Nearing the halfway mark of the NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets find themselves eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 17-20 record. Offense has been a major problem, as Brooklyn ir ranked just 24th in offensive efficiency through 37 games.
The Nets' shot profile is a modern NBA analytics dream. According to Basketball Reference, Brooklyn is ranked first in shots attempted around the rim (34.8 percent) and sixth in three-point attempt rate (41.7 percent). The problem is they are third-worst in the league in three-point percentage at 32.9 percent, and they are converting just 62.4 percent of their attempts around the rim. That is the fifth-worst mark in the association.
Having Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert miss significant time due to injury hurt, as the Nets lost two of their key ball handlers. Irving and LeVert help break down the defense and open up three-point shots that the Nets heavily rely on in their offense.
Despite a sub-.500 record, the Nets are a near-lock for the playoffs. A lack of depth in the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture has allowed the Nets to maintain a five-game advantage in the loss column over the Detroit Pistons. This has occurred despite Brooklyn's recent seven-game losing streak before Friday night's victory over the Miami Heat.
With Irving likely to practice and play within a week, the Nets will look to make a playoff push in the second half of the season. After Spencer Dinwiddie's strong performance replacing Irving in the starting lineup, the pairing of the two point guards should be a major story for the rest of the year.
Dinwiddie has grown into a bonafide scoring option with constant forays to the rim, and an elite ability to get to the free-throw line. Add LeVert into the mix, and the Nets have a stable of quality playmakers to rev their lagging offense back into full attack mode.
The trade deadline is approaching in less than a month, and the franchise is looking to make noise next season with Kevin Durant set to make his likely return from an Achilles injury. They are not going to make any moves that disrupt the development of their young players to complement Durant and Irving.
Every transaction Brooklyn makes will be with an eye towards the 2020-21 season. Brooklyn's current playoff seeding has them on a collision course with either the first seed Milwaukee Bucks or one of the other top seeds such as the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics.
Realistically, the Nets would be facing an uphill battle in a first round series against those teams. Would it make sense making massive alterations knowing the likely impending doom headed their way in April?
When LeVert's three-year, $52.5 million and Taurean Prince's two-year, $29 million contract extensions kick in next season, the Nets will cross the luxury tax threshold for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The team will lack the flexibility to significantly improve through free agency.
Brooklyn is likely to send a lottery-protected first rounder to the Atlanta Hawks in 2020, but they do own the Philadelphia 76ers' 2020 first-round pick. The Nets also have a second-round pick in this year's draft, obtained from Denver. They own all of their other future firsts.
Players to Look At
The Nets are in need of shooting to provide an elixir to their offensive woes. An expiring contract like the hot-shooting Davis Bertans could be attractive to solving the Nets' shooting issues. Though he is a weak defender, Bertans could open up driving lanes for the Nets offense.
The team is also in need of playmakers. Orlando Magic point guard D.J. Augustin ceded the starting point guard spot to Markelle Fultz and is on an expiring contract. A career 38-percent three-point shooter, the 32-year-old Augustin could be a solid fit playing as a backup point guard and shot creator in the Nets' system.
Charlotte Hornets veteran forward Marvin Williams has lost minutes as the Hornets have opted to go young with P.J. Washington. Williams is shooting 39 percent from three, and is a solid, defensive stretch four. He could help the team in their playoff run this season. Williams will be a free agent in the summer of 2020.
Thaddeus Young is a solid veteran presence as well, and the Chicago Bulls forward signed a three-year, $43 million last summer. Expected to play a big role in Chicago's rebuild, Young has found himself playing inconsistent minutes off the bench as Chicago has struggled. Though he's never been a consistent outside shooter, Young is a strong defender with the ability to guard multiple positions.
A possible reunion with the Nets is unlikely, but Young's contract is intriguing. In the 2021-2022 season, just $6 million of the contract is guaranteed.
Potential Players to Move
The Nets lack many players that other teams will be clamoring to acquire in a trade. DeAndre Jordan might have one of the most unfriendly deals with three years still left on his contract. Among the Nets' young players, Jarrett Allen is nearly untouchable. There will be limited interest in inconsistent prospects Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa.
Joe Harris is expected to receive a significant salary raise in free agency this summer. It will be interesting to see if the Nets are willing to go deep into the luxury tax to retain the sharpshooter.
Harris has been consistent, shooting 41.3 percent from three this season. If the Nets are leery of paying Harris, he would be an attractive trade chip. With an expiring contract, Harris would be attractive to numerous contenders looking to upgrade perimeter shooting. His modest $7.7 million salary makes him relatively easy to fit into many trades.
Garrett Temple is another possible player to move. He's been a key cog in Brooklyn's season, but he's struggled with the increased workload. The 33-year old is averaging a career-high 29.5 minutes per game while shooting just 36.6 percent overall and 32 percent from three. A consummate pro and quality perimeter defender, Temple has a team option worth $5 million for next season.
The Nets could possibly acquire a second round pick for the solid two-way guard.