1. Did owner Mikhail Prokhorov get it right with his front-office changes?
If a systematic, detailed approach to creating a culture patterned on the San Antonio Spurs’ methods and dedication to player development mean anything, the hiring of GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson is nothing but net.
2. Can Jeremy Lin step up to provide direction for a franchise that needs a galvanizing force?
Forget the “Linsanity” phenomena in 2012 with the Knicks. This is the first time any organization has displayed faith in Lin to not only provide offense but to set locker-room tone and lead the right way.
3. Can franchise center Brooks Lopez adjust to another new system that asks him to expand his game?
Lopez got into top shape to meet the demands of Atkinson to become a better defender and to develop multiple skills to fit into a motion offense rather than simply rely on his bread-and-butter pick-and-roll.
REASONS TO LIKE THEM
The Nets signed free agents Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, but lost them when their teams matched. Still, Marks and Atkinson identified a group of under-the-radar players with character who fit their system and only need an opportunity to succeed, including Trevor Booker, Greivis Vasquez, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Anthony Bennett and aging Luis Scola. They’ve bought in.
REASONS TO BE CONCERNED
Defense remains a major problem area for a team that ranked 29th in the NBA last season. Ultimately, Atkinson likely will lean toward players who provide consistent defensive effort because that’s the best way for a team with less talent to steal wins. Scorers Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic must commit to stay on floor at crunch time.
PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE: Caris LeVert
Lots of Nets veterans might play better than expected, but Marks traded a solid producer in forward Thaddeus Young for the 20th pick of the first round to take the Michigan small forward despite the need for foot surgery. Rehab has gone well, and when he’s ready, LeVert’s shot and athleticism could make a big impact.