Teams To Watch Post-All-Star Break: Brooklyn Nets

When scanning teams to watch for the remainder of the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets may not seem like an obvious choice as they are currently just above the .500 mark with a 30-29 record.

But if All-Star Weekend proved anything, it’s that there’s some talent in Brooklyn and if teams continue to overlook them, they’ll be more than happy to continue to play spoiler.

The Nets are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference and they’ve done that starting players like Treveon Graham and Rodions Kurucs. Even though you may be familiar with Joe Harris’ name now that he’s having a career year, he was basically considered a bubble player at best after spending the first two years of his career between the Cleveland Cavaliers and their G-League affiliate.

It’s safe to say no one expected much from Harris after he failed to even register a blip on the radar in the 2015-16 season, but here he is in year three with the Nets, averaging 13.9 points per game and shooting at a 47 percent clip from long range. Oh and he just bested Stephen Curry in the three-point contest.

This isn’t just an isolated incident in Brooklyn, especially ever since Sean Marks was hired as GM and Kenny Atkinson took over as head coach. Last season it was Spencer Dinwiddie that used an All-Star weekend opportunity to introduce himself to NBA fans, and before being sidelined with an injury, Dinwiddie was averaging 17.2 points and five rebounds off the bench. Brooklyn hopes to have him back for a playoff run.

It’s clear that Marks and Atkinson have placed a ton of value on developing players and not just assembling the most talent they can put together. Marks is yet another member of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree and before he was hired by the Nets, he was not only in the front office of the Spurs, but he was also the General Manager of their G-League franchise in Austin.

The lessons he learned from there have obviously affected and benefitted the Nets. That was likely one of the reasons Marks chose to hire Atkinson years ago as the Nets looked to rebuild and pivot after the franchise made several ill-advised trades in the years prior. Marks and Atkinson talked about patience a lot early, and they got the time they have needed to start showing that they are moving the needle.

Not many GMs would have been open to trading a franchise center in exchange for D’Angelo Russell after everything he was involved in, but Marks and Atkinson saw a diamond in the rough, and Russell is now an All-Star.

Brooklyn also took a chance on Jarrett Allen, when he fell to them with the 22nd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Allen wasn’t among the highly-regarded big men in the draft and several talent evaluators questioned his passion for the game because Allen has always had outside interests. But the Austin native became a starter for the Nets and has taken even more steps in his sophomore campaign after working on strength and conditioning over the offseason.

Allen is averaging 11.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 27 minutes per game. This is another example of practicing patience. Brooklyn could easily play him more minutes and his stats would make a noticeable increase, but they have veteran big man Ed Davis, who has taken a role as a mentor to Allen and they are bringing Allen along at the right pace.

The Nets are getting healthy at the right time, with Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert returning before the All-Star break. With the pair back, the Nets got within a few points of upsetting the Toronto Raptors on February 11, and the Denver Nuggets saw just how well the Nets can play when everything begins to click.

On February 6, the Nets beat the Nuggets 135-130 as they were lead by Russell’s 27 points and 11 assists.

While the Nets may not make it as far as the conference finals in the East, they should be a hard out for any time, especially if Dinwiddie returns, and if they continue on this path and add more talent, they could be a scary team out East for years to come as young as they are.

As was the case in Philadelphia, the process takes time and patience, but once you arrive at the destination, you’ll wish you had watched the journey to get there.

Michael is Chief Editor at Lineups.com. He has decades of combined experience in traditional print journalism and online media and is the publisher of the Project Spurs Network, which includes 13 team-specific sports media sites and the flagship ProjectSpurs.com. He is also the creator of the first Spurs podcast and the longest-running sports podcast on the internet, the Spurscast, and was formerly the host of the News 4 San Antonio Sports Roundtable.

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