The 2018-19 Brooklyn Nets exceeded expectations in many ways, from player development to overall record. Few pundits had them making the playoffs, myself included, but I guess I shouldn’t have underestimated Kenny Atkinson, who has established himself as one of the upper-echelon coaches in the league. Sean Marks can also be credited for assembling a team with a good mix of youthful exuberance and veteran experience. Although, they were bounced in the first round by Philadelphia, hardly any Nets fans could feel disappointed with how the season turned out given the low expectations.
2018-2019 Record: 42-40
Outlook: To say the Nets made some key acquisitions is an understatement. That being said, expectations for the upcoming season may again be fairly low, considering Kevin Durant will be out for most, if not the entirety of the year with a ruptured achilles tendon. I think most fans would agree that next year will be when the Nets window will open for them to contend for and hopefully win a championship. That doesn’t mean this can’t be a fun year for the Nets to make a run in the playoffs. I would expect this team to win at least one round in the playoffs this year with a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals being about as much as you could wish for. Realistically, I could see them winning their first round matchup and making it a series in the second round, but I don’t see them beating a team like the 76ers or the Bucks.
- Kyrie Irving
- Kevin Durant
- DeAndre Jordan
- Taurean Prince
- Garrett Temple
- Nicolas Claxton (R)
- Jaylen Hands (R)
- David Nwaba
- D’Angelo Russell
- DeMarre Carroll
- Allen Crabbe
- Ed Davis
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
- Jared Dudley
- Shabazz Napier
Did I mention there was a lot of turnover in Brooklyn this offseason? This team played with a lot of chemistry last year, so it might take a while before they find their identity. However, the upgrade in overall talent is undeniable.
How long will it take before this becomes Kyrie Irving’s team? D’Angelo Russell was a popular player in the Nets locker room and was certainly in the mix for most improved player, so Kyrie will have to earn these guys’ respect. I’m sure they understand the nature of the business and why the Nets had to make the move, but you can’t just buy respect and Kyrie’s reputation precedes him. I don’t believe everything about Kyrie being a bad locker room presence. He may not be a media darling, but as long as he lets his play do the talking, the Nets should be okay. As far as his fantasy value is concerned, I don’t see it going up or down too much from last year, but I could see being mildly bullish on him because he has something to prove on a new team. Spencer Dinwiddie is an interesting fantasy option. I could see the Nets running a lot of two point guard sets, with Dinwiddie also serving as the primary backup. Dinwiddie should remain a solid low-end guy for fantasy teams. I don’t watch much college basketball admittedly, but from what I’ve read about Jaylen Hands, he’s a solid passer who lead the PAC-12 in assists last season with 6.1 per game, but he needs to work on his defense. He’s only 6’3” and defense tends to be an issue for a lot of smaller guys, but I trust that Sean Marks saw something in him that inspired him to draft Hands late in the second round.
I’m looking for Caris LeVert to have a big breakout year. Last year, he was looking primed for just that before he literally snapped his leg in half. Okay, it was subtalar dislocation of his right foot, but if you saw it that’s what it looked like. If you didn’t see it, search for the video if you like looking at gruesome sports injuries. Despite how bad it looked, he miraculously returned later in the year and managed to play pretty well considering how bad the leg looked after the injury. If Paul George can come back from his injury, which was far worse than what Levert suffered, I’m not overly concerned about LeVert regaining his athleticism. He’ll have a big opportunity to run with Kyrie and be the second scoring option for the Nets. Garrett Temple is a nice veteran addition who can play defense. He’s a low-upside fantasy guy, but a solid real life player. Pretty much the same can be said for David Nwaba. Theo Pinson is the life of the bench. Check out his GIFs if you don’t know who he is. He’s very accomplished in the NBA G-League, but has yet to prove much at the NBA level. Dzanan Musa was the Nets’ first-round pick from last year, but didn’t see much of the court at the NBA level due to injuries and lack of seasoning. The Bosnian is actually the youngest player on the team, so this can pretty much be viewed as his rookie year. Sean Marks has certainly hit on European players before, think Bojan Bogdanovic and Rodions Kurucs, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy blossom in the future. He has a lot of potential as a scorer and is an able passer, but for now he’s more of a watchlist guy for fantasy. 2021 could be his breakout.
I doubt Kevin Durant will play this year and I think the Nets would be smart to advise him to sit unless he recovers miraculously quickly. Risking him coming back too soon and reinjuring himself would be the worst case scenario for the Nets, so I think Nets fans can just forget about him for this year. Joe Harris had a nice breakout season last year, and his role as a sharpshooter/slasher should continue. He’s a consistent source of points and threes in fantasy and is a low-volume, yet great free throw shooter. Rodions Kurucs showed well as a rookie. I’d go as far as to say that only Mitchell Robinson was a better second-round pick last season. He could have some fantasy value as a scorer off of the Nets’ bench. Taurean Prince had a disappointing ’18-’19 season. I think a lot of people thought he was a breakout candidate after showing improvement his sophomore season with the Hawks. His numbers regressed a bit in his third year, as injuries hampered him and he ended up missing 27 games. If anyone can turn him around, it’s Kenny Atkinson so I could see some improvements, but he probably won’t get as many shots on the Nets as he did on the far less talented Hawks.
Again, I’m not the best rookie prognosticator, but from what I’ve read about Nicolas Claxton he is a freak athlete, a plus defender, and can block shots. Blocks are very hard to come by in fantasy so my interest is piqued. He is said to be a work in progress on the offensive end, but the Nets should be fairly strong on that front, so as long as he can rebound (something the Nets did not do well last year), he should be a valuable piece for this team. Henry Ellenson showed flashes of brilliance on the Knicks last season, but I’m not sure he’s going to get much playing time. Alan Williams is an energy guy off the bench who can be ignored for fantasy purposes, but in a pinch can get the job done when called upon.
The Nets addressed their lack of defense at the center position by bringing in arguably the best defensive free agent center available: DeAndre Jordan. Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis got absolutely bullied by Joel Embiid in the playoffs and it was clear this team needed some toughness down low. This was a perfect fit for both the Nets and Jordan, as he gets to play for a contender and the Nets get a veteran big man with All-Star credentials to mentor Allen, while also being a key contributor. Jarrett Allen was a popular breakout candidate last year and, although he was a solid player for the Nets, he wasn’t exactly the fantasy stud his owners had hoped for. His offensive game is mostly dunking the ball, but his free throw percentage regressed from his rookie year (77.6% down to 70.9%). If he can fall somewhere in between there from the stripe and block a few more shots, he can have that breakout his owners were expecting last year.