We here at Cream City Central are antsy to see the 2016-2017 Milwaukee Bucks season kick off. In order to make this grueling wait seem as manageable as possible, we have decided to provide our projection of what the Eastern Conference standings will look like when the regular season comes to a close (based off of an aggregation of our individual staff writers’ projections). However, we’re not just stopping there. Each and every day, starting now, will feature a detailed spotlight on a single team. Working from the bottom of our standings up, look out for daily new pieces for the following fourteen days. Find our projected Eastern Conference standings below:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Toronto Raptors
  4. Indiana Pacers
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Detroit Pistons
  7. Charlotte Hornets
  8. Washington Wizards
  9. Miami Heat
  10. New York Knicks
  11. Chicago Bulls
  12. Milwaukee Bucks
  13. Orlando Magic
  14. Philadelphia 76ers
  15. Brooklyn Nets

Accordingly, our first stop is the Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York.

Introduction

21-61. That was the record for the 2015-2016 Brooklyn Nets. After reaching the playoffs the year before (and giving the Hawks a run for their money), this record was surprising…at first. Then, in the middle of the season, coach Lionel Hollins was fired (eventually to be replaced by Kenny Atkinson), Billy King soon followed, and Joe Johnson was shipped to Miami. The beginnings of an overhaul were finally underway in Brooklyn, and their record clearly displayed it.

The Net’s offseason kept them on the path of rebuilding. Old and disappointingly average Jarrett Jack was waived, Thaddeus Young was traded for Caris LeVert, and a bunch of young guys will be competing for a few extra spots on the team’s roster. Nonetheless, despite the youth movement in Brooklyn, their starting lineup resembles a semi-competent unit of moderately skilled players. Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker are two prime examples of exceedingly average players in the starting five, both of whom were picked up during the offseason. It’s easy to see the positive direction that the Nets are heading in the future, but they still oddly resemble a team that wants to make the playoffs now. Is that a possibility for the perceived-to-be lowly 2016-2017 Brooklyn Nets? Let’s find out.

Roster Breakdown

Starting Lineup: Jeremy Lin (PG), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (SG), Bojan Bogdanovic (SF), Trevor Booker (PF), Brook Lopez (C)

This is perhaps definitely the straight-up weirdest starting lineup in the NBA. J-Lin is at the point guard position, and boy, it’s going to be bizarre to see him in a Nets jersey. The once New York savior and fabled super hero will be suiting up for the other side of town. Speaking on his skill, Lin is an average player at a position where there exists a lot of above average players. Still, he is a clear improvement from Jack and may be able to turn some heads as the season progresses.

At shooting guard, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looks to continue to carve out a name for himself in the NBA. It’ll be interesting to see him match up and probably outclass fellow draftee Rashad Vaughn (or maybe even recently drafted Malcolm Brogdon) while Middleton is sidelined with his injury.

Then, Bojan Bogdanovic headlines the small forward position for the Nets. Bogdanovic is another relatively young, serviceable, and slightly rising player in the league. The same could be said for the more experienced Trevor Booker, the Nets’ starting power forward. However, look for the duo to be worked hard by our own big twosome, Giannis and Jabari.

Finally, the man manning the paint is by far the best player on the Nets. Brook Lopez, the longest tenured Net on their active roster, is better than most centers in the NBA. Look for the Nets to feed him the ball against less-capable defenders (i.e. Monroe) and let him go to work. The starting five for the Nets, although oddly formed, will likely keep pace with most other teams in the Association.

Key Reserves: Greivis Vasquez (PG), Luis Scola (C), Isaiah Whitehead (SG)

Maybe Greivis Vasquez will be able to do for the Brooklyn Nets what he was supposed to do for the Milwaukee Bucks. If all goes to plan for the Terps alum, Vasquez should be able to provide solid minutes off the bench for a team lacking skilled and experienced depth. Vasquez is still in the prime of his career, so he should be able to score, facilitate, and provide energy like he did just a couple years ago in Toronto.

Moving forward, every team in the NBA, especially any rebuilding team, has to have that token fan-favorite veteran. For the Nets, this man will be 36-year-old Luis Scola. He shouldn’t play a major role on the court, but expect him to keep the young guys in check and have the occasional Prime Scola (is that a thing?) game. For a team lacking significant bench production, I decided to include Isaiah Whitehead within this category of players. Whitehead was The Man on Seton Hall less than a year ago, and despite choking in March Madness, look for Whitehead to show off his scoring ability.

Strengths

The Brooklyn Nets may seem like a team that fans of opposing teams look forward to playing in order to get the easy W. That should not be the case. The Nets’ starting five is solid, and for the most part, reasonably experienced. Honestly, they should be able to at least keep pace with most other starting lineups in the NBA. If a nice chemistry is formed between the five, expect them to even outperform many other starters around the league. Scoring should come naturally for this group of talented offensive players, and while the backcourt may be less than intimidating, Brook Lopez is always able to grind out buckets when shots are not falling. If the Nets show up on your team’s schedule, be prepared for a battle uncharacteristic of last year’s group.

 Weaknesses

Sadly, the Nets are still the Nets, and won’t be able to make the playoffs this year. Their bench is severely lacking experience and skill. Whether Kenny Atkinson opts to play the starters together for extended periods or circulate them through the bench lineups, the bench mob will not be able to hold their own against even mediocre secondary units. Further, expect the Nets to get absolutely hounded on defense. Despite the addition of gritty players like Trevor Booker and Jeremy Lin, the Nets players will have a problem with keeping opponents in front of them and out of the paint. Lastly, despite all the positives that come with youth movements, the Nets are inexperienced. Even if Caris LeVert, Chris McCullough, and Isaiah Whitehead all turn out to live up to their potential, they will need years under their belt to make them truly NBA official. I expect the Bucks to run on the Nets as much as possible, forcing inexperienced bench players into the game and then running up the score.

2016-2017 Projection

The Brooklyn Nets are not a playoff team this year. I really believe that they will surprise people, but they will not reach the playoffs in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference. In fact, I would argue that they are the worst team in the East at the moment. As of now, Vegas odds project the Nets to have a measly 20.5 wins – the lowest win count in the Association. Nonetheless, despite Vegas’s fortuneteller vision, I think this number represents the lowest ceiling for the Nets. I expect them to improve on last season’s campaign, and if all goes well, I can see the Nets getting 30 wins on the season. Realistically, however, I think the Nets will get 25 wins. Injuries will be the death of this team, and sadly, injuries are an inevitable part of all competitive sports. Overall, the Eastern Conference is good, and accordingly, the Nets represent the worst team among great competition.

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