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All Eyes on New Nets as Regular Season Begins

Brooklyn opens the season Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers

The Brooklyn Nets finally open up their regular season on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers.  Year number two of the Sean Marks/Kenny Atkinson era is upon us, and many fans and pundits alike are waiting to see if the team can improve on its 20-win total from a year ago.

The Nets have more depth than they did last season and that should help them win a few more games. They are still an extremely young team as well. The average age of the roster is 25-years-old, which means the Nets have the 10th youngest team in the NBA. There will be growing pains of course, but the Nets have the added benefit of playing without any major external expectations.

As of opening night, nine players from last season’s team remain on the roster.  The six new players brought in over the Summer will all have their chance to prove to the organization that they should be a part Brooklyn’s future.  None of the new players should seize this opportunity more than D’Angelo Russell.

Russell was traded to the Nets on draft night in exchange for franchise center Brook Lopez.  For former No. 2 overall pick has an abundance of talent and is just 21-years-old.  He has a chance to be the franchise player the Nets haven’t had since Jason Kidd.  We all know he can score the basketball, but the Nets need him to play team defense and buy into the culture in Brooklyn.  Both are major questions but if he can pull that off, the Nets will have won this trade by a landslide.

The Nets acquired DeMarre Carroll from the Toronto Raptors in a salary dump.  That deal could prove to be a mistake by Toronto, as Carroll looked terrific during the preseason and will almost certainly slot in as the starting small forward.  The Nets also received two draft picks in the deal, but Carroll played the best basketball of career under Atkinson during their days in Atlanta and he is an excellent presence in the locker room.  If he can stay healthy, he is one of the more underrated forwards in the league.

Another newcomer who could wind up being an integral part of Brooklyn’s future is Allen Crabbe.  He was traded to the Nets from the Portland Trail Blazers just one year after they tried to sign him as a restricted free agent, only to have the offer matched.  Crabbe is one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA.  He will most likely come off the bench to start the year but can provide the Nets with immediate offense whenever he is on the floor.  He sprained his ankle in training camp, but returned for the final two preseason games and looked good. He still needs time to get acclimated to his new teammates, but Crabbe will be a welcome addition in Brooklyn.

Center Timofey Mozgov was also traded to Brooklyn in the Lopez deal. He immediately replaces Lopez in the starting lineup.  He is just one of two players on the team who are over 30-years-old, but he can still play effectively.  Mozgov can rebound, protect the rim and has a soft touch around the basket.  Journeyman Tyler Zeller was the only free agent the Nets signed during the offseason.  He made the roster as the 15th man and will probably not play too many minutes right off the bat.

The final newcomer could wind up being just as important as Russell. The Nets drafted center Jarrett Allen out of Texas with the 22nd pick of the NBA draft.  The 19-year-old is the second-youngest player in team history, but he has the tools to become an effective modern NBA center.  Like Crabbe, Allen also needs a lot of playing time to develop.  If all goes well, he could supplant Mozgov as the team’s starting center by season’s end.

If Russell, Carroll, Crabbe and Mozgov play well and Allen develops, the Nets could find themselves fighting for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Add them to the core of Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker and you have something positive brewing in Brooklyn for the first time in a long while.

Let the games begin.

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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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