The Brooklyn Nets, years after conducting perhaps the worst trade in NBA history in which they traded away nearly all of their future draft picks, have become heralded across the NBA media-sphere for their new management. The Nets do everything right for a team in their position, they typically churn through the bottom of their roster to see if anyone can help, invested in a young, smart coach and GM who are analytics-friendly, utilize their barren roster and cap space to poach youngish talent and draft picks, and play a modern, uptempo pace-and-space style even though their roster is not entirely suited to produce the best results. Best of all, they have a Spurs pedigree.
The Nets, in many ways, are approaching their rebuild similar to the Sam Hinkie’s “Trust the Process” 76ers. However, while the 76ers were bad by design in order to land high draft picks, the Nets are simply bad due to past decisions that they have no way out of for the next couple years.
Now, after being the worst team in the NBA last year, the Nets are approaching mediocrity. With 14-23 record, the Nets are the fourth worst team in the Eastern Conference and on pace to win 31 games, which would be an 11-game bump from last year.
As aforementioned, the Nets play with a more modern offense and are 2nd in the NBA in three-point attempts per game, even though they are 28th in three-point percentage. They play at the fourth highest pace and between DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, and Allen Crabbe they have a bevy of rangy, shooting wings that they can mix and match.
The Nets have begun a couple NBA reclamation projects as well, trading for D’Angelo Russell at the beginning of the season and now Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas.
However, injuries have robbed this team of the ability to be mediocre rather than simply bad. Jeremy Lin went down early with a season-ending injury and D’Angelo Russell is amidst a several month recovery process after surgery to his left knee. Even tonight the Nets may be missing DeMarre Carroll and Caris LeVert, who are both battling nagging injuries.
The Wolves, in many ways, are a team that has rejected the development cycle that is so often fawned over by the NBA intelligentsia. The Wolves do not focus on “pace-and-space,” ranking 27th in the NBA in three-point attempts, nor do they push the pace. The roster is full of big-men with limited shooting skills, outside of Karl-Anthony Towns, and the team’s biggest roster hole is the prototypical rangy wings that all of us wanted the Wolves to target this past offseason.
No player on the Nets plays more than 29 minutes per game and no Wolves starter plays less than 33 minutes per game.
However, the Wolves have the talent. Regardless of what the “right” way to play is, the Wolves still have the 5th best offensive rating in the NBA with the potential to climb even higher.
This should be another win for the Wolves. The Nets do not enough talent to match up, especially if they are missing Carroll and LeVert, who are both playing important minutes for the team.
The two interesting players to watch tonight are Spencer Dinwiddie and Jah Okafor. Okafor will be making his home debut for the Nets, although he will likely not get a ton of run, but in the past he always seemed extra motivated to play against Karl-Anthony Towns.
Dinwiddie has blossomed in the absence of Lin and Russell. Dinwiddie is a huge point guard at 6’6” and he will tower over Tyus Jones tonight. Dinwiddie is averaging career highs across the board with 12.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.1 rebounds a game. Even more promising, his assist percentage has skyrocketed from 20 percent to 37 percent (with an accompanying usage bump of 14 to 20.3 percent), while his turnover percentage has dropped from 15.1 to 10.3 percent. That is a great sign for a young point guard.
Projected Starting Lineups
Quincy Acy (this is a complete guess based upon the Nets’ injuries)
Prediction - Wolves 111 - Nets 95. The Wolves are rolling and the Nets are in a lot of injury trouble. This may be the last “easy” game before the schedule gets tough. However, if the Wolves come out flat, the Nets are good enough to make them pay.