By Eddie Castro
After an abysmal 2017-18 season, the Brooklyn Nets were poised to make this year a much more exciting campaign with young, developing players such as D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Rodins Kurucs, just to name a few. The team, on paper, was projected to be a much more athletic core than last year. The question was, can they improve enough to make some serious noise in what is now an open Eastern Conference?
Not only does the team have some standout players like Russell, who had his best year as a pro since coming into the league as a 19-year-old with the Los Angeles Lakers, alongside the first time All-Star was breakthrough players like Jarret Allen, Joe Harris, Ed Davis and Spencer Dinwiddie, who was spectacular coming off the bench. The Nets wrapped up the season with 41 wins, a 14-win improvement from last year which was good enough to clinch the No. 6 seed. The team would eventually fall in the first round of the playoffs to a much-experienced Philadelphia 76ers team who knocked Brooklyn out in 5 games. Although the team did not reach their ultimate goal, General Manager Sean Marks feels the team achieved a goal in making the playoffs, hence building the beginning of a winning culture. The Nets will focus their attention to this summer’s free agents.
It is well-documented that this year’s free agent class will be one of the best in some time. Star players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson will all be available on the market. The Nets have a big free agent of their own and they will have to decide whether D’Angelo Russell’s breakout season was good enough to earn him a max contract. Russell has publicly said that he would “definitely” like to return to the Nets, but he understands the business side of things. Russell has come a long way from his days with the Lakers where his inconsistencies and maturity was in question. It appears that since he was traded to Brooklyn, he has seemed to turn things around. If I was the Nets front office, I would definitely offer Russell a max contract. He has been a big part of the culture and at just 23 years old, he can only get better. If the team can somehow re-sign him and create enough cap space to pair him with another superstar, whether it be Durant or Leonard, we could be talking about a new “Beast in the East.” We shall see how it all plays out.
Sports Notes: (Football) NFL Draft results: (first round picks) With the No. 3 pick, the New York Jets selected Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle from Alabama. The New York Giants selected quarterback Daniel Jones from Duke.