A look at five question facing the Nets during the offseason.
1. Will Brook Lopez remain as the Nets’ franchise player?
That was a legitimate question at the beginning of the season when most assumed Lopez would be leveraged for draft picks at the trade deadline. But a player who made only three three-pointers in his previous eight seasons made 134 of 385 threes (.348), and coach Kenny Atkinson has pronounced him system fit. Consider the company Lopez now is keeping: He's one of three players in NBA history to average 20 points while making 100 threes and blocking 100 shots -- Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki are the others -- and Lopez is the only 20-point scorer in the NBA who averaged fewer than 30 minutes per game. How would the Nets replace that?
2. Should Jeremy Lin remain as the Nets’ starting point guard and leader?
As disappointing as it was for Lin to miss 45 games (before resting in the season finale) with three hamstring injuries, his absence clearly underlined his value to the Nets, who were 13-20 in the games he started (he came off the bench in three, all losses) and 7-41 (pending the outcome of the finale in Chicago) in the games he didn't start. Their turnaround coincided with his return to the lineup after the All-Star break when they went 11-12 with Lin playing all four quarters. The Nets might explore the point guard market in the offseason, but Lin established himself as their clear leader.
3. How much does it hurt to not have a guaranteed top-four pick that was traded to Boston?
It hurts a lot because that's the area of the draft where you generally find franchise-changing talent, and they don't currently have any first-round picks in 2018 when they make their final payment to the Celtics. But general manager Sean Marks proved an adept judge of talent in his first draft, reaching for Caris LeVert, who had an injury history, with the 20th overall pick and grabbing Isaiah Whitehead in the second round. LeVert sat out the first 20 games but made 26 starts, including the final 24 games when the Nets made their turnaround. Whitehead showed he can play both guard positions and was especially good playing off the ball with the second unit.
4. Will the Nets continue to forage in the D-League for talent?
Atkinson often has said the players they culled from the D-League this season -- Quincy Acy, Spencer Dinwiddie and Archie Goodwin -- are like draft picks to the Nets. All became solid role players, especially Dinwiddie, who started at point guard much of the time when Lin was injured and evolved into a very productive backup on a second unit that was the second-highest scoring bench in the NBA. Veterans Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris, who also have D-League backgrounds, established themselves as regular contributors. The competition for roster spots among players with non-guaranteed deals kept the Nets competitive all season.
5. Can the Nets attract top free-agent talent?
Their NBA-worst record makes it a tough sell, and they were unsuccessful in going after restricted free agents Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe last year when their teams matched the Nets' offers. It's believed the Nets are interested in restricted small forward Otto Porter this summer, but the Wizards are likely to match any offer. Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is another potential target, and the Pistons haven't indicated what decision they will make. As for the sales pitch they can make to unrestricted free agents, Atkinson said, "We've got great fans, a great basketball city, great practice facility. I think we're getting mojo around the league that it's a pleasant place to play. So I just think guys will look at it and say maybe this is a place where I can get an opportunity and help this team improve."
Randy Foye is the Nets' only unrestricted free agent. Dinwiddie and Goodwin are on unguaranteed contracts. Contracts for Harris and Kilpatrick are non-guaranteed until June 30. Acy's contract is non-guaranteed until July 16. K.J. McDaniels is under contract but with a team option for 2017-18 that must be exercised by June 24. Projected salary-cap space is an estimated $25 million but could climb higher if the Nets waive players with non-guaranteed contracts.
By the numbers (not including final game at Chicago)
The Nets rank seventh in the NBA in percentage of points in the paint (.433) and sixth in points from three-point range (.305). They rank second in fourth-quarter points (27.8). In pace (number of possessions per game), the Nets rank first (103.6). From three-point range, the Nets rank fifth in field goals made (10.8) and fourth in field goals attempted (31.6). The Nets are eighth in points in the paint per game (46.0), second in bench scoring (45.6), second in points per game driving (23.5) and second in drives per game (35.0).