Nets hit skid after solid start to season
Maybe the Brooklyn Nets really are who we thought they were.
After nine games, the Nets go into Monday’s tilt with the Phoenix Suns with a 3-6 record. It’s not the largest sample size, but enough of the season has passed for everyone to see that the team has a ton of issues. After a 3-2 start, the Nets have lost four-straight games and look like they are struggling against some of the weaker teams in the NBA.
Sure, they are an extremely young team, and just like in any rebuild, there will be growing pains along the way. Brooklyn’s current four-game losing streak has unmasked many deficiencies that cannot be corrected overnight, but they have to start somewhere.
Where’s the defense?
I think the Nets’ biggest problem is their lack of team defense. Sure, they are scoring a lot of points, but teams are scoring them at will. They are giving up over 119 points per game to opponents, who are shooting 47.4 percent from the field against them. It doesn’t take rocket science to suggest that the Nets won’t win many basketball games if they keep up this trend.
The effort is there, but the results are not. The Nets are in desperate need of a rim protector. Timofey Mozgov looks too slow, and rookie Jarrett Allen has been sidelined for the past two games with sprained left foot. Tyler Zeller has given them solid minutes, but he is not the long-term answer at center in Brooklyn. They want Allen to be their defensive anchor, but he cannot develop until he is healthy enough to play
Every NBA team deals with the injury bug, especially over an 82-game season, but the Nets have already dealt with injuries to many of their key players. Jeremy Lin is lost for the season already, and D’Angelo Russell has not been as explosive since he tweaked his knee nearly two weeks ago. We already mentioned Allen’s injury, and Trevor Booker is currently has been dealing with a sore back. Four of Brooklyn’s top eight players are already nicked up. Health will be key to the Nets turning this thing around as the season wears on.
Young core developing slowly
It’s safe to say two of the biggest positives for the Nets this season has been the play of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie. They are both playing the best basketball of their young careers, and that is a direct result of their work ethic and dedication to the program. The Nets’ performance team deserves a lot of credit for aiding the development of both players.
It has not been all peaches and cream for the other players in Brooklyn’s young core. Russell is showing that he can score in bunches, but his defense needs major work. Caris LeVert has struggled to find his shot. He’s averaging 10.6 points, but only shooting 34 percent from the field. Even after Lin’s injury, Isaiah Whitehead has struggled to find minutes at the NBA level. He has shuttled back-and-forth to the G-League, and seems to have taken a step back from his solid rookie season. Kenny Atkinson and his staff will continue to develop this core, but the Nets need to add more talent, especially in the frontcourt.
Could Jahlil Okafor be bound for Brooklyn?
I think the Nets should do everything possible to try and pry Jahlil Okafor from the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s no secret that they would like to move him for the right price, and Okafor could certainly use a fresh start. Sean Marks has re-stocked Brooklyn’s assets after inheriting a bare cupboard, but it may be tough for the Nets to pull off a deal with Philly without mortgaging their future yet again.
Hollis-Jefferson appears to be locked in as the team’s starting power forward, and rightfully so. Okafor could come in and play center until Allen is ready to start. Okafor may not be good enough to stick around long-term, but it’s definitely worth it for the Nets to take a flyer on him. He’s too talented and the Nets need all the talent they could get if they want this rebuild to be successful.
Time and patience are key
There is still plenty of season to be played, and the Nets could turn things around quickly if they can fix some of these issues. Fans should have faith in Atkinson and his staff to get the job done. Regardless of their struggles, they are still a fun team to watch. They play hard every single night, but until they start to play defense and turn the ball over less, the losses will continue to pile up.
After a hot start to the season that had some fans thinking they could make a playoff push, the Nets have been brought back to earth. The next stretch of five or six games could shape the rest of their season. If they don’t improve and start to turn things around, the Nets really might be what we all thought they were, a bad team in a weak conference.
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