Nets will be bad, but won’t tank


Brooklyn is beginning to learn what New Jersey knew for more than three decades: Being a Nets fan is exhausting.

In 35 seasons playing in the Garden State, the Nets finished below .500 on 22 occasions, and they failed to reach 30 wins 13 times.

A pair of playoff appearances to start their stay at Barclays Center raised the bar for the new fans in Kings County, but shades of Jersey are creeping back in. The Nets went 21-61 last year, and they could be worse in 2016-17.

They can’t tank on purpose because the Boston Celtics, whom the Nets visit in Wednesday’s opener, are likely to swap first-round picks with them in June, so at least they’ll surely be trying to win every night.

Whether that’s a comfort or source of frustration to fans as the Nets aim to avoid matching or surpassing the franchise record of 70 losses is a toss up.

Read on to further understand why these Nets will struggle mightily this season.

Who’s left?

From a personnel standpoint, the Nets hardly resemble the teams that reached the playoffs the first three years in Brooklyn.

New general manager Sean Marks brought in first-time head coach Kenny Atkinson to guide a roster made up of Brook Lopez, offseason signee Jeremy Lin and ... well, not much else.

Expect hints of Lin-sanity, or at least some moments of Lin-terest, but most of the supporting cast would have much smaller roles on better teams.

Learning on the job

Like the Philadelphia 76ers, another Eastern Conference team expected to struggle again, the Nets will trot out plenty of NBA newbies. But while the Sixers’ kids are top-shelf prospects, the Nets’ aren’t so highly touted.

Recent first-round picks Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough could develop into useful rotation pieces by the time the Nets are competitive again, but most of them shouldn’t be logging heavy minutes yet.

Holes in the ’fense

Atkinson has spoken about laying the groundwork for defensive improvements, but that will take time.

Neither Lopez nor Lin are standouts on ‘D’. In fact, it’s hard to single out any one player as the team’s strongest defender. That doesn’t bode well for a team that ranked next to last in defensive rating last season.

If there’s one player with high upside on that end of the floor, it’s lanky Hollis-Jefferson.

 

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