By Conrad Hoyt
Published: April 3rd, 2019
Prior to this season, the Brooklyn Nets were the laughingstock of the NBA for the last four seasons (what feels like an eternity). Devoid of draft picks after the Celtics swindled them in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade six years ago, the Nets lacked young talent, stars, and promise moving forward.
This season has been quite the opposite.
One of the surprise teams of the season is the Brooklyn Nets, who are currently sitting at the seventh seed in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. The Nets have a delightful combination of young talent working to get better mixed with seasoned veterans teaching the young guys the tricks of the game.
To look at how the Nets swift rebuild began, we must look to three years ago. On February 18th, 2016, Sean Marks took over as General Manager for the Nets. Through brilliant and innovative methods, Marks was able to acquire draft picks for the team, along with other young talent and veterans that could help right away. Through the draft, the Nets got Caris Levert, Rondae Hollis Jefferson, and Jarrett Allen, all important pieces for the current team. Then, by unburdening the Lakers by taking the massive Timofey Mozgov contract off their hands, the Nets also received D’Angelo Russell, a former number two overall pick that had not yet scraped the limits of his potential.
Russell is clearly one of the biggest stories for the Nets this season. A candidate for the most improved player award, Russell is averaging 21 points and seven assists this season, even exploding for a career-high 44 points in a win against the Kings a couple of weeks ago. Along with his high-arcing jumper and exquisite handle, Russell has also shown the ability to be a great floor general, play off the ball, and come through in the clutch with big shots.
Another person that deserves recognition for his efforts with this team is the Nets’ coach, Kenny Atkinson. With one of the best benches in the league, Atkinson has a lot at his disposal, but it also means he has to make the right substitutions and play certain players with others so he can get the most out of them.
Atkinson is also one of the best coaches in the league in terms of player development. It is easy to see the improvement in Allen, LeVert, Dinwiddie, and Russell, among others. Though he won’t win it, Atkinson deserves to be in the discussion for coach of the year.
The Nets are facing a brutal stretch of games at the end of this season, facing the Pacers, Celtics, Raptors, and Bucks twice, just to name a few. In order to make the playoffs, they will have to win some of these games.
If there is anything the Nets have shown us this season, it is that we can never count them out. Sitting at 8-18 on December 17th (a game which I attended), the Nets beat the number one seed Raptors and turned their season around. Even after injuries to some of their biggest contributors in LeVert and Dinwiddie, the Nets remained resilient and kept winning games. The fans should have plenty of faith in this team, for this year, and moving forward. The future for the Brooklyn Nets looks bright, which is a beautiful thing to say based on where they were just one year ago.