The new-look Brooklyn Nets will open the new season without the fanfare that surrounded the team two years ago. No Kevin Durant. No Kyrie Irving. No James Harden. No Steve Nash. No NBA title contender.
With the superstar era in the rearview mirror, the Nets will look to rebuild a franchise that lost three of the league's top scorers in a span of 12 months. Brooklyn tallied a dismal 12-15 card once Durant and Irving were shipped out in February. The Nets have potential, but their outlook this season hinges on the continued development of several budding stars.
"The potential of what we can do, what we can be. You look out there, and we look big on the court. We have a lot of size, length, athleticism," said Nets power forward Cam Johnson. "Ben
For Brooklyn to be successful, Simmons must regain the form that earned him three straight All-Star Game trips from 2019-21. But the 6-foot-10 point guard expects to be even better this season.
"I'm going to be better than I was," Simmons said. "My job is just to show up, perform, work my ass off, and lead this team the right way. So it's doing all the little things, and everything else takes care of itself."
The 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year rushed back too quickly from back surgery last season and posted career lows with 6.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 6.3 rebounds before the Nets shut him down in late March for the remainder of the season. A unique talent, Simmons is excited to be healthy and is looking forward to creating shots for the Nets' impressive lineup of spot shooters.
"I keep telling them I'm going to get you guys a lot of easy shots. And it's just fun. When you're able to play the game that way, and somebody's going to look out for you and they trust you and you trust them, it's a good satisfaction watching that type of basketball."
Besides Simmons, the Nets will lean on Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson for offensive buckets. Bridges averaged 26.1 points per game after the trade to Brooklyn and also proved to be an elite defender. The 27-year-old shot 47.5% from the field in 27 games with the Nets while hitting 37.6% behind the three-point line.
Bridges is looking forward to playing the uptempo game with Simmons running the offense and creating wide-open 3-point shots for his teammates.
"You get good looks," Bridges said. "You've definitely got to adjust and be ready to run because he gets it and he just wants to sprint. So you've just got to always just have your head turning and be ready to use your track shoes."
Johnson is an ultra-talented athlete who averaged 16.6 points in 25 games with Brooklyn last season. The 11th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the 27-year-old inked a four-year, $90 million contract in July and, like Bridges, is a stud on both ends of the court.
Spencer Dinwiddie turned in a solid campaign a year ago with 16.5 points and nine assists per game. Other key players include Nic Claxton, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dennis Smith Jr., Cam Thomas, Royce O'Neal, and Lonnie Walker IV.
Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn will utilize a run-and-gun offense and relentless defense that can score more points off turnovers. Last season, the Nets tallied just 14.5% of their total point off turnovers. Although the Nets' defense is expected to be the bastion of the 2023-24 squad, it remains a work in progress.
"I want to see what works best for our group," Vaughn told The New York Post. "I'm not totally sure we can play one way for the entire game. Some teams can. I'm not sure we can.
"Whether that's me realizing what's going on over the course of the game and what defenses we need to be in, I think that's going to be a big part of it. Part of that is when we do sub, what do those defenses look like? So it's really like
While Vaughn likes his team's versatility and is confident of the Nets' deep bench, he also knows the strengths and weaknesses of his players with the season opener fast approaching.
"I don't think we can play isolation basketball and win basketball games on a consistent basis," Vaughn said during training camp. "I think this team is built around the versatility and the depth of the team, and we'll have to use all that, while also agreeing and notifying the rest of the group that there are some individuals who
Smith, a defensive-minded guard, is excited about the potential of Brooklyn's defensive strategy.
"Just a whole bunch of guys that can play both ways, I haven't been able to meet everybody on the team all together. I'm not going to make bold claims because I know how y'all do in New York." said the former Knick. "
The Nets still need one additional impact player to become a bonafide playoff squad. But if their core group of players takes another step forward this season and the defensive effort becomes a strength, brighter days lie ahead for the rebuilding Brooklyn franchise.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Lonnie Walker IV
Harry Giles III
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