The 2010s were an incredibly transformative period for the game of basketball. This is especially evident in the case of the Brooklyn Nets, who changed nearly all aspects of their identity throughout the decade. The front office, ownership, and coaching underwent multiple changes, slowly changing the atmosphere of the team. The team dug itself into a hole by trading many of its first-round picks for the decade, yet still managed to discover and develop prominent young talent. They started in a low budget New Jersey stadium and ended in the high-end Barclays Center, located in Brooklyn. Most importantly, the Nets went from perhaps the most dysfunctional in basketball to a marquee free agent landing spot.
The decade can be divided into four phases. The first phase was when the team played at the IZOD center in New Jersey. Led by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the Nets were awful, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference for two consecutive years. The next phase can be characterized by two blockbuster trades that collectively sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Joe Johnson to Brooklyn. The trade never lived up to the hype, given that all of these players were at the back end of their career, and the team gave up crucial future first-round picks. The All-Star laden team went to the playoffs in three consecutive years, but they only won a grand total of one playoff series.
The aforementioned blockbuster trades came to haunt the Nets in the third phase of the decade, where the Nets dwelled in the cellar of the conference. By this time, all of the previously acquired players, as well as Deron Williams, had departed, leaving behind a horrid team with no means of improvement via the draft. Consequently, the franchise won a combined 69 games over the next three seasons, from 2016 to 2018.
It was during this time, however, that GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson were hired. They instantly changed the vibe around the team, and they effectively collaborated to hire late-round gems such as Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and Spencer Dinwiddie. Most importantly, the team traded franchise cornerstone, Brook Lopez, to the Lakers for future All-Star D’Angelo Russell. With all of these young pieces, the Nets were the feel-good story of the NBA as they surprisingly made the playoffs as the sixth seed in 2019.
Following their surprise run, the Nets’ transformation manifested in the acquisition of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Both players cited the incredible front office and vibrant atmosphere as monumental in their decision. The team consequently looks to have a bright future in the coming decade.
Given the aforementioned turnover over the past decade, the All-Decade team for the Nets will have players from vastly different backgrounds and levels of expertise. What the all have in common, however, is the fact that they each played a decisive role in the reemergence of the Brooklyn Nets.
Playing during the midst of his prime, Williams had a solid run with the Nets. Over five seasons with the team, Williams averaged 16.6 points, 7.5 assists, and 1.1 steals, while shooting 41 percent from the floor. He was a two time All-Star during the decade, and he likely would garner more appearances had he managed to stay healthier. Williams played an important role as the lead ball-handler for the team, and he oversaw the point guard position during the team’s highs (playoff victory in 2014), as well as during its lows (New Jersey years).
His impact on team chemistry, however, was much less positive. Deron Williams frequently incited controversy during his time with the Nets, to say in the least. The 2016 season was a particular low point. He entered the season as an MVP candidate for a championship favorite, but he failed to perform under pressure. It was later revealed that Williams had caused locker room tensions, especially with teammate Joe Johnson. In addition, Williams had to be held back after an altercation with coach Lionel Hollins.
Overall, while Williams certainly had his moments with the Nets, he failed to live up to the team’s high expectations for him. He entered the decade as a top-two point guard, along with Chris Paul, but he ends as a controversial figure. Even though Williams could have been more, he did carry the Nets for the better half of the decade. He’s undeniably the best guard for the Nets during the 2010s.
Once written off as a bust, D’Angelo Russell flourished during his time with the Nets, earning an All-Star berth in 2019. He was acquired in a 2017 trade that sent Brook Lopez and a first-rounder (which became Kyle Kuzma) to the Los Angeles Lakers for Timofey Mozgov and Russell. During his two seasons, Russell rebuilt his status and reputation, averaging around 19 points and 6.3 assists. He was later shipped to the Golden State Warriors as part of a sign-and-trade deal for Kevin Durant.
Russell came to exemplify the Nets’ newfound vibrant and exciting identity as he helped lead the Nets to the playoffs against all odds. Russell’s leadership, clutchness, and handles were on display for two years, and he eventually rebuilt himself into one of the best young guards in the NBA. While he didn’t stay in Brooklyn long, Russell still stands as a major contributor for the Nets during the last decade.
Brook Lopez had a greatly successful career with the Nets as one of the best bigs in the league. During his nine years with the team, he averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds, and he was an All-Star in 2013. His time with the Nets culminated with a 2017 trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. After a brief fall-off, Lopez has rebuilt himself as a sharpshooter with the Bucks, allowing him to continue the success that he initiated while with the Nets.
Lopez is the Nets’ career leading scorer, as well as the franchise leader in field goals made. During his nine seasons with the team, he witnessed multiple phases of the team’s transformation. He was a high lottery pick for the New Jersey Nets, was the leading scorer for the playoff Nets, and led the team during the awful 2016-17 season. Given his long-lasting presence and multiple broken records, Lopez goes down as the greatest player in Nets history.
After a successful career with the Atlanta Hawks, Joe Johnson played an important role for the playoff-bound Nets. Nicknamed “Iso-Joe”, Johnson was a prolific shooter known for being very reliable in the closing seconds of a game. With the Nets, Johnson averaged 14.7 points, while shooting a remarkable 43% from threes, as well as 82% from the charity stripe. As a testament to his strong production, Johnson earned an All-Star berth in 2014.
Joining the team in the twilight of his career, Johnson’s Nets stint solidified his legacy as one of the best shooters of his generation. He scored an insane five buzzer-beaters in just four seasons with the team. He moved up to twelfth in NBA history for three-pointers made, as well as fifth in Nets franchise history. As a result of his achievements, many of which were secured during his Nets tenure, Johnson is entrenched within the NBA Hall of Fame debate. While it’s no sure thing that he’ll make the Hall of Fame, it’s clear that Johnson is one of the best players in Nets history.
Joe Harris was one of the many diamonds in the rough that Sean Marks has identified as the Nets GM. After being waived by the Magic, Harris was signed by the Nets, where he instantly revitalized his career. In the four seasons since, Joe Harris has averaged 11.9 points, while shooting 42.7% from three. With the Nets, Joe Harris essentially took on a role similar to Joe Johnson as the resident sharpshooter. In fact, he recently passed Joe Johnson to become fourth in Nets franchise history for three-pointers made.
In 2019, Harris won the NBA Three-Point Contest. He’s also the first player in Nets franchise history to make three or more threes in six straight games. Harris is just entering his prime at the age of 28, and his role in the Nets offense is rapidly growing, as seen by his increasing field goal attempts year by year. Look out for Joe Harris to have a career year once Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return next year. They’ll relieve some of the defensive pressure off of Harris, allowing him to feast on catch and shoot opportunities.
Dinwiddie serves as yet another example of Sean Marks’ successful reclamation projects. Dinwiddie has since proceeded to become one of the best in the NBA off the bench. He’s first in franchise history for points off the bench, and third for assists off the bench. Dinwiddie has taken the next step in 2019-20, averaging an incredible 20.6 points and 6.8 assists. Only 26 years old, Dinwiddie should play a significant role on a championship-caliber Nets team next season. In all likelihood, he will likely become an All-Star berth in the future.
Caris LeVert has shown flashes of greatness with the Nets and looks ready to take the next step towards greatness. Drafted from Michigan, the young guard has cemented himself as one of the most exciting young guards in the league. During his four seasons with the Nets, LeVert has averaged 12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. LeVert is an especially frustrating talent in that he is extremely injury prone. His last two years at Michigan were cut short due to injury, as was his 2018-19 season. Like Dinwiddie, LeVert seemed to have taken the next step in 2019-20, averaging 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Should he avoid injury, LeVert looks certain to become a future All-Star alongside Dinwiddie.
Drafted to be the heir apparent of Brook Lopez, Jarrett Allen has made great strides with the Nets since they selected him in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. In three seasons with the team, the big man from Texas is averaging 10.0 points, 1.4 blocks, and 7.7 points while shooting 60 percent from the field, all in only 24 minutes a game. While his offensive game is still raw, it’s his defense that oozes potential. In this past season, Allen ranks eighth among centers in defensive plus-minus. He possesses defensive intangibles that simply cannot be taught, and he is one of the league’s best rim protectors. Additionally, Allen’s impressive advanced statistics and analytics bode well for his career outlook. Only 22 years old, Allen should develop into an All-Star, and he’ll be blocking shots for years to come.
Drafted in 2011 as a 22-year-old, Bojan Bogdanovic has since become one of the best deep threats in the NBA. In three seasons with the Nets, Bogdanovic averaged 11.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 25.7 minutes per game. Bogdanovic was later traded for a 2017 first-round pick, which became Jarrett Allen. While Bogdanovic may seem like just another player, he was in fact an important player in Nets history. Not only did he develop into a great role player, but Bogdanovic also helped the team find its center of the future. Thus, Bogdanovic’s time on the Nets was a win-win for both him and the team.
Though he is probably better known for his infamous marriage to Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries had a notable NBA career, most significantly with the Nets. He played with the team from 2009-10 to the 2012-13 season, averaging 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in 25.8 minutes. While he did have a respectable career, Humphries is among the biggest “what-if” storylines of the past decade. His career seemed to be on an upward trend following a 14 point-11 rebound season in 2012. However, he was traded to the Boston Celtics shortly after this incredible season, where he received half as much playing time. It was also at this time that Humphries divorced Kardashian, leading to a frenzy of negative media attention. Despite changes in career trajectory, it’s clear that Humphries played well enough to warrant a spot on the All-Decade team.
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