BACK on June 27th, 2013 I can assure you that the Brooklyn front office didn’t have 2018 on their mind. Their now infamous trade with the Boston Celtics put the franchise back years after they mortgaged their future and went all in on winning with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. As we all know things didn’t go according to plan, yet the light at the end of the tunnel is almost within sight.
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SINCE that trade Brooklyn has missed out on drafting players with the 17th (2014), 3rd (2016) and potentially 1st overall pick (2017) as Boston has happily accepted the gifts Billie King gave them. Players like Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Jaylen Brown, Nikola Jokic, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Clint Capela and virtually anyone they wanted in the class of 2017 could have all been wearing BKLYN across their chests. Could have…
HOWEVER, for all the crap that has been slung at the Nets for that trade, they haven’t backed down from the challenge in front of them. It’s tough to build a future for your team without those high draft picks, but the Nets have managed to do just that. They hit on late first-rounders in the form of Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson then traded for D’Angelo Russell last offseason. After being run out of town in LA, Russell, who is a former 2nd overall pick joined the team with high hopes of leading the squad through a successful stretch.
THANKS to the Nets front office, and with the help of Kenny Atkinson they have helped usher in a new era in Brooklyn, despite the turmoil and losses that have continued to pile up. Just when things were looking up though they lost Jeremy Lin to an ACL tear in the season opener and Russell injured himself just 12 games in. It seemed like those L’s were going to keep flowing once again, that was until Spencer Dinwiddie entered.
THE fourth-year guard has played at an All-Star level for the franchise since Russell went down. In a recent article by The Ringer Dinwiddie talked about how he just needed a chance to prove that he can play at this level, and boy is he relishing in the role. Considered a measly role player in the past, Dinwiddie’s growth is just one reason that the Nets are a much harder team to face each night.
SINCE Russell’s injury in mid-November, Dinwiddie has put up 14.8 points and 7.0 assists (11th most in the league) a game while keeping the Nets in a lot of games. Over the last fortnight, they have fought out close games against some of the league’s top teams. Two overtime losses to Washington and Toronto, a close two-point loss to the best team in the East in Boston and a one-point win over Minnesota highlights the level that Brooklyn is capable of playing at. And they’ve managed to do so with their best player sidelined.
KENNY Atkinson deserves a lot of the credit for the Nets’ success, instilling a system that is allowing him to get every bit he can out of his team. A starting group that boasts Dinwiddie, Hollis-Jefferson, LeVert, Acy and Carroll might have been laughed at in the past, but things are different in Brooklyn with Atkinson at the helm. Playing at one of the league’s fastest paces they are steadily improving both offensively and defensively. While they might still only be ranked around the middle of the pack, it’s a place Brooklyn haven’t found themselves for a long time.
Image from bostonglobe.com
SQUEEZING every drop that Atkinson can out of his players makes them far from easy beats every night forcing teams to take notice. With wins over heavy hitters in OKC and Cleveland, the Nets may look back on this season as a turning point in their history. After this season normality returns as they retain ownership of their first rounders.
THE Cavaliers own their first-round draft pick this season, a pick that was a coveted part of the Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving trade. Every time Brooklyn steps on the floor though it decreases in value as they keep grinding out unexpected wins. A deal with Toronto also provides the Nets with another chance to find a diamond in the rough come the late 20’s.
WITH their picks and D’Angelo Russell coming back, coupled with a newfound level of competitiveness the Nets can finally believe that the long winter stranded at the bottom of the standings is coming to a close. Boasting a nucleus with exciting young talent, and with no reason to tank this season, this gritty Brooklyn team is only going to keep getting better. Finally.
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