Nothing but Nets (Day 12)
Good morning everyone!
It is Day 12 of the Anion Sports 25 Days of Christmas blog. Today, I want to bring up something that’s been brewing for a long time: the Brooklyn Nets are building something interesting. They have been and are doing it right under our noses.
Let’s start with this offseason. A team without its own high draft pick as a result of the horrendous trade with the Boston Celtics managed to pull D’Angelo Russell, a talented guard, out of Los Angeles due to organizational fit. Cool. I was a tad perplexed by the Lakers decision to cut bait with DLo after thinking that him and Lonzo would have formed quite the pair with their ability to both make insane plays. Russell’s scoring ability would have slotted him nicely next to the more passive Ball. Nonetheless, the Nets received the former #2 overall pick in the draft and the Lakers drafted a pretty solid player with the draft pick they obtained (Kuzma has been better than advertised) in addition to Brook Lopez.
Adding Russell was met with optimism. Bringing his skillset to a roster that was sorely lacking a go-to option was instantly rewarded as he averaged 20 points and 5.7 assists before going down with a knee injury. The Nets, still hamstrung from that terrible trade, made more noise for how bad they were and how that affected the winner of the Kyrie Irving trade. Something they didn’t directly partake in!
This is where things get interesting. For a good amount of this season, I have been confused as to why the Philadelphia 76ers weren’t playing big man Jahlil Okafor. Obviously, having Joel Embiid is the reason why he wouldn’t start, but the former Kansas big has been on a minutes limit all year and Jah was never called on to fill those up. I won’t even get into how much of a travesty that is, especially with a team that maybe could have gotten him going with the special talent that is now around him in Ben Simmons.
Fast forward to today. Okafor, freed from his purgatory at the end of the Sixers bench, is slated to make his Brooklyn debut tonight. I expect him to eventually start and play big minutes. Eventually Russell will be back and then the Nets can really sit back and analyze this. They have acquired the #2 and #3 players from the 2015 draft class for pennies on the dollar. Seriously.
The potential of this is almost unprecedented. Can someone name the last time two players drafted as high played together three years after they entered the league? I guess we’ll have to wait on ESPN to run that stat together when this pays off.
The Nets, sans a high draft pick, have essentially made up for it. The roster is brimming with potential as they were able to still draft Jarrett Allen this past summer and they still employ Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, etc. Oh, and they have the Toronto’s pick this year (not great, but better than nothing). This is the final year of the trade from Hell, so the team can control its own draft pick starting in 2019. Hint: they can add to their newfound core going forward.
Look, I’m not going to say the Nets are going to become contenders overnight. But the Moneyball in me was going crazy after seeing how shrewd they’ve been in their transactions ever since getting screwed for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Kudos to the Nets. Going forward, they should be able to navigate a space for themselves as fringe playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference. Maybe in a few years, the two exiled players from the 2015 draft can become a dynamic duo. Only time will tell. Don’t be surprised if they end up being a good team. Sooner, rather than later. I loved DLo coming out of college and Jahlil is still a supremely talented offensive player going to a team that can help him develop on both sides. Just wait on it.