Allow me to post my NBA columns from the past week or so, because I’ll be referencing them in this post. Here is my Celtics Season preview in which I picked them to earn the 5th seed, win the Atlantic, and get bounced by the Wizards in an awesome 1st round series in 7 games. Here is my analysis of their first 3 games. Finally, here is my NBA season preview, in which I picked the Brooklyn Nets to finish with the 5th worst record in the league. And if you had forgotten, the Celtics have the Nets’ unprotected 1st round pick this summer.
Through 4 games, the Brooklyn Nets look certifiably horrendous. In fact, their net rating, which is measured by (number of points per 100 offensive possessions — number of points surrendered per 100 defensive possessions), is the worst in the league. That’s right, the worst in the league — worse than Philadelphia!
The Nets clock in at -17.1 rating, while the 76ers have a -16.6, the Celtics have a -1.4, and the league leading Warriors have a 26.6. There are 2 important factors to consider that might help the Nets’ case, though. First, the next 3 teams ahead of the Sixers are the Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Rockets, and those guys are nowhere near as bad as the Sixers are or as we hope the Nets are. That trio has definitely played badly, but their presence that is just a hair ahead of the Sixers and Nets demonstrates that we can’t overreact to 4 games’ worth of stats. Second, the Nets have played the Bulls, Spurs, Grizzlies, and Bucks. They haven’t gotten to beat up on a team like the C’s did with Philly.
However, their schedule has been misleading. ON the Nets’ opening night, Chicago was playing the latter half of a back to back after beating Cleveland in an emotional victory… in Brooklyn. The Nets still lost by 15. The Spurs waxed the Nets by 27, and then the Grizzlies, who might not be good anymore, beat them by 10. Finally, Milwaukee was also playing the 2nd half of a back to back in Brooklyn, and they also won by double digits. There is simply no way to avoid the fact that the Nets have laid an egg to start the season.
And you know what? That schedule won’t get any easier. Take a look at the Nets’ schedule through December 8 vs Houston. Seriously, take a look at it. That game represents the 21st of the year, also known as the NBA’s quarter pole. (Actually, the quarter pole would be halftime of the 21st game, but shut up and let me frame the Nets’ hopelessness like I want to.) Through the next 17 games, the Nets play 10 on the road, both of their yearly games against the Warriors, 2 games our beloved Celtics, 2 against the Hawks, a game apiece against the Cavs and Thunder, and two back to backs on the road against teams that otherwise would be beatable (Bucks and Hornets). No BS and no bias, I think the Nets win 3 of those. And that might be too nice.
By that point, the team will likely be far too along a path to nowhere with no way of turning around. Brook Lopez should have a foot injury by about game 16, Thaddeus Young just signed the contract that he needed to be content, Jarrett Jack has been a joke for awhile now, and Joe Johnson has scored 9.3 points per game this year and has been steadily declining ever since he left Atlanta. If Johnson does become anything close to what he was a few years back, he’ll have no reason to stick in Brooklyn. The Nets are already under the luxury tax and don’t need to waive anyone to save the tax bill, but why would they keep Johnson if he has no part of whatever pathetic future they have and if they can save a few million on a buyout. There’s a lot of wiggle room to work with, when a guy has a $25+ million contract, and if Johnson has any desire to either win or raise his stock for free agency next summer, he would gladly agree to a buyout to save the Nets some cash and take a buyout. No matter what, Joe Johnson will help the Celtics either by being terrible or by leaving town — and a hole in the Nets’ lineup.
Actually, the Celtics might benefit even more from the departure of another veteran who was supposed to be a part of the Nets’ “contending years” that started in 2012. Deron Williams was released during this past summer via the stretch provision that places roughly $5.5 million onto the Nets’ cap for the next few years. As badly as Paul Pierce wrecked Williams in his amazing interview with Jackie MacMullan, Williams was not a bad point guard. More importantly, he was far better than current Nets’ starting point guard Jarrett Jack, who’s a shell of his former self even more than Williams or Johnson currently are. Williams’ departure left a hole in the Nets roster that won’t be filled until after the Celtics have taken the Nets’ pick.
The Brooklyn Nets are an awful basketball team, and no Nets lover or Celtics hater can tell you otherwise. Yet they still have Brook Lopez, who has the ability to drag a team from the worst record in the league to the 4th worst. Lopez’ injury history makes me think that he will merely give 100% and not 110% once the Nets really start sucking, and I’m sure that even the Nets’ coaching staff and front office are not stupid enough to play him huge minutes. And that’s assuming that Lopez stays healthy for 70-80 games, which I would not bet on. I would never root for serious damage to be done to an athlete’s career, but given that Lopez just signed a 3 year deal for $60 million, I’m not gonna be crying when Lopez inevitably hurts his foot by mid December.
If everything goes right for the Nets, they give the Celtics the 9th pick and deny the C’s a gigantic chance for a decent team to get a superstar high in the draft. If everything goes wrong, the Nets duke it out with the 76ers and Lakers for the highest chance at the top pick. If you haven’t learned from this column yet, the Nets are much closer to their worst case scenario than their best.