ESPN released their preseason power rankings and season-long record predictions on Monday morning. Neither envisions good things happening for Brooklyn this season.
ESPN has Brooklyn ranked 20th in their preseason power rankings and projects them to finish 39-43, which is eighth best in the Eastern Conference.
After finishing sixth in the East last year, finishing eighth would be disappointing. Still, considering the seven teams projected in front of Brooklyn (Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Knicks, Cavs, Heat, and Hawks), many of which are tier-one Eastern Conference teams, eighth feels like it is in the right ballpark.
Entering the season, the Nets belong in tier two of Eastern Conference teams, grouped with the Hawks, Magic, Raptors, Pacers, and Bulls. Four of those six tier-two teams will likely be in the play-in. Luckily for Brooklyn, their roster, led by Mikal Bridges, is more talented than all of those five other teams.
ESPN NBA Insider Tim Bontemps says the 2023-2024 season is all about Mikal Bridges for Brooklyn.
"“This year is going to be about seeing whether Mikal Bridges can officially make the leap to being an All-Star after he made impressive strides as the focal point of Brooklyn’s offense. And if the Nets can make it back to the postseason, that’ll be seen as a success.”"
The Eastern Conference is much weaker than the Western Conference, so multiple teams are bound to finish higher in the standings than their roster indicates they would. If the Brooklyn Nets want to be one of those teams, they must clean up one specific area: closing out games. Brooklyn has a minus-24.3 clutch net rating post-All-Star break, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.
"“Although Brooklyn remained competitive after trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the lack of star talent reared its head late in games. Only the lottery-bound Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers had worse net ratings in the clutch (score within five points, last five minutes and OT) post-All-Star. The good news for the Nets is that sample represented just 35 minutes, and their defense in particular, should regress to the mean.”"
Brooklyn can start proving doubters wrong on Wednesday night when they host Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavilers to kick off the 2023-2024 NBA season.