NBN Roundtable: New Year’s Resolutions For 2017

Dec 23, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Chris McCullough (1) warms up before the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

2016 has finally come to an end, and the Brooklyn Nets stand at 8-24. What can we reflect on from 2016 and look forward to in 2017?

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Sandy Mui (@sandymui1134)

Reflecting on 2016

The 2016 offseason began with a little heartbreak, as the Brooklyn Nets traded away one of my favorite players, Thaddeus Young. Luckily, the way I see it now, this trade has paid off for the Nets, as Caris “The Gazelle” LeVert is thriving in his small sample size of 12 games in Brooklyn. Soon enough, we’ll see LeVert develop into an All-Star, and he’ll hopefully be part of the long-term success that will eventually (key word: eventually) transpire in Brooklyn.

LeVert is only one of the many new additions to the team in the 2016, as the Nets had a roster turnover of 12 players, with just five players remaining from the 2015-16 squad. I’m particularly pleased with what Sean Kilpatrick has turned into, as many of you know Kilpatrick’s jersey is the only jersey I own, and I did call him “our hero” before his 38-point outburst.

Trevor Booker has also been a pleasant surprise, since after Thad’s departure, I was 92.75 percent certain that Brooklyn would see a downgrade at power forward. Booker is certainly the only player who keeps the Nets holding onto a thread on the boards, and his game is well-versed in everything besides ball-handling.

There’s still a long way to go until this rebuild will churn out a satisfactory product, and I’m not overjoyed about the Nets’ 8-24 record at the end of 2016. Well, if I said that I was happy with an eight-win team 32 games into the season, you’d think I’m crazy.

While I’m not thrilled with where Brooklyn stands in terms of wins, I believe in Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson. Hopefully 2017 will only reel in more success for the Nets.

Looking Forward to 2017

In 2017, I hope to see the Nets take more advantage of the D-League, particularly their own D-League club, the Long Island Nets. They’ve been using the L.I. Nets quite efficiently this season, as both clubs practice and play in the same facilities. However, they’ve been reluctant to bring more D-League stars up to Brooklyn, mainly using the squad that was assembled during the 2016 offseason. Yogi Ferrell was brought up, but only due to the lack of help at the point guard position after Jeremy Lin went down.

Meanwhile, Chris McCullough has been a journeyman for both squads and hasn’t even played in half of the Nets’ games nor received more than garbage minutes. The 6-foot-9 power forward has been dominant for L.I. though, doing everything from electrifying dunks, to knocking down long twos and even shots from behind the arc. He is L.I.’s second leading scorer with 19.6 points per game, just a tad behind Ferrell’s 19.7 points per game.

A more unknown name (yet highly popular in the underground league), Trahson Burrell, is killing it for Long Island as well. Burrell is averaging a near double-double with 13.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, but has yet to squeak a call from Brooklyn.

Based on how certain Nets are performing, it’s only a matter of time until players like McCullough and Burrell get more of an opportunity in Brooklyn. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement should help the Nets in this sense, adding two more roster spots and allowing two-way contracts for players who see minutes on both squads. McCullough would certainly fill one of these spots if he’s down in L.I. for all of eternity.

There’s always a hidden gem out there, and the Nets are more than likely to find one in the D-League, since they don’t own their first-round draft picks for another couple of years. Marks found a keeper in Kilpatrick, and there’s no reason the Nets can’t land even more undiscovered talent from the D-League.

Feb 19, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets new general manager Sean Marks speaks to the media during a press conference before a game against the New York Knicks at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

TJ Porreca (@tjporreca_23)

Reflecting on 2016

In February 2016, the Nets hired Sean Marks as general manager. As an NBA executive, Marks comes from the San Antonio Spurs tree, and has a great pedigree. There is no way around it, and Marks inherited a mess in Brooklyn.

The Nets are stuck in a tough position when it comes to roster building, due to the Billy King era. It will take patience, but Marks appears to be the right executive to lead the Nets into the future. The Nets don’t have much in the way of draft picks in the immediate future, but there are other avenues for Marks to add talent. Marks added Jeremy Lin in free agency, traded for the draft pick which would become Caris LeVert, and traded up in the second round of the draft to select Isaiah Whitehead. This type of creativity has given Brooklyn a few pieces to work with moving forward.

The toughest aspect of the season so far has been the point guard depth. Jeremy Lin has suffered multiple hamstring injuries and has missed a game due to a tight back. Greivis Vasquez, initially expected to be Lin’s backup, was released after it was determined that he would need ankle surgery. In the aftermath, the Nets tried multiple options: Yogi Ferrell, Isaiah Whitehead, and Spencer Dinwiddie. With Lin currently out again, the point guard job belongs to Whitehead.

The reality is it’s impossible to try to predict these types of injuries. The Nets thought they had a contingency plan with a mix of veterans and young players at point guard, but the position has been decimated by injuries. It’s tough to say with certainty, but the Nets would likely have a better record than they do now, if not for their point guard injuries.

Looking Forward to 2017

The Nets have had some tough breaks due to injuries, but to be quite honest, other teams have as well. Ultimately, this Nets team has to move forward with the pieces on hand. To get better, Brooklyn must improve their team defense, and the Nets often struggle to rebound as well. This team can absolutely make progress in 2017 before the season ends. Will it be enough to make the playoffs? Probably not — Brooklyn is still a few years away. But the Nets can make progress in this rebuilding season which could help lay the foundation for the future of Nets basketball.

Mar 15, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) looks to drive around Brooklyn Nets forward Chris McCullough (1) during the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Pisani (@pisannd5)

Reflecting on 2016

The best thing that has happened to the Nets in 2016 was firing Billy King and replacing him with Sean Marks. King put it all on the table, and it did not work out for him or the Nets. Brooklyn searched for someone in a good organization that could make a change. They found Marks, a San Antonio Spurs guy, and Brooklyn fell in love. Marks has already made his marks with finding and signing Sean Kilpatrick, getting Jeremy Lin, and helping cut back the Nets’ cap space as well as getting head coach Kenny Atkinson. Marks can save Brooklyn, but it just may take some time.

The worst thing that happened to the Nets in 2016 was Luis Scola. Brooklyn is paying Scola $4.5 million this season, and he has been pretty terrible. He cannot score and he cannot rebound like he used to anymore. He did not even play against the Bulls. Something may be wrong with Scola, or maybe it is age. Either way, Brooklyn could have put that $4.5 million to use elsewhere.

I am content with the Nets at the end of 2016. I would have been happier if Jimmy Butler did not beat us at the buzzer, but, considering Lin is always out, the Nets are where I expected them to be. Brooklyn would have had more wins had Lin not gone down with his injury, but Brooklyn is nearly halfway to 20 wins, and we’re only two months into the season. So, with all that has happened, I am content with where Brooklyn is. They are fighting and even sometimes winning for me.

In 2016, Brooklyn has impressed me with their fight. Game in and game out, excluding the Cavs game, Brooklyn has fought. It caught everyone’s attention the first game of the year against the Celtics, when Brooklyn stormed back from more than 20 points down in the fourth quarter to get within two. This team has heart, and they like being the underdogs. They know that realistically they cannot make the playoffs, but they will try their darndest and have some fun along the way.

Looking Forward to 2017

I would like to see improvement in rebounding and assists. With Lin out, someone is going to need to control the floor and get the ball to where it needs to be. Isaiah Whitehead has his moments, and Spencer DInwiddie is capable of it at some point, but there really is no one else that can. Someone will need to take the reigns and lead this team until Lin can come back. As far as rebounding, Brook Lopez needs to be getting more than three to four rebounds per game. Trevor Booker is always getting double digit rebounds. If Lopez can up his rebound game, Brooklyn will have much better chances in the new year.

By the end of 2017, I expect Brooklyn to finally have a healthy team with one more asset. They have the draft, free agency, and the trade deadline to make something happen. Marks has already shown he is not afraid to make moves, so I expect more moves to be made. I do not expect any significant trades, but I can see a role player being added. I can also see someone coming to Brooklyn in free agency to help boost Brooklyn and put them back in playoff contention.

I would like to see Brooklyn sign Nerlens Noel. Noel has not been playing much, which means the Nets may be able to get him for relatively cheap. He could be a monster in the future if he is actually used and happy. Brooklyn could be a nice fit. Right now, the Nets’ only big man off of the bench for the most part is Justin Hamilton, and he is a shooter. Having this young big man on the team will improve the youth and brighten the future. Noel is a hell of a player, and Brooklyn should definitely target him this offseason.

Dec 23, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) handles the ball defended by Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow (20) at the Smoothie King Center. New Orleans won 91-87. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Ireland (@MackyIreland)

Reflecting on 2016

2016 was a rough year for the Nets. They cleaned house by releasing Joe Johnson, trading Thaddeus Young, as well as firing Billy King. All of these people being let go was a sign of Brooklyn looking for an a clean slate. This led to one of the best moves since moving to Brooklyn. They hired Sean Marks as general manager and are invested in head coach Kenny Atkinson.

It finally feels like a true rebuild for the Nets, as they are scouting young talent and allowing the team to go through the growing pains that all rebuilding teams do. Although the Nets do not own their own draft pick until 2019, the future of the team finally has the atmosphere of hope, hope that Marks will be able to right the ship and make the Nets a destination for big-name players for the first time in franchise history. No knows for sure if Marks can pull it off and create the same type of culture that he came from in San Antonio, however, many are optimistic he can do it.

Looking Forward to 2017

In 2017, the Nets are most likely going to be much of the same team towards the end of the current season. Unless the Nets trade for someone that a team is looking to salary dump (possibly Kenneth Faried) or an unbelievable deadline deal, the Nets will be focused on 2017 free agency.

Some of the big name free agents the Nets should pursue include Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Serge Ibaka. Out of these names, I think Evans would be a great fit for the Nets. Evans is a 6-foot-6 guard who plays like a point guard. Although Evans has not had a season like his Rookie of the Year campaign, he could see an increase in all his stats if he was the focal point of an offense.

Holiday is another point guard who could possibly be the best point guard for the Nets since Jason Kidd. The problem with both of these players is they have been injury prone over the last couple of seasons. If the Nets took a chance on either of these guys, they could be looking at another Deron Williams situation.

Ibaka is a guy that may be looking to leave the team he is currently on. He could help the Nets with their defense and rebounding problems. Having an athletic power forward to help a slow Brook Lopez protect the rim sounds like a smart move.

The final free agent the Nets should target is Jonathon Simmons. Simmons came on the scene last season, showing off his in-your-face defense. He then found himself a permanent spot on the roster after being in the D-League for quite some time. This season, he has been a streaky player, but he can continue to improve.

The problem is Simmons is already 27. For most players, this is the start of their prime years, so Simmons will most likely reach his full potential in the next few years. He will be a restricted free agent, and it will be hard to take him from the Spurs. The Nets would have to sign him to a contract the Spurs are uncomfortable committing to.

For the Nets, they have plenty of cap room to give restricted free agents huge contracts. We saw them practice this with Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe this offseason. The problem is: it would be silly for the Nets to commit a maximum contract to Simmons because he is not worth nearly that much. The Nets would need to hit a sweet spot that is just too much for the Spurs, but not detrimental to their own salary cap. Simmons is an intriguing option, but should not be the Nets’ primary target.

Dec 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert (22) dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott (11) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Cronin (@zach__cronin)

Reflecting on 2016

The calendar year has been interesting, to say the least. The Brooklyn Nets cleaned house and brought on a new coach and GM, which was the best thing they could’ve done for the franchise. Sean Marks has facilitated a myriad of moves to expedite the rebuilding process as quickly as he can, and first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson is doing the best he can with the pieces Marks has given him.

Still, it’s been rough. The Nets simply don’t have the talent to compete with the upper echelon NBA teams, and they routinely get drubbed by playoff-bound organizations. This isn’t their fault. The talent isn’t there, but they go out and compete. And they compete hard. A handful of upsets have been witnessed this year, and it only provides a glimpse of what the future can be.

As a fan, I wholly enjoy watching the Nets take the floor, even if I sound pessimistic when I speak about them. The grittiness and fire they play with is something that resonates with all New Yorkers; their blue-collar attitude is welcome across the five boroughs.

Looking Ahead to 2017

As we hit 2017, the biggest thing the Nets should focus on is cultivating chemistry with their core youngsters. Guys like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sean Kilpatrick, and Caris LeVert are vital for any long-term success, but they also need to take advantage of the veterans in the locker room and go to them as often as they can.

It’ll be awhile until Brooklyn can contend for a playoff spot, and the first step is Marks gaining ground after inheriting a franchise that was in a deeper hole than Shia LeBeouf after he allegedly stole those sneakers. Ideally, Marks would attempt to trade for a first-round draft pick for 2017, since that class is loaded with talent. Once the free agent period roles around, Marks has carte blanch, essentially, and can use his cap space to pursue a near-max-deal player. Serge Ibaka, anyone?

Dec 23, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Hawks won 109-108. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Milcos (@ChristianMilcos)

Reflecting on 2016

On January 10, 2016, the Nets finally decided to start anew by getting rid of two men who greatly contributed to setting this franchise back a decade. Billy King resigned and Lionel Hollins was fired, making Tony Brown the interim head coach for the rest of the season. This was a necessary move for the franchise in order to put the team in a different direction.

Since this overhaul, the Nets hired Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson to begin a long rebuild. So far, there isn’t a move either one has made that can be considered unproductive. From signing Jeremy Lin to finding gems such as Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris off the scrap heap, the Nets’ new leadership group is making all the right moves for a multi-year rebuild. This rebuild wouldn’t have been put into motion if Mikhail Prokhorov hadn’t decided to end an era in Nets history last January.

The 2016-17 Nets are much better then the 2015-16 team, yet their current record and position in the Eastern Conference doesn’t show this. This is largely due to the newfound motivation to win from every team in the conference. Teams who have tanked the past couple of seasons, such as the Sixers and Magic, made moves in this past offseason to try and compete for a playoff spot this Spring. As a result, Brooklyn is finding themselves up against formidable rosters on a nightly basis. However, Nets fans must keep in mind that from the locker room to the court, everything about this team is more respectable despite the fact that they will likely finish last in the Eastern Conference.

Considering the shape the old regime left this organization, this franchise is in the best place they can possibly be. They are taking fliers on young guys with a lot of upside, and some of these risks have turned out very well. These are building blocks who can continue developing and be kept for the long-term when the Nets ultimately get their picks and respectability back.

Focusing specifically on the current season to this point, their large volume of three-pointers taken stands out. Atkinson currently has his guys taking the third-most three pointers per game in the league while connecting on the fifth-most per contest. This is a complete change in offensive philosophy, compared to last season, when the Nets ranked 26th in the league in threes made per game. In a day and age where three-point shooting is highly valued among NBA franchises, the Nets seemed to have hit the nail in the head with this new direction offensively.

Looking Forward to 2017

Now that the Nets’ offensive woes seem to be figured as a result of this new system and finally having a true point guard, it’s time to take care of the other side of the ball. For every bit of praise the Nets have received for their offensive overhaul this season, there has been criticism for their defensive deficiencies. Brooklyn gives up the most points per game, averaging 114.4. This is an issue that must be addressed in coming months, as giving up 110+ points per night destroys the confidence of any team, especially one with a plethora of young players.

With no draft pick and little incentive for free agents to pay any mind to this team, consistent improvement and continuing to find diamonds in the rough should be the goal for Marks and company in 2017. By adding a little more talent this offseason, perhaps the Nets will be able to be in the playoff hunt next season with their ceiling being that of a seven or eight seed. This franchise will not be able to take bigs steps toward relevancy until they control their own destiny pertaining to draft picks and trade assets. Everything should begin to come together with lottery-level talent in place, combined with cap space. In short, June 2019 will be a joyous month for Nets Nation.

Top-tier free agents such as Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are simply out of the question for the Nets, which leaves players who are a step below superstardom as potential targets. Sharpshooting wing Gordon Hayward and all-around power forward Paul Millsap should be the ultimate targets goals for the Nets’ front office. Simply snatching up one of these two would be a huge accomplishment for Marks. Millsap would be the more likely one due to the connection he has with Atkinson from his years with the Hawks.

In continuing with the theme of throwing big offer sheets at restricted free agents, versatile wing Otto Porter would be a perfect candidate to potentially offer a max contract to.

Dec 18, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson shouts at his players during the first quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Daye (@NotTheChuckD)

Reflecting on 2016

I believe the best thing to happen to the Nets in 2016 was the end of the Billy King era. The new regime of Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson want to build a culture in Brooklyn and by all accounts, it seems to be what’s happening. The Nets have no picks, so they turn to the D-League. No “superstars” want to come ? Well, good, Brooklyn is building a Spurs-like culture where they don’t want “me” guys.

I enjoy watching the 2016-17 Nets exponentially more than any point during the 2015-16 season. I wanted the Nets to upgrade at point guard, and going from Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin to Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead was just that. I like focusing on the youth the team has, especially Chris McCullough, but I’m particularly impressed by how Atkinson has this team fighting hard every night. The #BrooklynGrit Nets really feel like the foundation of something positive in the future, regardless of the doom and gloom of the draft pick situation.

Looking Forward to 2017

For 2017, the Nets need to attempt to sign players that can immediately make an impact. I believe the Nets need to figure out whether it is best to start Lin going forward and if Whitehead is the future/answer for the Nets at point guard, or do they need to make another move for a floor general. The Nets could improve at every position besides center, and this is a point guard-league.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t want them to try and pursue Blake Griffin in free agency. Other than the obvious names like Stephen Curry, I’d like to see the Nets talk to Jonathon Simmons, Shabazz Muhammad, and possibly Jrue Holiday and Patty Mills. I would like the Nets to try and make moves for Mario Hezonja and Kenneth Faried. They are not free agents, but I believe the Nets could acquire both of them. That’s how much confidence I have in Marks.

By the end of the 2017-18 season, I’d like to see the Nets fighting their way into the playoffs, though that doesn’t seem too likely.

Dec 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick (6) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Dencker (@T_Danks_)

Reflecting on 2016

As we look back on the 2016 year as a whole for the Brooklyn Nets, it’s obvious that there wasn’t too much to be overly excited about. It was another losing season, and another year where the Nets appeared to be the laughingstock of the NBA. However, despite the rock-bottom lows, both the Nets players and Nets fans know that it can only go up from here.

Despite the consistent losses, the worst thing to happen to the Nets this year was certainly the loss of their top-three pick in the draft, which came at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Every year, if a team struggles, the draft is always the bright side to look forward to. Of course, this wasn’t the case for the Nets, as they knew that Boston would get the rights to their first pick this year, and most likely for the next few years as well (they still owe Boston a first-rounder in 2018, and Boston can swap picks with the Nets in the 2017 draft too).

On the flip side, though, I think the best thing to happen to the Nets this year was the outbreak of Sean Kilpatrick. While the Jeremy Lin signing delivered a newfound hope to the franchise and was certainly one of the best moments of the year, Lin has spent most of his 2016-17 campaign with the Nets hobbled with injury. “Skilpatrick,” on the other hand, has delivered in Lin’s absence, and is responsible for exciting fans and creating a new atmosphere. Without him, I’m not so sure the Nets would have as many wins as they do right now.

As a whole, though, it’s hard to say I’m pleased with the Nets at the end of 2016. However, I do believe they are heading in the right direction. They are giving their young guns a chance to develop and finally look like they are a team that is preparing for the future, opposed to a team that spends their money chasing washed-up veterans to try and snatch a seven or eight seed.

Looking Forward to 2017

In terms of looking forward to 2017, I really want to see the Nets improve their defense. While they’re scoring 106 points per game (which is 11th in the NBA and has thoroughly impressed me so far), they’re giving up a league-worst 114.4 points per game. Asking the Nets to score more than 114 points per game is far too much to ask, so the Nets need to do a much better job of limiting opponents scores in 2017.

By the end of 2017, I expect the Nets to be a more mature team as a whole. Hopefully they will have a starting five that they can count on, and from there, can focus strictly on development. It will be hard for them to get a brand new young face, as the Celtics will likely own their first-round pick, but maybe the Nets can get lucky in the free agency market.

Some potential targets that the Nets should consider in that free agency market come summer: Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, and Jrue Holiday. Ultimately, any somewhat young, highly productive players will do for the Nets at this point. Brook Lopez is aging, and the Nets soon need to find another player that can handle the big scoring workload that Lopez has handled all of these years.

So all-in-all, it may not have been the best year for the Nets, and 2017 may not be the best year either. But regardless, the most important thing is to trust the process, and to continue to believe in the players that Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks are putting on the court.

May 16, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks listens to Brooklyn Nets new head coach Kenny Atkinson answer questions from media during press conference at HSS Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Max Prinz (@FreshPrinz5)

Easily the best thing that happened to the Nets in 2016 was the hiring of Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson. There will never be enough words to fully describe the awfulness of the Nets’ infamous 2013 trade with Boston. But the hiring of Marks and Atkinson was a loud, welcome signal that those days of trying get-rich-quick schemes were over.

It may be two or three long years before the Nets see signs that their rebuild is working, but hiring two smart, hardworking, and respected leaders is an excellent start. The Nets remain largely a blank canvas, and it will be exciting to watch Marks and Atkinson instill a culture and develop an identity in the years to come.

MUST READ: Nets’ Top 10 Moments of 2016

Now, the first six months or so of the Marks/Atkinson administration have been encouraging, but it’s about to get even harder. Right now, Atkinson has the Nets playing hard and competing every night. It’s fantastic to watch, but the team has just eight wins to show for it. Can they sustain the energy and intensity they’ve shown for the rest of the season? Will there come a point where the losing takes a toll on the players?

After that comes a difficult offseason where the Nets will most likely surrender a top-5 pick to Boston and select a player much later in the draft. Their draft pick for the following 2018 season similarly goes to Boston. In all likelihood, Brooklyn will be bad both this season and the next. Will the patience promised in the hiring of Atkinson and Marks still be there?

Right now, the Nets are correctly valuing development over wins, and that needs to continue into 2017. Surrendering any young assets or future draft picks for aging, but splashy-named veterans cannot be an option. The focus should be continuing to work with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, and Isaiah Whitehead and take chances on younger players who need a fresh start. Losing those draft picks will be difficult to swallow, I’ll admit it. But the Nets desperately need to build a future–not mortgage it.

Dec 22, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) stitches before the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Castaneda (@_kevinn15)

Reflecting on 2016

The best thing that happened to the Nets in 2016 was definitely, hands down, firing Billy King. I was never a fan of his when he got fired, and I knew the Nets were doomed the day I heard about the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade. I was hopeful that it would work out, but I knew that it was a small window to work with, and we all know how it all ended up.

Worst thing that happened to the Nets this year.. hmmm this is tough because I feel they have really improved their personnel and the overall culture that the franchise should have. I would say losing out on Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe have been some of the worst things that have happened to the Nets. Johnson isn’t getting many minutes in Miami, and Crabbe hasn’t done insanely well in Portland. I know for a fact if either of these guys were to play in Brooklyn with the system that is in place, they would be candidates for Most Improved Player of the Year.

It’s hard to say I am pleased with the Nets given that they’re well under .500, however I did expect them to be way worse than they are. They’ve been competitive on most nights, and I have to be happy with that given that most people expected them to be blown out in every single game. They have definitely impressed me with their overall ball movement and the new offense that is in place right now.

Looking Forward to 2017

I wish that they could improve their defense in 2017 and that they can close games a lot more. A lot of the losses that have come so far have just been lack of execution late in games.

My expectations for 2017 is they win a lot more games and they stay healthier, specifically Jeremy Lin. He has proven to be a very valuable piece to this team in many ways, and he has for the most part of his young career, been able to stay healthy.

I think they’re a little too deep to make the playoffs this year, but I would sure love to see that. I also expect them to trade for some better pieces to the puzzle. I would love to see them sign a guy like Blake Griffin, but that’s definitely shooting for the moon.

I really do wish they go after Vince Carter at the end of his career, as I would love to see him one last time in a Nets uniform. As a fan who watched him play when I was a kid and seeing him in his glory days, it would mean way more than just signing a veteran.

Dec 20, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson reacts to a call against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Nets 116-104. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cuesta (@ACuestaNBN)

Reflecting on 2016

2016 brought some good moments and a whole lot of ugly for me as a Brooklyn Nets fan. The ugly mostly revolved around the awful play and lack of talent on the roster during the 2015-16 season. And by the end of the season, the Nets were a team devoid of talent, draft picks, and hope.

Things turned around as a change of guard at both the general manager and head coach positions brought along a fresh sense of hope for fans and players alike. I believe that new general manager Sean Marks and new head coach Kenny Atkinson are in it for the long haul and are going to make the Nets a well-run team and organization.

With hope on the horizon, I have been able to stay positive throughout the current lackluster season. The record doesn’t show it, but this young team plays hard every single night, and as a fan, that is all I can ask for.

A highlight for me personally was that at the end of 2016, I was given the opportunity to write for this great website, covering my favorite team in professional basketball. I have followed the website for a while and was elated when I was asked to join the team. It was the perfect highlight to end my year.

Looking Forward to 2017

Looking forward to 2017, I can only hope to see the team continue to grow and improve. There is a bevy of young talent on this roster, and Coach Atkinson seems to be the guy to develop it. They are a much-improved offensive team from last season, and their pace of play is a drastic change from the slow style of the past.

The biggest challenge for this team will be if they can turn all that young energy and talent into some defensive effort. The Nets have seemed allergic to playing defense this season by giving up over 110 points a game.

If they can improve upon their defense and couple it with their scoring ability, then I’d be excited to see how their season turns out. In the end, I am looking for development and good roster moves in the upcoming offseason.

Being a Nets fan at this stage in the rebuild means looking past the win/loss total and looking at the strides the players make on the team. If the team continues to try hard and put a fun product to watch on the court game in and game out, then it’ll be a happy 2017 for me.

Dec 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson reacts during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Cirillo (@chriscirillo_)

While an 8-24 record is nothing to pop champagne about as we prepare to change calendars, the Nets have started the rebuilding process with speed.

First off, let’s temper expectations. Not many people expected the Nets to be a playoff team, or even a competitive group for that matter. Kenny Atkinson has managed this team with those expectations in mind by building for the future.

Here’s how he’s done it so far.

First, the Nets have nine players averaging at least 20 minutes per game, all of whom are under 30 years old. They are one of just four teams (76ers, Nuggets, Pelicans) with nine players under 30 years old averaging 20 minutes per game.

The Nets have also played very fast. They are first in the league in pace with an average of 104.1 possessions per game, according to NBA.com. They have a relative pace of 5.5, according to Basketball Reference, a number that compares their tempo to the league average per 48 minutes. That is the highest number in Nets history. This is the fastest the Nets have ever played compared to the rest of the league.

Obviously, tempo does not always translate to more wins. But with a young team building for the future, Atkinson is getting his team as many reps as possible. The Nets have scored 110+ points 10 times this season in 31 games. They did that just 14 times all of last season.

With no incentive to tank, Atkinson has his team playing hard. Brook Lopez is averaging near his career-high in points (20.9) and topping his career-high in assists (2.8). Sean Kilpatrick has scored 20+ points eight times, something he had done just twice in his career before this season.

The Nets have a long way to go to reach NBA relevancy again. But by playing fast, they are not only speeding up the game, but speeding up the process as well.

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