Hello, Last Place - The Sad Saga of the Brooklyn Nets

Hello, Last Place - The Sad Saga of the Brooklyn Nets
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The number 30 represents a few things in the NBA. 30 represents how many teams are in the league, 30 is a respectable number for shooting from 3-point range (though not ideal), and 30 is a really good number for a player's individual points per game. The Brooklyn Nets, however, are dealing with all of the wrong 30s in the NBA.

Points per game as a team? 30th. Offensive rating? 95.8, and that's good for 30th in the NBA. Expected win-loss based on schedule and team roster? 30th in the NBA as well. Even in categories where the Nets are not dead last, they still fair in the bottom third of the league, and that's including attendance, where there are 20 teams ranked ahead of them. Even with that ranking, it seems like most of the fans who come to see games aren't even Nets fans. Kobe Bryant received more cheers the entire night than Brooklyn did as a team in Friday's showdown of the winless. The only thing going for the Nets is- well, actually, nothing.

There's maybe one good thing to come out of all this, and that is that unlike last season and the season prior when the Nets had an obscenely large tax bill, Brooklyn's ownership isn't paying an awful amount of money to field an awful team on the court. The only good thing that Nets management has done is cut their tax bill move-by-move. That, and they acquired a good young piece in Thaddeus Young. However, that move was largely the result of multiple mistakes prior. A team with Brooklyn's outlook would likely try to strip down as much as possible to contend for a high draft pick in an effective rebuild. Thad Young slightly stalls that (at least, that's from last year's prospective when they acquired him). Why bother getting and re-signing him?

Oh yeah, they don't have their own draft pick. Following Brooklyn's trade with the Boston Celtics in 2013 to acquire three aging players in exchange for all future flexibility, the Nets have been stuck in the mud without any hope to escape any time soon. Not having their 2016 and 2018 draft picks along with Boston having the right to swap in 2017 severely limits their tank options. That puts the Nets in quite the precarious situation, and it definitely explains trying to acquire Young at last year's deadline and re-signing him. They get no benefit from tanking this season because they don't own their own draft pick, but they really can't help being awful at basketball. This team is full of aging players who were pretty decent in their prime along with young and unproven players. Joe Johnson used to be a force in this league, but now he's the shell of the shell of himself from two years ago. It's that bad. Brook Lopez looks like the only competent player on the team, and he can't do it all. Imagine if his foot injury were more serious than it is and he were forced to miss more time. The already unwatchable Nets would be even more unwatchable. No one wants that. To make matters worse, they signed Andrea Bargnani in the offseason. Need I say more?

What can the Nets do? There's no respite anywhere near in sight. Next season, the Celtics will still own the Nets to the extent of having the right to swap draft picks with Brooklyn. Many are not as high on Boston as their fans, but most can agree that it's unlikely that they'll be picking in the Draft Lottery next season, so Brooklyn will be stuck with another pick in the late teens or maybe early twenties. The only thing Brooklyn can do is to finish what they were too proud to accomplish last season: trade Brook Lopez.

As the final hours ticked down at the trade deadline, the Oklahoma City Thunder were in talks to acquire Brook Lopez in exchange for Reggie Jackson. That would have been a start, and though the Nets had Deron Williams at the time, Reggie Jackson would have been a tremendous upgrade, and he's showing that now with the upstart Detroit Pistons. Instead, Brooklyn pulled out to stupidly pursue the last seed in the Eastern Conference and a first round defeat. They may have lucked out with young prospects like Chris McCullough and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but we have no idea at the moment. What Brooklyn needs to do is just accept that they aren't good and rebuild from the top down.

The top likely means Billy King, fabricator of two back-breaking deals (Joe Johnson and the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce duo). He needs to go. In hindsight, he's led to the playoff resurgence of not one but two teams (Boston and Atlanta). He's done more to build those teams than his own. After King is out, whoever takes over must trade Brook Lopez. He is one of the few "valuable" assets that Brooklyn still possesses, and they need to capitalize on that as soon as possible. Unlike last spring, trading him will be very difficult, if not impossible, and that's even if he stays healthy. From then, the teardown needs to go into full force. Getting another team's draft pick is the only way that Brooklyn won't feel the sting as the Celtics take their likely top-5 pick this spring.

For now, instead of the "Hello, Brooklyn" slogan that the team employed upon their initial move out of New Jersey, the Nets are forced to say "Hello, Last Place." Might as well get comfortable; the Nets aren't going anywhere for a while.