5 Bold Predictions about the Nets Next Season


With a lot of changing taking place for the Brooklyn Nets this summer, there’s plenty of uncertainty in the air regarding what will take place next season. So with that being said, here are five bold predictions for the 2015-16 Nets:

  1. Brook Lopez will average 10 rebounds.

Although Lopez is known around the league as a prolific scorer and lackadaisical rebounder, his last season shows that there is hope for the big man to become a dominant force on the glass. He attained his highest rebounding average since his sophomore year in the league, concluding the season at 7.4 rebounds per contest. Most critics would not consider this an impressive number, but three key facts must be remembered and taken into consideration.

One: Lopez missed 10 games this season. Missing time can drastically hinder a player’s performance, and prevent them from maintaining rhythm.

Two: Lopez came off the bench for 28 of his 72 games played, garnering only 44 starts. He received limited playing time for a significant amount of the season, due to butting heads with head coach Lionel Hollins.

Three: Lopez only played 29.2 minutes per game. This is the second lowest in his entire NBA career. Posting his third highest rebounding average in the season where he played his second lowest minute average is a good sign for what he can do when healthy and receiving plenty of minutes.

All things considered, Lopez had a solid year on the glass. Despite being benched, playing in his second lowest minute average, and missing time with an injury, he still managed to post his third highest rebound rate in his seven year career. Another promising fact is that this is the first time he’s had a head coach that has openly gotten after him about his rebounding.

And it has paid off: “That’s all I ask for him to be — more committed to be being an all-around player, to being a better rebounder and not just being happy with 16-17 points, but going out there and rebounding the ball, blocking shots, helping on defense, all of the things that it takes to win.” – Lionel Hollins.

4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will make All-Rookie First Team

Making the All-Rookie team is largely about opportunity. A player may be more talented than the other members of his draft class, but without the opportunity to showcase it, he won’t be reaping the All-Rookie team rewards at the end of his first NBA campaign. Although the Nets organization has repetitively stated that Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young are the faces of the franchise, make no mistake: they are fully aware that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is their future. This is why they have been showcasing him endlessly via social media since draft night. He is the result of the last first round pick that the Nets will have for several years. They want their fans to jump on the RHJ bandwagon and ride it off into the sunset.

The Nets also severely lacked defensive intensity last season, which is a feature of the game that Lionel Hollins is a huge believer in. Rondae will get plenty of minutes on the strength of his defensive prowess alone. Not to mention that the Nets don’t have many capable small forwards that will cause him to share many of his minutes. He may in fact be the only natural small forward on the roster. Joe Johnson played plenty of small forward last season but we know he’s really a shooting guard that was masquerading as such.

The only small forwards taken before Rondae in the draft were Stanley Johnson (by the Detroit Pistons) and Sam Dekker (by the Houston Rockets). Rondae has a solid chance at beating them out of the small forward slot in the All-Rookie First Team lineup. Johnson could play heavy minutes in Detroit, but Sam Dekker is coming aboard a team that finished second in the brutal Western Conference. It’s safe to say Dekker’s playing time will be limited.

In his last season at Arizona, Rondae averaged 11 points on 53 percent shooting from the field, to go along with 6.8 rebounds. With his athletic build and ferocious gameplay, it’s possible that he can replicate those numbers in the NBA.

Based on Rondae’s talent, and the fact that he’ll get plenty of opportunity in Brooklyn, he could really insert himself into the elite company of his rookie class. That is, if you don’t consider him to be already.

  1. The Nets will finish top 12 in defensive efficiency.

Before the Brooklyn Nets, the team that Lionel Hollins last coached was the Memphis Grizzlies. His tenure with them lasted from 2009-2013. His first season with the Grizzlies resulted in the team ranking 23rd in defensive efficiency. The following season (2010-2011) produced a massive uptick in this category, placing his team at 8th in the league. The Grizzlies enjoyed steady improvements for the two years thereafter, settling themselves among the great defensive teams in the league. They placed 7th and 2nd in defensive efficiency during Hollins’ last two years as head coach. This is a good sign for Brooklyn’s defensive future.

A major factor in defensive rotations is repetition. This will be the first training camp in which all of the projected starters will be present. In other words, all of the projected starters will be able to play together before the season begins. More specifically, it will be the first training camp where Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young will be able to work with, and off of each other defensively. Players will learn when and when not to gamble for steals. Lopez’s elite ability to block and alter shots by coming from the weak side will also add to the havoc that the Nets will intend to wreak upon opposing offenses.

The addition of athletic players will also help their cause on defense. Although athleticism does not guarantee good defense, it certainly is a tool that can help. If there is a coach in the league that can nurture players into becoming defensively oriented, it’s Hollins, who has a history of leading elite defensive teams.

  1. Bojan Bogdanovic will become the third leading scorer on the Nets, averaging 15 ppg.

Bojan Bogdanovic averaged nine points per game as a Brooklyn Net last season, in roughly 24 minutes per game. He only started 28 of his 78 games played. As an NBA rookie, highs and lows were to be expected in his performance. Towards the end of the season, and into the playoffs, he solidified his position as a starter. Even including his slumps, Bojan ended the year shooting the three-pointer at a 35.5 percent clip. He also shot 45 percent from the field overall.

In the playoffs, Bojan saw his minutes per game jump to 34.3, in which he saw his point average rise to 10.3. Given, the postseason only lasted six games for Bogdanovic, but his growing aggression was a sight for the sore eyes of Nets fans.

We know that Bojan is a sharp shooter. He can fill it up in a hurry from behind the arc. But in the NBA, a dog with one trick can get shut down pretty quickly. If Bojan can add some versatility to his game for the 2015-2016 season, he would be extremely difficult to stop. The addition of slashing, or attacking the basket off the dribble will be vital to his ability to score points for Brooklyn. If he adds some slashing or rim attacking to his game, the question still stands: will it be enough to add 6 points to his average from last season? I think the answer is yes. Even if he is not inept at finishing around the rim, the 6’7 guard is bound to draw fouls and get to the charity stripe, where he shot 82.1 percent last season. That, mixed with his occasional makes at the rim should be more than enough to up his point average.

  1. The Nets will win 45 games.

45 wins is a lot to ask, even in the Eastern Conference. But for a team that has committed to a new direction, rather than the win-now mentality they’ve showcased in the past, I think it’s very possible. I think that in some ways, the new direction of the organization will help the team’s regular season cause more than their win-now attitude ever did.

The Brooklyn Nets have one of the best low-post scorers that the league has to offer, Brook Lopez. They also possess Joe Johnson, who is still one of the best one-on-one players in the game today. Scoring shouldn’t be an issue for this retooled Nets squad, if they play through the right players.

They’ve injected an influx of youth into their roster, giving them the ability to run with teams. This was something that gave them issues last season as well. Players that can run, jump, and get after it on defense while bringing intensity on offense are exactly what the doctor ordered for Brooklyn, and they went out and got it. At the very least, youth and athleticism will lead to scrappy play and a lot of hustle. This is the type of play that puts teams in position to win games at the end of close contests.

The improvement of defense seems imminent, thanks to the overturned roster and Hollins’ defensive concentration. This will also help the Nets win 45 games. The ability to stop the other team from scoring is something that comes at a premium. In the current “space and pace” era, grinding possessions out on defense is an essential part of the pacing the game to your liking. Getting defensive stops puts you in position to control how fast or slow you want the game to go.

A massively improved defensive roster, consistency in the locker room, and some capable scorers will make it very possible for the Nets to end the season at four games above 500. Many things have to go right, but optimistically speaking, it’s a reachable goal. The East may have improved, but so has Brooklyn. They’re ready to take on the challenge.

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