With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.
On Friday we began to take a look at the Atlantic Division, starting with the New York Knicks. Today, we shift our focus to New York's other team, the Brooklyn Nets
2017-18 season record
28-54 (12th in Eastern Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
32.5 (10th in Eastern Conference)
Kenneth Faried (Trade)
Ed Davis (Free Agency)
Jared Dudley (Free Agency)
Dzanan Musa (Draft)
Shabazz Napier (Free Agency)
Quincy Acy (Free Agency)
Dante Cunningham (Free Agency)
Jeremy Lin (Trade)
Timofey Mozgov (Trade)
Jahlil Okafor (Free Agency)
Nik Stauskas (Free Agency)
3 key storylines
D'Angelo Russell breakout season
If Brooklyn is to be competitive in the slightest this year, it will need to rely on its young point guard D'Angelo Russell. Russell only played in 48 games in his first season with the Nets last year due to a lingering knee injury that eventually required arthroscopic knee surgery. During those 48 games, he averaged 15.5 points per game along with career-highs in assists per game (5.2), rebounds per game (3.3) and field goal percentage (41.4).
The former second overall pick has missed 53 games over the last two seasons due to knee issues, but has shown promise when he is on the floor. He looks to be back to full strength based on offseason workouts with one of his best friends who happens to be another bright young star in the league. Russell has a qualifying offer with the Nets this offseason, so look for him to prove that he should be a part of Brooklyn's plans long-term.
Playing to win
The Nets have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and have not finished over .500 since 2013-14. If they want to be a preferred landing destination for the loaded 2019 free agency class, they're going to have to prove their core of guys have some promise.
Brooklyn is projected to finish five games out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the majority of the players who are in a contract year will be playing to show they can add depth to teams looking to improve in the offseason. That dynamic could turn this team into a scrappy bunch that makes efforts to grind out wins.
The Summer of 2019
Brooklyn enters the Summer of 2019 with two max contract spots and a bunch of expiring contracts that they can clear off the books. The list of free agents in 2019 includes a number of franchise-changing players with star power, and the Nets will surely do their best to acquire two of them.
The team also have the rights to its own first-round raft pick for the first time since 2013, along with a first round pick they acquired from the Denver Nuggets. The upcoming summer should be an exciting one for Nets fans as they could be looking at a completely new and very competitive roster entering the 2019-20 season, provided the team is diligent in the free agency and draft processes.
5 games to watch
Oct. 19 vs. New York Knicks
As if the battle for New York wasn't enough, these two teams will both be heavily competing to recruit superstars to their franchises this offseason. On top of that, you can add the trash talk between Spencer Dinwiddie and Knicks' centre Enes Kanter from this offseason to make this a much-watch game early in the season.
Too early to talk $h!t- Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) August 14, 2018
I got this saved tho
U just poked the wrong bear booiii 🔥 pic.twitter.com/m7b3Uvk5k6
Dec. 16 vs. Atlanta Hawks
Even though he has not suggested retirement, this could be the last time Vince Carter suits up against the Nets. With his playing days winding down, the number of games against a team that he spent five seasons with becomes limited. Carter was a three-time all-star as a member of the New Jersey Nets averaging 23.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists over the five seasons.
Dec. 18 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers essentially dumped D'Angelo Russell, trading him for Brook Lopez and a late first round pick back in 2016. While Russell believed his time with the Lakers was a valuable learning experience, you can imagine he still has this game circled on his calendar to prove his old team wrong for trading him. Especially given the success LA is projected to have this year.
Jan. 18 at Orlando Magic
For this game, you'll look to the head-to-head matchup between the Nets and Magic's young centres Jarrett Allen and Mo Bamba. Both were first round picks in back-to-back drafts as freshmen out of the University of Texas. Allen was quick to head to Twitter and congratulate Bamba on draft night and supposedly, shared a brief moment during Summer league as well.
Two young, promising players who play the same position from the same school should be a good battle.
Final stretch of seven games
The Nets end the season playing the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks twice. The one thing all these teams share in common? They were all playoff teams in 2018 and are projected to be playoff teams again in 2019. This stretch of seven games is intriguing for the Nets, because if they are fighting for a playoff spot they'll be forced to earn it by beating other potential playoff teams.
Even if they're out of the playoff race, the Nets could still play spoiler for one of the teams' playof positioning or hopes.