Bench, Culture Are Foundation of Brooklyn Nets’ Future

Jan 6, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) and the bench react during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center. Cleveland Cavaliers won 116-108. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 6, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) and the bench react during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center. Cleveland Cavaliers won 116-108. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

This offseason, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks signed some household names and some young guys with chips on their shoulders. This has helped the Nets become the second-highest bench scoring team in the league, despite their historically bad record.

When Sean Marks introduced new Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson in May of 2016, there was one thing that was very clear: Atkinson’s style. Many around Atkinson knew that he would want a fast-paced team that was deep.

Halfway through the season, that’s exactly what he got. Not only does Coach Atkinson’s team come in at second in the NBA in bench scoring, they also have the highest pace of any team in the league. This is a bright spot for a team struggling to win ball games.

The NBA’s top five teams in bench scoring all have less than 22 wins a little past the halfway point of this season. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These are all teams that have about the same quality talent starting as they do coming off the bench. Additionally, these teams are rebuilding and trying to build a firm infrastructure to build upon. So far this season, it is safe to say the Nets have done just that.

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With the Nets this season, wins have not come easy, but it’s good to know that they’re building the correct way with the current hole former Nets GM Billy King dug them in. Atkinson may be limited as far as talent goes, but as time goes on, that will change, as the Nets will regain control of their draft picks, and future free agents begin to see the culture being created in the borough.

On the Boomer and Carton show Friday morning, columnist Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo’s The Vertical had this to say:

"“I talk to players around the league, agents, people. They like what’s in Brooklyn to send their guys to in the future. The coaching, the organization, everything around it. The Knicks still don’t have that. And it gets back to this: Whether Donnie Walsh is GM, who did a tremendous job, or whether it’s Phil Jackson, it will always be James Dolan’s culture there.”"

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This is exciting to hear as a Nets fan, and this was a big reason why many felt that Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson were the right guys for the Nets’ vacancies. With that said, a lot of that can go back to what they Nets are building. Despite the lack of talent, the Nets are still continuing to create a foundation for the future and aren’t focused on doing whatever it takes to win.

The Nets’ front office’s way of building is the perfect approach to rebuilding a franchise that was left broken by the last regime. So far, it has seemed to work beautifully, despite the Nets’ historically bad record.

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With the Nets shuffling around players from starting roles to the bench throughout the season due to the injuries, it is not surprising to see why they have the second best bench in the NBA, scoring-wise. Players like Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead, Sean Kilpatrick, and even Jeremy Lin have all come off the bench at some point this season.

This has definitely shown, with the Nets averaging exactly 44 points off the bench in nearly 22 minutes per game. We’ve seen players like Brook Lopez average some of the lowest minutes per game in their entire career, and that is a direct indication of Atkinson’s coaching style that he will seemingly continue to use for the foreseeable future.

It’s hard to tell how many more years it will take before the Nets are back into playoff contention. The Nets could potentially trade Lopez for assets, grab a solid free agent or two, and possibly be back in the playoffs by 2018. On the other hand, it is more likely that there will continue to be more cold winters in Brooklyn before the Nets get to taste the feeling of getting to play Spring basketball.

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Nevertheless. Marks and Atkinson have laid down a foundation for the future, and that consists of a competitive bench and a San Antonio Spurs-esque style of rotation. It may take a few years for the seeds that have been planted to blossom into black-and-white colored flowers, but as of right now, the Nets and their fans are just happy to at least have some seeds to be planted.