I don’t think anyone is surprised that the Brooklyn Nets went into Cleveland and lost to the hot Cavaliers. While a win would have been great, and extremely helpful in the playoff race, it was always a tough assignment for this struggling Nets team. What disappoints, irritates, and baffles me is the total lack of effort by the Nets as a whole once the going got a little tough (which, I’m told, is when the tough should get going). From the second quarter on, this was always going to be a blowout, and it was, as the Cavs went on to smack the Nets 117-92.
In a tale that is becoming as old as time, the Brooklyn starters came out like the fire of a thousand suns in the first quarter. They were forcing turnovers, guarding every position, and passing for the easy shot. Then, in a twist that is becoming so common that twists are offended, the reserves came in and it all fell apart.
In the first 9 minutes of this game, the Nets outscored the Cavs 22-13, outshot them 53% to 36%, outrebounded them 7-6, outassisted Cleveland 6-2, and has fewer turnovers (2-5). The rest of the way the Cavaliers turned all of that around, outscoring the Nets 104-70, outshooting them 59%-43%, outrebounding them 37-25, outassisting Brooklyn 30-17, and having fewer turnovers (6-9).
There was precisely one Brooklyn Net with a positive +/-…Markel Brown, the subject of much of my current Brooklyn Nets love. The worst of the starting five was Deron Williams with a minus-15, although he was beaten by the three main reserves, Jarrett Jack (-16), Mason Plumlee (-23), and Bojan Bogdanovic (-34).
COMPLETE BOX SCORE
Frankly, I could go on and on and on about how terrible the Nets were both offensively and defensively from the end of the first quarter onward, but I just did that last week. Go ahead and read about the Brooklyn patented “hot-start-fall-apart” and just apply everything to this game as well. So I’d rather use this space to discuss a different beef I have with our Brooklyn boys…well, more their front office.
I have written here before about my frustration with the Brooklyn Nets and General Manager Billy King trading away an unending stream of first round draft picks, but this seems like a good time to explain why. Many fans and GMs alike overvalue draft picks, but that does not mean they are not important.
Why people love a high draft pick is simple: that’s when you can get a superstar for a steal of a contract. What makes them overvalued is obvious looking through any past draft lottery. Each year is filled with players that just didn’t work. Heck, even if we just focus on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets over the past 15 years we find Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Luke Jackson, Eddie Griffin, and Terrance Williams…all picks within the top 11. You all still have your Eddie Griffin jerseys, right?
There is another aspect of this though: that all the good teams have players that they drafted very high (or at least traded for on draft night). Here’s a list of impactful players that were drafted in the top 10 between 2006 and 2010 and are still with their drafting teams: John Wall, Paul George, Blake Griffin, Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, LaMarcus Aldridge. Any players in there leading championship contenders?
I know, I know…the draft is certainly not the only way to build a championship contending team. Look at the Houston Rockets, who have two very high lottery picks in Dwight Howard and James Harden, yet they acquired both through other means. The problem is that the Nets don’t have nearly the tradable assets that Houston did. Besides, recent history is showing that drafting smartly (or perhaps luckily) is the easier, quicker way to the NBA Finals.
Since 2006, eight different teams have appeared in the NBA Finals. Each of them has had a very important player that was picked in the lottery (although some were via draft day trades). They are:
|San Antonio Spurs
|Los Angeles Lakers
|Oklahoma City Thunder
It is not a coincidence that all of these teams have a major player found in the lottery. Even the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat, three teams that prefer to play the free agent market, all needed help from the lottery.
Bringing it back to tonight’s game is interesting, because both teams fit the “build around a lottery player” mold. Obviously Cleveland have Kyrie Irving (because LeBron doesn’t count anymore since returned as a free agent), but Brooklyn has Brook Lopez, a player they selected 10th overall. The difference with these two teams is expectations and, frankly, the future. Very, very few of even the diehardest (Die Hard 6…Die Hardest) Nets fans are still hoping for a Finals run, but Cleveland is looking strong. On top of that, their future seems to be a little brighter as well.
I’m not saying teams should tank, although I understand why they do. What I’m saying is that sending your potential future to another team could make the future darker than intended. Look at the Knicks or the Lakers right now; teams that have consistently sent their first round picks for stars. Let’s be nice and just say it didn’t work out for them, but on top of that they also have no way to rebuild that doesn’t involve spending way more money.
Unfortunately, that’s the big difference between the Nets and the Cavs: Cleveland has repeatedly put themselves position to get superstars. Sure, lots of luck went into all those number 1 picks, but it wouldn’t have mattered if they kept trading them away. The Nets sold everything for the chance for a title and now the repo men are taking all the furniture.
Let’s take a quick look at Oklahoma City, a team with undoubted talent that may still miss the playoffs due to unforeseen injuries. They have made several trades over the past few years, and undoubtedly expected to not be in the lottery, yet they still have their pick (technically it’s been traded, but it’s top-18 protected in 2015). So it’s possible that the Thunder will add yet another very good player if they miss the playoffs.
I won’t go over the Nets draft future again because it’s just too depressing, but let them stand as a warning to all. You should want to wear shades because the future’s so bright, not because you’re embarrassed to be a Nets fan.