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Two Key Factors to a Successful Brooklyn Nets Season

The keys to a successful Brooklyn Nets season are the development of individual talent and the success of the duo of Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin.

During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each team in the upcoming season.

In this edition, we’ll take a look at the Brooklyn Nets. The keys to a successful Brooklyn Nets season are the development of individual talent and the success of the combination of Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin.

Two Key Factors to a Successful Brooklyn Nets Season

First Key: Development

There is still optimism and hope among fans that this team can contend for a playoff spot. That is a challenging task to accomplish, looking at the roster. However, there is some potentially good news. The Nets went out and hired Kenny Atkinson as the new head coach to lead this team. His specialty is player development. Atkinson’s record with player improvement is renowned. Therefore, players once considered scrubs and fringe will have that opportunity to blossom into serviceable pros and potential starters, maybe even the odd All-Star.

Anthony Bennett has a golden opportunity to resurrect an otherwise disappointing career. Bennett was chosen first overall in the NBA Draft a few seasons back, but he hasn’t lived up to his potential. His work ethic and willingness to learn has been questioned by many. But he showed glimpses of his potential while representing Team Canada during Olympic qualifiers this past summer. After being out of the league for much of last season, Bennett should be highly motivated to prove doubters wrong.

Another such player is Chase Budinger. Budinger is a veteran of seven years and has played for four teams. Budinger is a unicorn as a player – he has the rare combination of being a high flyer and a consistent three-point shooter. One could call him a poor man’s (or perhaps a homeless man’s) version of Ray Allen or Glen Rice. The big question about Budinger, though, is health. He has been plagued with injuries throughout the past few seasons, beginning with a torn meniscus back in the 2012-13 campaign. Though he currently only has a training camp contract, Budinger has every chance to make this team, provided that he’s healthy.

But the key development will take place among Brooklyn’s rookies and second year players. After trading a very serviceable Thaddeus Young for a first-round draft pick, the Nets selected 6’7″ guard Caris LeVert. The Nets also traded up in the draft to acquire the rights to hometown point guard Isaiah Whitehead. Whitehead is a prototypical project. Highly touted out of high school, Whitehead attended Seton Hall, where he was good but not great. Other young players include New York City natives Sean Kilpatrick (Yonkers) and Chris McCullough (Bronx).

LeVert is still recovering from injury. He is in the process of returning from a ‘Jones Fracture’ of the left foot. Kevin Durant had a similar injury and recovered to his All-NBA best last season. The Vertical’s Chris Mannix tweeted that the Nets would be patient with LeVert. In the interim, the Nets penciled in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the starting shooting guard, with Joe Harris as his back-up.

Coach Atkinson has a tough task on his hands. His genius and abilities will be tested. With that said, he’s not on the clock, as the team’s majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov is comfortable with the rebuild and has expressed full confidence in GM Sean Marks. Out went the five-year championship plan, with which Prokhorov started when moving the team to Brooklyn. Marks and Atkinson are working assiduously to change the culture, and the players are buying into it.

Second Key: Brook-Lin must click early and often

Brook Lopez will be the barometer for the Nets this season in terms of wins and losses. Lopez is a talented scorer inside and a very consistent mid-range shooter. He also stated recently that he’ll attempt more three-point shots next season. He is particularly effective in pick-and-roll situations, which will mesh perfectly with Jeremy Lin. However, many critics question Lopez’s defensive shortcomings, and they note his rebounding output (or lack thereof) as evidence.

Lin is superb in the pick-and-roll. Lin is aggressive going to the basket and though many have stereotyped him as a one-handed player, he finishes on either side of the rim. Built to withstand the pounding, he is listed at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. He is not a small dude. This combination of size and speed is a match made in offensive heaven. Lin has his critics as well; pundits claim that he’s not a good defender. However, Lin’s former coach Steve Clifford emphatically debunked that myth. Coach Atkinson instills confidence in his players, and Lin seems excited to work with him.

Both players will set the tone, as they’re the team’s leaders. Lopez will need to return to the form that led him to being an All-Star in 2013. Will Lin be the point guard and floor general that the Nets are banking on? The Nets have shown confidence in Lin. He will certainly get his chance. Remember that Atkinson’s second assistant and offensive mastermind is Chris Fleming. The offense that Fleming runs is a traditionally point guard dominant system, played out of the one-four setup. This, in theory, will suit Lin and Lopez perfectly. Jacque Vaughn is the lead assistant coach and defensive strategist alongside Atkinson. Vaughn wants the team to cause a lot of turnovers, meaning that transition opportunities may be available for all. Of course, these two players staying healthy is essential.


The best case scenario for the Nets is them competing for the final playoff spot. This could be optimistic, as odds makers in Las Vegas predicted that the Nets will finish with the worst win-loss record this season. Kevin Pelton of ESPN has predicted that the Nets will win 25 to 35 games this season. Change takes time; development is a marathon, not a sprint. While they have some talent, the Nets do not possess enough of it to rival teams such as the Boston Celtics (because of the Billy King regime) or the Toronto Raptors in their division. What the Nets will bring, however, is grit and fight. There is a movement afoot on social media, trying to make the Nets’ motto this season be “Brooklyn Grit.” As the team hunkers down to work, the fans are ready to provide the much needed support. The process is in full swing. Now it’s time for the Nets to get to work.

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