2019 Playoff Preview: Brooklyn Nets
Not even head coach Kenny Atkinson thought this team could get here already. The Brooklyn Nets found themselves 42-40 to end the season, locking into the 6th seed in the playoffs. The success in Brooklyn is driven by the surprising season from D’Angelo Russell, a strong candidate for Most Improved Player.
Early on in the season, guard Caris LeVert was on his way to becoming an all star until a devastating knee injury kept him out for 42 games. Spencer Dinwiddie had to undergo mid-season thumb surgery, sidelining him for 14 games, and Allen Crabbe will be out for the remainder of the season, after missing 39 regular season matchups with a knee injury.
Despite the injuries, the Nets were one of the most surprising teams this season. They survived the end of year Western Conference road trip, finished the year defeating 2 of the East’s best teams, and found themselves winning the franchise’s most games since 2014.
The Nets are aggressive, especially when it comes to the three ball. They take and hit the 5th most shots from that range in the NBA. Joe Harris lead the league in 3 point percentage, D’angelo Russell on average makes 2.9 per game, and almost every guard and forward on the team can hit from three.
Look for Atkinson to take advantage of his team’s shooting ability from long range, this will be important if the Nets have any chance of moving on.
There are a few answers here, but the two that stand out are turnovers and rebounding. The Nets averaged the fifth most turnovers per game league wide, and when facing a team like Philadelphia, where all five starters have the ability to play at an all star level, limiting turnovers will be key for the Nets.
Rebounding was an issue all season as well. If it wasn’t for Ed Davis, the Nets might not have found themselves where they are. Jarrett Allen struggles boxing out, especially against larger big men such as Joel Embiid It’s going to be important for the Nets to find a way to contain Embiid inside, something not many teams have been able to do this year.
Brooklyn’s starters will struggle against Philly. Simmons, Embiid and Harris are matchup nightmares. One of the ways Brooklyn has been able to take over games this season is their tremendous bench unit. The bench, usually consisting of Dinwiddie, LeVert, Dudley, Graham and Davis, is one of the best in the league. For Brooklyn to keep the series close, they’ll need to take advantage of points off the bench, a category Brooklyn usually dominates.
On the other side, Philadelphia doesn’t have a strong bench, they rely heavily on their starters for most of their scoring, in fact, no bench player who’s played more than 13 games for the 76ers is averaging more than 8.3 points per game or 5.1 rebounds. If Brooklyn’s bench can take advantage here, it will be key in determining the outcome of the series.
Players to Watch
When D’Angelo Russell is hot, he can hit from anywhere on the floor at any point in the game. We’ve seen him put up 25 in the 4th quarter against Sacramento, 14 in triple OT against the Cavs and a 40 point performance topped with a game winner against the Magic.
After the King’s game Russell said “I’m built for this”, and he’ll have the opportunity to prove it in his first playoff appearance.
Estimated Playoff Run
Brooklyn is a heavy underdog against the 76ers, and for good reason. Simmons, Embiid, Butler and Harris are each All-Star level players, and will probably play 35-40 minutes per game. The Nets went 2-2 against the 76ers this season, one blowout win in Philadelphia and one close win at home.
Despite the two wins, the 76ers did not have Tobias Harris in either of them, or Jimmy Butler in the blowout win. It’s more than likely the Nets are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but expect a hard fought battle in each game.