Brooklyn Nets: Week 6 Stars and Slackers

Dec 5, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes up for a shot over  Brooklyn Nets guard Jie Harris (12) during the second half at Barclays Center. The Wizards won 118-113. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 5, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes up for a shot over Brooklyn Nets guard Jie Harris (12) during the second half at Barclays Center. The Wizards won 118-113. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

When a team is this bad, we must always find a silver lining to help us live another day.   After going 0-3 in week six, finding a positive about the Brooklyn Nets is a tall task.  However, it is a challenge that I am up for. 

For the second time in three weeks, the Brooklyn Nets have gone winless.  Two losses were to the Milwaukee Bucks, who only have 10 wins on the season, three of which they have the Nets to thank for.  One of the losses was to the 7-10 Washington Wizards.

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The most discouraging part about the losing culture, is that the players are performing at their capacity.  Sean Kilpatrick is having a breakout year.  Brook Lopez has established himself as a high level center.  Bojan Bogdanovic and Trevor Booker have become consistent contributors.  Isaiah Whitehead is getting valuable minutes as a starter in Jeremy Lin’s absence and has had great moments.

Unfortunately, the positives above have resulted in an underwhelming 5-15 record.  With no monster performances or wins, the silver lining approach to this week’s stars and slackers is a necessity.

Dec 5, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) shoots the ball as Brooklyn Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) defends during the second half at Barclays Center. The Wizards won 118-113. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Stars

Low Expectations

There is a saying that goes, “never over promise, always over deliver.”  The Nets did not over promise.  However, they are also not over delivering.  Oftentimes, there are teams in the NBA that come into the season with high expectations, only to let down an enthusiastic fan base.  Sometimes, these expectations are warranted.

For example, after making the playoffs two years ago and challenging the Chicago Bulls in the first round, the Milwaukee Bucks were every analysts’ “team no one wants to play.”  They followed the season up by not making the playoffs in 2015-16.  Similarly, the Washington Wizards appeared to be on the rise with John Wall and Bradley Beal, only to find themselves on the cusp of a full-on rebuild.  This year, after making it to the second round and challenging the Warriors in the playoffs last year, the Portland Trail Blazers have taken a step back, leaving the fan base confused.

Fortunately for the Nets, we are not in a position to feel the same heartbreak these other fan bases have had.  Coming into the season, ESPN did not expect the Nets to win more than 20 games.  This ESPN prediction, coupled with the inability to land restricted free agents, allowed honest fans to come to one cohesive conclusion: the Nets would not win many games this year.

These low expectations allowed fans to change expectations.  In the article here, we talk about defining success.  It appears that several of the items listed can still be achieved.  However, the sooner a fan base accepts the fact that they will not be good, the better it is for everyone involved.  For us, that realization came before game one.

Bojan Bogdanovic

The Nets have more talent on their roster than people realize.  Most of this talent, however, serves more as a role player than game changer.  Either way, role players are needed on every good team.  Coming into the season, most of the expectations and pressure were on Lin and Lopez as the most talented players.  The question marks surrounded Kilpatrick and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.  Fortunately, Kilpatrick over delivered.  With Kilpatrick making a case for Most Improved Player of the year and Lopez increasing his trade value with every monster game, Bogdanovic has gone overlooked.

Bogdanovic has been the model of consistency this season.  As a fourth or fifth option on the team, Bogdanovic is averaging 14.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.  This past week, Bogdanovic had three games where he averaged 18 points per game, with a high of 24.  While his game is not flashy, in a season of subpar and volatile performances, we must recognize Bogdanovic for his consistency.

Mar 12, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum (5) goes up for a shot against Houston Rockets forward Donatas Montiejunas (20) in the first half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Slackers

Those That Expected More

I understand that fans will be fans.  However, at some point, the most healthy thing one can do is to be honest.  Some will blame the mounting losses on the loss of Lin.  Although Lin is a fine player, outside of the brief “Linsanity” period, he never produced at an All-Star level.  Expecting Lin to be a difference maker on a subpar team is expecting too much.  Similarly, while Lopez is a fine player with great talent, do not let his recent production fool you.  Regardless of how much Lopez produces, he is not and should not be part of the future of this team.  We owe Lopez a trade, and we owe the city of Brooklyn a trade.  Expecting Lopez to be a long-term answer is expecting too much.

With young prospects in the fold, many Nets fans had high hopes.  Caris LeVert was drafted as a ready-now NBA talent.  Many thought he could step in immediately to contribute and that his injury set the team back.  Hollis-Jefferson had the physical stature of a lockdown defender and drew comparisons to Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler.  However, expecting these young talents to help bring winning back to Brooklyn in the near future, was expecting too much.

Restricted Free Agent Hopes

The Nets’ hopes and dreams were shattered in the summer after both Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe received a match from their respective teams.  Both of these players were young, athletic, and could fill the cup.  Wisely, after striking out on both free agents, rather than moving forward with other desperation signings, Marks stood pat and waited to fight another day.

The other failed signing came this past week in the form of Donatas Motiejunas.  Although Motiejunas is no game changer, at 26 years old, his best basketball is ahead of him.  As a legitimate seven footer, Motiejunas has shown flashes of talent, although injury has prevented his growth.  Most importantly, Motiejunas would be the perfect filler at center to open up a Lopez trade.  Unfortunately, history repeated itself.  In what now is a controversial move (as Motiejunas missed his physical), the Rockets matched the qualifying offer.

Perhaps the NBA is conspiring against Brooklyn.  Three matched qualifying offers for unproven players is not ideal.  Perhaps it is the universe that simply will not allow Nets fans to have a moment of joy.  Either way, moving forward, fans will be on the edge of their seats whenever Marks extends an offer to a restricted free agent.

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