Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller are previewing all 30 teams via conversation. Next up: the Brooklyn Nets. Find all of the Flanns and Zillz previews here.
ZILLER: The Nets turned over the entire front office, coaching staff, and most of the roster, with the notable exception of Brook Lopez and a couple young players. We are witnessing a vaunted "culture change" episode from Brooklyn, which is interesting because I never felt that team culture was the Nets' problem. Age and depth of talent was the problem. Brooklyn's fairly young now, so that problem is gone. But there's still a dearth of talent.
In this respect, does culture change actually provide any benefit or boost? Or is it just a euphemism for good coaching and aligned coach-management goals?
FLANNERY: A culture change is what happens when you don't have anything else to sell. Everyone talks about changing the culture because it's a convenient distraction during a rebuilding project. Don't worry about wins and losses, just focus on the culture! It's less messy.
That said, the Nets needed a complete overhaul from front office to players. So if you're going to do it that way, why not go all in on everything?
The Nets are now a blank slate and that's probably a good thing. The hard part is that they don't have access to their draft picks for another two years. That's like running a marathon uphill.
ZILLER: It's a huge disadvantage in the NBA! The Knicks experienced that this past season, where a poor result didn't help a bit in the offseason. The draft is the salve for poor performance, and it's unavailable, essentially, for the Nets right now.
In that sense, I think what GM Sean Marks did this offseason is smart: he put together a team that might actually be mediocre instead of atrocious. He found value free agents (insomuch as value free agents existed this summer), hired a growth and development coach, and moved into the draft to land a prospect.
To be sure, this is unlikely to be any sort of playoff contender. Lopez and Jeremy Lin could make for a nice offensive battery, and Bojan Bogdanovic is a good piece. There's just not enough depth or defensive talent. So development — of a style, of a team culture, of young players, of chemistry — will be the focus for the squad and for fans.
Nets Daily season preview
Nets Daily season preview
FLANNERY: I like what Marks did, as well. He took some free shots in restricted free agency, added some quality veterans who are also good dudes (there's that culture change again), and a lot of people liked both of his draft picks. Adding Lin was also smart. I'm of the opinion that having a solid NBA-caliber point guard is a must for player development on the offensive end. There's a lot of solid decision-making happening here and that is a nice beginning.
Now, Brook Lopez. When do you trade him and how much do you want?
ZILLER: This is a fun question to consider. First, he's not that old (28) and he's pretty good. You want to trade him when demand is at its highest (in other words, when competitive teams panic) but you also need to move him before the foot issue returns, unless you're willing to risk keeping him for the duration of his contract.
Most GMs would spin him off for draft picks near the deadline. I think that's the play here, too. It gives fans something to look forward to and lets his value grow early this season (in theory). But I can also see the value in riding it out. Unlike other teams weighing rebuild-related trade decisions, there's no incentive to tank out. Patience might be a virtue here.
FLANNERY: Right, and it's not like 7-footers who can score like him are in abundance. Dude is seriously underrated, assuming his health holds up, which is the key assumption. With two years left on his deal at $20 millionish per, he's a relative bargain in today's NBA. I'd want the sun, the moon, and all the draft picks for him. He'd be awesome in, say, Portland.
So, the Nets. One day they'll probably be pretty good. In the interim, enjoy the culture.
ZILLER: The gentrification of Brooklyn is now complete.