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Early Win-Loss Predictions for Brooklyn Nets' Next Season

Apr 5, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mason Plumlee (1) during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Nets defeated the Sixers 105-101. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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Thomas DuffyFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 13, 2017

Last summer, the Brooklyn Nets were viewed as a superteam, a title contender and the biggest roadblock standing between LeBron James and a third NBA championship.

Oh, how times have changed.

In 2013-14, the Nets put forth the most expensive roster in NBA history. It may go down as one of the most disappointing.

Brooklyn rebounded from a dreadful start and managed to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 44-38 record last year. After barely getting past the Toronto Raptors, the Nets got emphatically bounced by James’ Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs.

Brooklyn has had a bizarre offseason to say the least. With a new coach, a few big losses and some interesting additions to the roster in place, the Nets are a much different team than they were heading into last season.

Will the new-look Nets finish better, worse or the same as last year?

 

New coach and roster

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Jason Kidd weaseled his way out of Brooklyn after a demand for more power in the franchise was shot down, as reported by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. Kidd will command the sidelines of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014-15.

Brooklyn managed to get a second-round pick in return for Kidd’s departure. Even better, the team wasted no time in bringing in veteran coach Lionel Hollins.

While Kidd proved to be pretty quirky with his lineups, Hollins is known to be more traditional. That means that Jarrett Jack will most likely back Deron Williams up, not play alongside him.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Brooklyn’s core is still on the older side, and Hollins, with seven years of service and three playoff runs under his belt, will presumably provide a stronger voice than Kidd could with no prior coaching experience.

Hollins won’t have Paul Pierce or Shaun Livingston at his disposal, but he will have an influx of newcomers in Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson.

Most importantly, Hollins will be in command of a healthy one-two punch with D-Will and Brook Lopez.

Here’s what the former Memphis Grizzlies coach told Newsday’s Roderick Boone on August 6:

Deron is healthy, Brook is healthy and they are both able to work out.

So conditioning is something they both will be able to work on as they move forward, and when you are in shape you can go out, and try things, and do things because naturally if you are successful, your confidence rises. That's the only way I look at it and that's my approach.

Mason Plumlee will also play a key role in Brooklyn after a breakout rookie campaign. As told to Boone, Hollins is very high on the 24-year-old big man, who was vying for a spot on Team USA at the time of the comments:

It’s a great opportunity. I was in Vegas with Mason. I was going to the practices. I talked to Coach K and Jerry Colangelo. Everybody is high on him. He’s a young player that has a big future in him. We’re expecting big things from him and so this experience of playing with some of the best players in the league and in this setting, and have the opportunity to be in a formal environment in the summer.

Joe Johnson, the Nets’ top scorer, remains intact as the foundation of the team's offensive attack. Add Iso Joe to a healthy duo of Williams and Lopez, and Hollins will have a lot to work with this season.

 

Competition in the division, conference

May 8, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) prior to a game against the Brooklyn Nets  in game two of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors re-signed Kyle Lowry—aka the D-Will Destroyer—and will return every crucial player that they had a season ago.

Even though Toronto made a completely mind-boggling move in drafting Bruno Caboclo 20th overall, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and Lowry will be enough to make the Raptors the favorites in the Atlantic.

General manager Masai Ujiri made up for that ridiculous draft pick by trading John Salmons to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for an electrifying guard in Lou Williams and a high-upside center in Lucas Nogueira, who spent last season in Spain.

Forget about the Philadelphia 76ers; 10 years and a million draft picks from now, watch out. But the Sixers will be a walking embarrassment yet again this season.

Mar 10, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives past Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (8) during the first quarter at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
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That leaves the task of upending Toronto to Brooklyn and the New York Knicks. The Nets and Knicks do boast more big-name players, but the Raptors are younger, more athletic and just flat-out better.

While the wise bet would be on the Raptors to win the division, that doesn’t mean that the Nets have no chance to make the postseason.

James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer instantly made them the big dogs in the East. A healthy Derrick Rose will help the Chicago Bulls re-emerge as a top-three team in the conference.

John Wall and Bradley Beal’s Washington Wizards will be in the mix. Don’t sleep on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh’s Miami Heat, either. And the Charlotte Hornets? The horrendous days of the Bobcats are over, my friends.

As a Nets fan, you’re probably going down the line of Eastern Conference teams and getting nervous. As well you should be.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards stands during free throws against Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls during the game at the Verizon Center on January 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

If Williams’ game returns to the level it was at in his Utah Jazz days, the Nets could get a decent seed and even take the division. But don’t count on that.

Brooklyn’s best chance to make some noise in the postseason would be to slip into the seventh or eighth seed and hope for a David-versus-Goliath series victory.

Maybe an injury, trade or some other roster change will occur and shake up the East.

But as of right now, Brooklyn is looking up at a tough climb. A doable climb, yes, but an an arduous one for sure.

 

Looking ahead to the finish line

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 19:  Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball during Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Raptors of the 2014 NBA playoffs on April 19, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, C
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Brooklyn began last season with an abysmal 10-21 stretch and still managed to finish 44-38. With less offseason hype and a veteran, hard-nosed coach, the Nets would figure to get off to a stronger start in 2014-15.

While there are some serious contenders—the Cavs, Bulls, Wizards, Raptors—there are still a lot of bottom feeders in the East to beat up on. The Bucks, Sixers, Orlando Magic and even the Indiana Pacers will serve as punching bags.

The Nets can hold their own among the elite in the regular season. Just ask the 2013-14 Heat, a team that fell to Brooklyn in all four of their contests. Winning a series is where the problem will present itself.

Don’t fall asleep on the Nets this year. While winning the division is daunting task, this is still a team with a strong core and a proven head coach.

Last season was a tale of two halves for Brooklyn—the team was terrible at first and then awesome after New Year’s.

There will be more consistency this season, but the end result will probably wind up looking very similar to what it was a year ago.

Record: 46-36
Division: 2nd place
Conference: 7th place

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