Session 1, Brooklyn Nets 2017-18 Campaign, Part II:
Continuing on with the Brook-Lin Roundtable Sessions, this segment finishes up part II of the 2017-18 Campaign specific questions. Specifically, the scribes dive into their favorite game, play and performance. In addition our scribes opine on which franchise template or team they would like to see the Brooklyn Nets emulate moving forward.
What was your favorite game this season?
The Mexico City victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder proved satisfying in multiple ways. First, comeback wins are always more satisfying even if the comeback began rather early. Second, Caris LeVert had perhaps the best game of his career and provided some fan relief after a rough beginning to the season. Finally, the Mexico City audience and arena provided a fun alternative atmosphere and aesthetic to the usual NBA games.
Oddly enough, probably the April 7th game against the Chicago Bulls. The team set the franchise record for three-point makes and had a chance at the NBA record for most of the 4th quarter. Even though the Nets were beating up a team that had nothing left to play for, it was still fun to watch them control the game from start to finish. That game was also as close to the perfect execution of Kenny Atkinson’s offense that I can remember seeing, and bodes well for the future.
Back in October, Brooklyn toppled the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-107, and Spencer Dinwiddie had his coming out party. Cleveland had gotten off to a rocky start, but they still had LeBron James and could turn it on at any moment. Both teams traded punches before the Nets piled it on in the third quarter. Late in the fourth, after the Cavaliers began to storm back, Dinwiddie nailed a couple of clutch triples to secure the victory.
The April 7th game vs Chicago. I know this game came against a team trying to lose at the end of the year and there were more quality wins this year, but let’s be honest, this game was easily the most fun. Not only did the Nets hit 24 (!!!) three-pointers this game, but they also held a sorry Bulls team to under 100 points. Context is key here, but let’s completely ignore that and instead remember that the Nets beat a team by 28 points.
In a little bit of a cheat I’m going to pick the stretch of seven games between March 28 and April 9. The Brooklyn Nets won five of those contests and picked up their only three game win streak of the season. Recognizing the absolute heat check perimeter shooting over the Bulls makes it an easy game to isolate. But, I was more impressed with the overtime victory over the tough and gritty Miami Heat and victory over the Bucks. At the time, both squads were battling for playoff position, so the Nets victories were even more impressive. Furthermore, the Brooklyn Nets won those matches via different methods. Verus the Heat it was arguably the best reserve performance of the season. While the defeat of the Bucks marked perhaps the most complete team win of the year.
Which Nets player performance stood out as the performance of the year?
Maybe my recency bias is kicking in, but Allen Crabbe’s 41-point explosion against the Chicago Bulls in early April was sensational. Crabbe struggled to find consistency with his jumper until the second-half of the year, and, on his 25th birthday, everything clicked, allowing him to bury the Bulls with electrifying shot after electrifying shot.
There almost definitely were better Brooklyn performances than Spencer Dinwiddie’s October 25th game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dinwiddie almost assuredly had better games himself later in the year. However, after the deflating early injuries to Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, this 22 point performance to lead the Nets over the omnipotent LeBron James and reigning East champs Cavaliers felt necessary. Necessary in terms of reassuring the Brooklyn fanbase that, despite not being stacked with talent and not having a draft pick, there will be reasons to find joy and excitement from this Nets team.
Joe Harris‘ nearly-perfect night against the Cavaliers on March 25th. Harris set his career-high against the team that cut him two years ago and basically matched LeBron shot-for-shot in the first half.
I’m always a sucker for watching a player get pay back on their former team. Therefore, Joe Harris serving notice to the Cleveland Cavaliers was thoroughly entertaining. Additionally, with the Brooklyn Nets not having much to celebrate this season witnessing Spencer Dinwiddie’s performance during All-Star weekend also registered among my favorite moments. Dinwiddie represented himself and the franchise well in interviews and then via his win in the skills challenge.
To continue with the theme of bashing the Bulls, I’m going with Allen Crabbe’s 41-point game vs Chicago on April 9. Again, the same context applied above, applies here (the Bulls were fined for trying to lose too blatantly earlier this season) but seriously, Crabbe scored 41 points in an NBA game. The man who was traded for what essentially ended up being Andrew Nicholson‘s corpse and a worthless draft pick, scored 41 (!) points in a game. In said game, he shot 8/11 from the three-point line, 9/9 from the free throw line, and 12/15 from the field overall.
This was the best, if not most unexpected individual performance of the year.
Which individual play tops you list for Play of the Year?
The Nets’ play of the year also involves the Bulls, but this time it was rookie-on-rookie crime. Jarrett Allen — all 6-foot-11 of him — elevated over Lauri Markkanen and dunked on him so hard he boarded the first flight back to Finland. It was magical. Allen’s afro flopped as he came crashing down over the lottery pick, and even the Bulls’ bench had a couple of stank faces on it.
Jarrett Allen’s dunk all over Lauri Markkanen.
Not to be redundant, but ^^^^^ ditto. Check out Denzel Valentine‘s face on the Bull’s bench
Occurring from the above Cavaliers game, the Dinwiddie 30 foot three to take a 106-104 lead with 40 seconds left felt like a pivotal moment. Not only did it show “Hey, maybe Spencer will be pretty good in this lead guard role?”, but there is a little schadenfreude in disappointing Cavalier fans by ruining the draft position of their pick. Don’t count out the Nets!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words ….
If you could pick a team the Nets could emulate which squad would it be and why?
Although the Nets seemingly were looking to emulate the Rockets (multi perimeter shots/quick pace) it would behoove them to look North. Sure, it’s my native land, but there is something to be said for an organization who builds their core while simultaneously developing their youth. In truth, even the Raptors template isn’t unique as they built their system to emulate the Spurs.
Still, with a few core assets in place (Hollis-Jefferson, Allen, Russell, LeVert) and multiple second round picks the Nets are in a position to do precisely what Toronto did by drafting smartly and developing that talent. Case in point Pascal Siakam was the 27th pick and Norman Powell the 46th pick. Fred VanVleet who arguably was the reason the Raptors bench mob thrived wasn’t even drafted.
And, much like Sean Marks saw the value in Caris LeVert and took a chance on the guard despite his injury history the Raptors did the same with the gem that is OG Anunoby. Toronto bet on Anunoby selecting him 23rd and he surprised everyone by being ready to start the season and has the potential to become one of the NBA’s best 2-way players. Of course the key to all of this is adding the right vets, free agents and getting the youth to convene this summer and get a head start to building chemistry prior to next season.
Picking a team for Brooklyn to emulate is challenging because so many have the same philosophies. For the sake of not copping out, however, I’ll pick the Houston Rockets. Yes, they’re the best in the league (by record), but they’ve reached that level by leaning on two All-Stars (instead of four) and surrounded them with ancillary players who fill specific roles. Brooklyn, once guys start to hit their prime, could be on that same track but to a lesser degree.
The easy answer here is likely the Rockets (of whom the Nets are an ultra-poor man’s version) or the Warriors (because, Warriors), but the Raptors seem like the best formula for this team.
Both teams bolster underrated two-way point guards who function as the engine of the team, wings who play as if we’re still in the 1990’s, and switchiness and malleability defensively which make them a deadly, balanced crew. Granted, their personnel needs to improve for this but the makeup of the team and projected development tract suggests they could emulate this team on the way to success.
I feel like the Nets have been running a low-asset version of “The Process” since Sean Marks started: trying to buy low on young players with potential, churning the bottom of the roster to find diamonds in the rough, and trying to get as many chances at first-round picks as possible. The obvious team to emulate would be the Spurs (both because of Marks’ history and the Spurs’ extended run of success), but I see some Sixers in the Nets’ future as well.
The Raptors would be a great model for the Brooklyn Nets in terms of finding value from young players from outside elite prospect status. Toronto achieved the top seed in the East in 2017-18 by creating one of the deepest rosters in recent memory. With Brooklyn pivoting from multiple lame-duck seasons, the front office has been able to find and develop some diamonds in the rough. The key now is to not lose focus on finding quality players from the margins in pursuit for major high-risk swings at free agents or veterans.