In NYC Basketball Drought, Brooklyn Nets Shine

D'Angelo Russell has shined for the Brooklyn Nets this season, earning his first ever All-Star game while averaging 20 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists a fame. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

After beating the 38-18 Denver Nuggets on their home court last Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets surpassed their win total from last year at 29. The 29-29 Nets are surging this year, and currently hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference in a season they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season. 

A large part of Brooklyn’s success has been in part to the performance of D’Angelo Russell. The 22-year-old point guard is currently averaging 20 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game for the Nets, and currently leads the team in points and assists per game. Russell’s assist per game total also marks for 12th best in the NBA. 

No one knew when the Brooklyn Nets traded Brook Lopez and a 27th overall draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mosgov in the summer of 2017 that the Nets would be receiving a star. A former second overall draft pick, Russell struggled in his first two years in Los Angeles, and the Lakers organization felt that he would never live up to his once highly thought of potential. Now in the 2018-19 season, Russell is an All-Star, and leading the Brooklyn Nets in a conference that’s wide open. 

But Russell is not the only member of the Nets that has been having a standout year. Center Jarrett Allen is currently tied for 13th in the NBA in total blocks and ranked 11th in field goal percentage at 57.8, while forward Joe Harris is third in the league in 3-pointer field goal percentage with an average of 46.5. 

This young Brooklyn squad came into the season with the ninth youngest roster in the NBA, and currently only have two players over 30 in the 32-year-old DeMarre Carroll and the 33-year-old Jared Dudley. Seven of the players on the Nets are under 25, and all have potential of becoming strong NBA veterans in the future. 

What I love most about this Nets team is that they play together as a team. Russell may be the leading scorer, but he also drops assists at a top-10 rate, making sure all of his teammates get strong touches and good looks. Brooklyn was not even close to success in head coach Kenny Atkinson’s first two years at the helm, but it looks like his players have fully bought into the process and team culture he is bringing to the table. 

The Nets may have started off the season at 8-18, but a 19-5 run from Dec. 7 to Jan. 25 brought Brooklyn’s season back to life, and has put them in a perfect position towards the playoffs right before the All-Star break. With the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors at the top of the conference at 42-14 and 42-16, respectively, the Indiana Pacers loss of Victor Oladipo and the struggles of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, the Nets could have an opportunity to even make it past the first round. 

If I was a star free agent hitting the market this summer, I would be taking a hard look at what the Brooklyn Nets could afford to offer. They obviously have enough pieces to make a playoff run and one more star for Russell to pass to could be the component Brooklyn so desperately needs. Let’s just say if I was Kevin Durant and money wasn’t a factor this summer, I would feel much more comfortable with my chances of being successful in Brooklyn than I would in Manhattan with the Knicks.

Let’s hope the Nets can continue their winning ways and bring a strong product of basketball that New Yorkers have been missing for quite some time.