Last Season: 21-61, 14th in East
Off-season Gains: PG Jeremy Lin (free agent), PF Trevor Booker (free agent), PG Greivis Vasquez (free agent), PF Luis Scola (free agent), SG Caris LeVert (draft trade), SG Randy Foye (free agent), PF Anthony Bennett (free agent), SG Joe Harris (free agent), C Justin Hamilton (free agent)
Off-season Losses: PF Thaddeus Young (trade/Indiana), PG Shane Larkin (free agent/Spain), SG Wayne Ellington (free agent/Miami), SG Markel Brown (free agent), PG Jarrett Jack (waived/Atlanta), PF Thomas Robinson (free agent), PF Willie Reed (free agent/Miami)
Off-season Stock: Buy, but only because it's penny stock.
League Pass Team?: Seriously? I might even skip the Spurs' games against them.
Oy vey. Poor Kiwi. I don't know whether to: a) feel bad for Sean Marks for taking the Nets' GM job, b) be blown away by his self-confidence, or c) seriously question his judgment. I can't think of a worse situation to be a front office executive, except maybe the Kings. I don't think I'm being controversial here by stating that Brooklyn has the least talent of any roster in the league. It's probably not even close. They are a living, breathing textbook example of why sports leagues are far more interesting when relegation is involved. Why would anyone but die-hard fans watch them? Not only is the roster essentially Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and a bunch of dudes, but they can't even offer their fans the Horatio Alger draft fairy tale of hope, thanks to how badly Celtics GM Danny Ainge swindled counterpart Billy King at owner Mikhail Prokhorov's behest to acquire the golden years of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Try wrapping your head around this. Not only did they surrender what ended up being the third pick of the draft to Boston last June, but they'll have to give up their first-round pick to them again in 2018 AND the Celts will have the right to swap first-round picks with them in 2017, which they'll undoubtedly do. That's three straight lotteries they'll have to sit out when they're in desperate need of talent.
So, I ask again. What executive in his/her right mind would take this job? It looks ten times more bleak on paper than what Brett Brown signed up for when he accepted the 76ers coaching job in 2013. Philly had nothing, but at least there were lottery picks. What are the Nets left with, except the fruitless prayer of trying to convince free agents to take their money?
Now, I don't automatically buy in to the myth that anyone with Spurs connections will automatically be successful elsewhere. It's fair to say the results have been mixed, both for coaches and executives. The Nets are sort of doubling up here on the San Antonio roots, with both Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson (who was Mike Budenholzer's top assistant with the Hawks and therefore a branch off the tree) but they're both first-timers here in the top seat, so maybe that's why they took these jobs.
All that being said, let's look at the roster. Using the eye test, it seemed like Lopez had a renaissance last season, surprising his critics by staying healthy the whole season and playing almost 2,500 minutes. He's one of the handful of legitimate big-man scorers in the league. However, his PER was the lowest it's been since 2010-11 and Real Plus-Minus wasn't a big fan either, even offensively. Lopez is 28 and he'll be well into his decline phase by the time the Nets are competitive. I'll be surprised if Marks doesn't trade him at some point this season.
In theory, I like the signing of Lin. Relative to the deals being signed across the league, it was a bargain, and will play well with the fans who'll be hoping for a revival of "Linsanity." I think he's a bit overstretched as a starter, especially on a team without much around him. He's a spotty shooter and really isn't a play-maker. While there are numerous players around the league who are more valuable than their stats suggest, I think Lin is the opposite: someone who can murder your team on the odd night (as Spurs fans can attest) but a fellow whose warts become apparent the more you see him.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had the kind of rookie season expected of him. He's already their best perimeter defender and will play way more as sophomore with Joe Johnson no longer in the picture. It remains to be seen if his offensive game will ever develop. Bojan Bogdanovic is a guy I like. He's just entering his prime and can really shoot. In Atkinson's offense he should get more open looks. The problem here is neither he nor RHJ have the handle to play the two, so it's going to be an imperfect fit. RealGM's depth chart lists Luis Scola as their starting four, and they can't be serious about that. At this stage you've got to go with Trevor Booker. Either way we're looking at four below-average or worse defenders here in the starting lineup.
They've pretty much jettisoned their entire bench too, with Marks either renouncing the team's rights or the players declining their options. Shane Larkin, for example, preferred Spain over the Nets. One intriguing piece is rookie Caris LeVert, the 20th pick of the draft, whom they acquired from the Pacers for Thaddeus Young. LeVert shot over 40 percent from downtown his final three seasons at Michigan, including 44.6 percent as a senior. Sean Kilpatrick is another option at two-guard. He rose from obscurity and provided some decent scoring punch over the final two months of last season before lighting it up in the Las Vegas Summer League -- but his defensive stats were horrendous. They signed Randy Foye (in accordance with a little-known clause in the CBA that states Foye has to play for every team before he retires) and also Greivis Vasquez, who lost a year in his injury-plagued stint with Milwaukee. There's just no size here. Right now Justin Hamilton is their backup center. You'd think there's a better option in the D-League or playing abroad somewhere.
In conclusion, be wary of watching the Nets. They could make you like basketball less.