Brooklyn Nets offseason recap and how the Pistons match up

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 26: D'Angelo Russell
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 26: D'Angelo Russell /

Not in control of their 2018 first-round pick, the Brooklyn Nets had a tall task this offseason: markedly improve their team without sacrificing long-term viability. We’ll see how they did, and how they match up with the Detroit Pistons.

The Brooklyn Nets finished with the worst record in the NBA last season (in spite of beating the Detroit Pistons in two of their three match-ups). There’s no short-term fix to turn their fortunes around, so what did they do this offseason? They gobbled up three expensive contracts via trade and acquired a possible franchise centerpiece in D’Angelo Russell at the same time.

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On June 20, the Nets acquired D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick in the draft, which turned into Kyle Kuzma. Mozgov has three years and $48 million left on his contract before becoming a free agent in the summer of 2020.

  • On July 9, Brooklyn acquired DeMarre Carroll, a 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Justin Hamilton. Carroll is set to make $30.2 million over the next two seasons before becoming a free agent in the summer of 2019.
  • On July 25, the Nets acquired Allen Crabbe from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Andrew Nicholson. Crabbe is set to make $19.3 million this season, $18.5 million next season, and has a player option for another one year, $18.5 million in the summer of 2019.
  • All three trades were very similar. The non-Brooklyn trade members wanted to dump the expensive contracts of the pieces they traded away, allowing them flexibility and/or luxury tax relief. Meanwhile, despite the exorbitant contracts, the players Brooklyn received upgrade their roster right now and give them ultimately flexible come the 2019 and 2020 offseasons. Of course, receiving a young talent like Russell is the highlight.

    Russell, the 2015 No. 2 overall pick, is just 21 years old. Through two pro seasons, he’s averaging 14.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game on .408/.351/.759 shooting.

    Most would call his career underwhelming to this point, but keep in mind his rookie season came amidst the Kobe Bryant farewell circus and the Lakers spent most of the last two seasons actively tanking. The Nets are smart to take a bet on a young point guard with upside.

    Rounding out their offseason, the Nets also lost Randy Foye and K.J. McDaniels to free agency, waived Archie Goodwin, signed Tyler Zeller, and drafted center Jarrett Allen out of Texas with the No. 22 overall pick in the draft. They also swung for the fences (as this front office has been wont to do over the past few years) by signing restricted free agent Otto Porter to a max offer sheet, but the incumbent Wizards went ahead and matched it to retain the forward.

    Brooklyn is expected to start both Jeremy Lin and Russell in the backcourt together. Their frontcourt starters are a little harder to decipher. Some combination of Carroll, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker will start at the forward spots, while Mozgov, Allen, and Zeller will get the center minutes.

    The Nets will miss Lopez, who leaves as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, but there is little doubt their squad is much improved from the team that finished 20-62 a season ago. Las Vegas agrees. Westgate has the Brooklyn win total over/under at 28.5 games, third to last in the East to Atlanta and Chicago.

    The Detroit Pistons, however, are glad to see Lopez go. Last season, Lopez torched Detroit for 24.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.0 made threes per game. The Nets took two of the three head to head matchups thanks to Lopez’s heroics, which including a game winning jumper on March 21.

    Hopefully with him out of the picture, the Pistons can do a better job of taking care of business over a team they have much more talent than. Detroit and Brooklyn meet four times this  season, all in the new calendar year with meetings on January 10, January 21, February 7, and April 1.

    When these two meet, expect Avery Bradley to check Russell and for Stanley Johnson and Tobias Harris to lead the team in minutes at the forward spots to match up with Brooklyn’s undersized forwards. Andre Drummond should also have an easier time with either Mozgov or Allen as opposed to having to chase Lopez around on the perimeter.

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    The Nets did a nice job this offseason of improving their roster for the now and setting themselves up for maximum flexibility in a few years. They’ve still got a long road ahead of them, and it’d be shocking if Detroit had another losing record against Brooklyn this year.