No team in the league had a worse 2015-16 season than the Brooklyn Nets. They entered the season knowing Boston would control their pick, but maintained hope of at least doing well enough to push that pick back to the end of the lottery. That hope evaporated quickly.
The Nets were simply bereft of talent. An aging Joe Johnson more or less lost the ability to sprint and was eventually bought out. Jarrett Jack, the starting point guard and head of the “offense,” missed more than half the season. Hoping Brook Lopez can take over a game is a recipe for disaster. Brooklyn finished with the league’s third worst record and then had to watch as the Boston Celtics were awarded the No. 3 overall pick in their building at the lottery.
The disaster of a trade led to just one playoff series win and now leaves the Nets without control of their first round pick for the next two seasons has been broken down at length. It’s terrible, but the Nets can’t let it linger any longer. The only way to look is forward.
There are signs that the organization is attempting to do just that. Hiring out of the famed Spurs tree of knowledge was a great start. Sean Marks is by all accounts a smart basketball thinker and he’ll understand the patience and perseverance necessary to turn the franchise around.
Hiring Kenny Atkinson to be the team’s next coach was another overwhelming positive. Rather than taking a big swing at a big-name coach, the Nets chose a more patient approach. Atkinson was widely praised by former players for his player development skills and his ability to instill a culture will be huge for King’s County. And, if those former players want to come back and play for their old coach, the Nets should will be even happier.
They obviously don’t have a first round pick in this year’s draft, but they do have the No. 55 overall selection and are probably a good bet to buy another second round selection thanks to Mikhail Prokhorov’s deep pockets. Teams with multiple first-round picks (Philadelphia, Denver, Phoenix, Boston, Toronto) might be interested in giving one of them up for Thaddeus Young or Brook Lopez, but that seems unlikely.
That means the Nets will have to build through free agency. They can open up close to $50 million in cap space, but signing quality players will be harder this summer than ever before. Brooklyn needs to continue down the path it started when it hired Marks and Atkinson. Be patient, go after young players they can develop and play with the future in mind. After years of trying (and failing spectacularly) to buy a championship team, the Nets need to begin to build one.