Against all odds, the Brooklyn Nets are a playoff team

Mike O'Hagan

Mike is a college student in Minneapolis (Row the Boat!), and basketball his a passion. There is no story too small or bland. He currently also writes for SB Nation's Timberwolves site "Canis Hoopus." Alongside the NBA, Mike is also interested in college basketball, college football, the NFL and sports betting.
Mike O'Hagan

In the 2013 offseason, one of the most infamous trades in NBA history took place when the Brooklyn Nets essentially traded their 2014, 2016, and 2018 first-round picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Brooklyn also gave Boston the right to swap first-round picks in 2017. In total, Boston received four first-rounders for two aging stars.

It was a trade that set the Nets franchise back years. They quickly bottomed out, which especially hurt since the Nets didn’t own any of their own first-round picks in the near future. As most of you know, this led to years of terrible Brooklyn teams yielding valuable draft picks to the Celtics.

From that trade, these are the main players that Boston acquired using those picks: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kyrie Irving. Who knows how Tatum/Brown would’ve turned out in Brooklyn, or if Brooklyn would’ve tried to use a pick to acquire a star like Boston did. However, Boston and Brooklyn would be in very different spots had that trade not gone through.

How close are the Brooklyn Nets?

Brooklyn is close, though, to getting to the other side. Head coach Kenny Atkinson and GM Sean Marks have done an incredible job molding this team with limited resources.

They have developed a modern looking team built with diamonds in the rough. If you haven’t taken the time to watch one of their games, do it. They’re one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams to watch in the entire league, especially offensively. They do things like this a lot.

They acquired D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers for Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma. At the time, it looked like Russell would struggle to be a good NBA player. This year, D-Lo is breaking out, averaging 18.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.

The Nets were stuck with the 22nd overall pick when Boston swapped first-round picks with them in 2017. They turned that into Jarrett Allen, a young big man from Texas. He has proven to be a premier rim protector already.

In 2016, Brooklyn traded for Caris Levert. Levert had suffered a gruesome leg injury in college, and his NBA future was in question. Before suffering another injury set back this year, Levert was leading the team with 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.

They’ve also taken advantage of other teams’ mistakes. Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie have found homes in Brooklyn after being cut by their former teams. That’s a good thing for Brooklyn. Harris is one of the best shooters in the NBA, knocking down 47.3% of his three-pointers this season. Dinwiddie, on the other hand, is posting per-game averages of 16.8 points and 5 assists.

Brooklyn has managed to build a promising young core without having the luxury of high draft capital. They’re still without the proverbial “star,” but they have a nucleus of good players. That counts for something.

Smart moves paying off for the Nets

All of these smart, calculated risks have paid off. Brooklyn is back in the playoff hunt. As it stands today, they sit 7th in the Eastern Conference at 22-23 overall.

Eastern Conference Standings

It’s entirely possible that the Nets fall off at the end of the season and find themselves in the lottery in June. However, it seems more likely that they will continue to be competitive and make an appearance in the postseason. Just last night, they took down Boston in a game that was not nearly as close as the 109-102 final score would suggest.

For a franchise that so recently made one of the most bone-headed decisions in NBA history, their current success is truly remarkable.

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