn Nets Season in Review

Well, now that that’s finally over, it’s time to review the season that was for the 2015-16 Brooklyn Nets.

After making the playoffs during each of their first three seasons in Brooklyn, the Nets viewed this season as a “bridge year.”  They knew they did not have the talent to compete for a playoff berth, but they had no incentive to tank either, due to the fact that they owe this year’s first round draft pick to the Boston Celtics.  Deron Williams was gone, and what was left was a roster that had several veterans and a few young players looking to prove themselves.  They still had Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic, but that was not enough to win many games in a vastly improved Eastern Conference.

The organization could not have been more wrong.  All signs pointed to the Nets having a disaster of a season, considering the moves the team made in previous years.  Everything was done in order to “win now.”  The Nets won just one playoff series with their old core group of players, and now it’s time for a complete rebuild of the franchise.

There were a few highlights, but this season will be mostly marked by turmoil.  The team finished with a 21-61 record, good for third-worst in the NBA.  Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers finished with worse records than the Nets.

Starting point guard Jarrett Jack, who was given the keys to the offense when Williams was bought out, tore his ACL in December and was lost for the season.  Donald Sloan and Shane Larkin received most of the minutes at point guard after Jack went down, but neither player stood out more than the other.

Brooklyn did draft two promising young rookies in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough in the first round last June.  Hollis-Jefferson was originally drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers and was traded to Brooklyn later that night.  Both wound up missing approximately 50 games a piece this season.  McCullough spent a good portion of the season recovering from a torn ACL which he suffered while playing for Syracuse last year.  He made his NBA debut in February and was eased into action.  He showed some flashes, but he’ll need more time to fully develop his game.  Hollis-Jefferson was a difference maker for the Nets right from the jump.  The team was more athletic and better defensively with him on the floor, but he injured his ankle during a practice in December and did not return until March.  He has a chance to be a star in the NBA, if he stays healthy and continues to improve his jump shot.

In January, team owner Mikhail Prokhorov caused a massive shakeup within the organization, firing head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigning general manager Billy King.  Both moves were long overdue, but they left the franchise in flux once again.  Assistant Tony Brown was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season, and King’s assistant Frank Zanin briefly handled interim GM duties.

February marked the opening of their brand new practice facility in Industry City, Brooklyn.  From that day forward, the organization completely severed its ties with New Jersey and officially called Brooklyn Home.  It’s about a 10-15 minute drive from the facility to Barclays Center without traffic, and it is only a matter of time before more Nets relocate from North Jersey to Manhattan or Brooklyn.  Thaddeus Young is currently the only Nets player who lives in Brooklyn.

On the day of the trade deadline, the Nets hired former Spurs assistant GM Sean Marks as their general manager.  Marks immediately spoke about establishing a new culture within the organization.  With his draft pick cupboard nearly bare, it’s up to Marks and his staff to find talent overseas and in the D-League.  Brooklyn did not make any trades on deadline day, but Marks did waive disgruntled forward Andrea Bargnani on his second day as GM.

One week later, the Nets bought out the contract of Johnson, which allowed him the opportunity to sign with a playoff contender.  The Nets loved Joe, and he provided the team and its fans with many memorable moments during his four seasons in Brooklyn.  It was a good faith move.  Johnson wanted to keep his postseason streak alive, and he was going nowhere fast on a Nets team that was constantly losing games.  He opted to sign with the Miami Heat, and has flourished in South Beach.  He will be a key contributor to the Heat in the postseason.  Other former Nets who will be playing in the postseason are Williams (Mavericks), Mason Plumlee (Trail Blazers), Shaun Livingston (Warriors) and Paul Pierce (Clippers).

After Johnson was waived, Marks signed guard Sean Kilpatrick to a 1o-day contract.  He was the D-League’s leading scorer, and he made an immediate impact with Brooklyn.  In 23 games with the Nets, Kilpatrick averaged 14 points on 47 percent shooting.  He ignited a spark within the locker room, and was rewarded with a multi-year contract.  Marks also added big man Henry Sims from the D-League on a 10-day deal, and he stuck around for the remainder of the season.

Throughout everything that happened around the Nets this season, there is no doubt that Brook Lopez is the team’s best player.  The big man has stayed healthy since recovering from three foot surgeries and had one of the best seasons of his career.  He averaged 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 73 games before he was shut down for the season with less than 10 games to play.  Young also had a nice year for Brooklyn with averages of 15.1 points and nine rebounds per game.  The Nets did not win another game after Lopez and Young were removed from the lineup.

So, where do the Nets go from here?  The top priority is finding a new head coach.  The Nets are one of seven NBA teams that could be looking for one.  The Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings all have head coaching vacancies.  The New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns all finished the season with interim head coaches.  There are several big head coaching names out there, so it will be very interesting to see who Marks decides to target.

Marks will also surround himself with a brand new staff.  He brought in former player Trajan Langdon to be his assistant general manager during the season.  More moves are expected to be made in the next several weeks.  The Nets unveiled their own D-League team called the Long Island Nets.  Having their own D-League affiliate will allow Marks and his staff to further evaluate potential NBA talent.

The Celtics have the third-best odds at winning the top pick in the draft thanks to the Nets’ struggles all season.  All that losing just to watch their division rivals select a talented player in June’s draft.  The Nets will receive a second round selection, but it will be swapped with the Los Angeles Clippers.  If the Clippers would have finished with a top five record, the Nets would’ve received the 33rd pick in the draft as opposed to the 55th, which as of now will be their only selection in June.  The swap with the Clippers stems from the Reggie Evans trade from 2012.

As for the players, only Lopez, Young, Hollis-Jefferson, Bogdanovic, McCullough and Kilpatrick have guaranteed contracts for next season.  Reserves Larkin, Wayne Ellington and Thomas Robinson have player options to remain in Brooklyn, and it remains to be seen if any of the three will exercise them.  If all three players opt out, the Nets could have close to $40 million in cap space.  With only one draft pick currently in tow, it will be up to Marks to improve the roster during free agency.  That will not be an easy task, as most of the league will have the salary cap space to absorb at least one max player contract this summer.

Once a new head coach is in place, he and Marks will have to work together in order to stabilize this franchise.  Continuity is one of the keys to success in the NBA, and the Nets are in desperate need of it.  This is no easy fix, and it will take time, patience and a little bit of luck to set things right in Brooklyn.  It will be a long, but busy offseason for the Nets and their fans, and hopefully they come out of it headed in a much better direction than they were this year.

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Jason Goldstein is a co host of the Baseline Jumper NBA podcast, recording every Tuesday night along Ben McDonald. Jason has also spent time as the Basketball Editor at while also handling the Brooklyn Nets Lead Writer duties since October 2015.
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