The Brooklyn Nets are going nowhere.
That’s a statement that has been commonplace around the NBA for the better part of the past four years after the departures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Granted, it was that trade with the Boston Celtics to bring in the former NBA champions that brought Brooklyn’s franchise to its knees.
The Nets have been one of the worst teams in basketball since 2015, winning an average of just 23 games per year over that stretch due to its rebuilding resources being sent to the Celtics in that fateful 2013 deal.
But Brooklyn has been recovering and things were actually starting to look up ahead of the 2018-19 season. Point guard D’Angelo Russell was set to continue his development into a consistent point guard, center Jarrett Allen working his way to becoming a menace near the basket, and third-year small forward Caris LeVert was on the cusp of becoming a star.
The latter of those three scenarios was holding true to form as the 24-year-old LeVert flew out of the gates to start the season, averaging 18.4 points per game over his 14. Brooklyn was 6-7 through their first 13 games, not a fantastic record, but on pace for 38 wins that would likely be enough for a playoff spot in a weak Eastern Conference.
Then came the night of Nov. 12 and a gruesome foot injury that looked as though it ended LeVert’s season. It was a dislocated right foot, shaking all on the floor to their respective cores. Yet surgery was not required and he could make a return this season.
The problem is that the Nets have nosedived since the injury. Since LeVert left that game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, they have gone just 2-11, including seven-straight losses.
Suddenly, a 38-win pace has plummeted to just 16 given their current run of play.
It poses the question of whether the Nets should mail in the season and attempt to get the top pick in the draft. Only four teams have fewer wins that head coach Kenny Atkinson’s Nets and the reward for one more bad season could yield a generational talent in Duke star Zion Williamson.
For Atkinson, though, another disastrous season could mean trouble for his job in Brooklyn. Not many coaches can have three-consecutive seasons of losing 54 or more games and keep their job, even if some extenuating circumstances have put him behind the proverbial eight-ball.
At this point, though, the Nets have nothing to lose by mailing in this season with eyes on next year. They will have the money to go after some big names in free agency and bringing in another premier talent in the draft will only help turn things around quickly at the Barclays Center.