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2015-16 NBA Preview: Sorry, Nets Fans

We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.


On the second day of Brooklyn Nets training camp at Duke University, things got weird. The team’s owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, a 6-foot-8 billionaire from Russia, made an appearance, stealing the show by giving his players a lesson in Tibetan martial arts. It was pretty cool and all, but it doesn’t mask the fact that expectations have changed in Brooklyn. They certainly aren’t your star-chasing, spend-thrifty, championship-or-bust Nets anymore. Over the summer, the team got younger and more athletic, becoming more fiscally responsible in the process. Deron Williams — loved by advanced statistics, if not by his teammates — was given $27.5 million to go away. Therefore, this season — considered a “bridge year” by some inside the organization — will serve as an NBA roster experiment in team chemistry vs. analytics. Brooklyn’s biggest issues will likely be at point guard and on defense. The onus falls on 61-year-old coach Lionel Hollins to get the most out of this Brook Lopez/Joe Johnson-led outfit, which CARMELO pegs as a 25-57 team.

carmelo_depth_chart_NETS

Missing the playoffs could prove to be a massive embarrassment, given that the Boston Celtics own Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick in 2016. Imagine if the Celtics scored the No. 1 overall selection out of the NBA draft lottery. Maybe it’s best not to. But here’s a potential reason for optimism: The Nets could have upwards of $40 million in cap space heading into next summer. At least that’s something, assuming an outside free agent wants to take their money. And the Nets are working on that: They’ve put up renderings of their $50 million Brooklyn waterfront practice facility outside the opposing locker room at Barclays Center. It’s never too early to start selling yourself, and the Nets are off to quite a start.

Here’s what FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system thinks of Brooklyn’s key players:

brook-lopez

We’re not sure what he enjoys more — basketball or Batman — but we do know this: Brook Lopez can score. And yes, he may even take some 3-pointers this season. As long as he can stay healthy — and that’s always a question mark for a big man with an injury history — expect a strong season out of Bropez.


joe-johnson

Heading into his 15th season, Joe Johnson may not be an elite scorer anymore — it’s mostly downhill from now on, according to CARMELO. But Johnson can still dominate in the low post, using his size and strength to his advantage against smaller defenders. And the Nets always have the ability to run an isolation play for Johnson with the game on the line.


jarrett-jack

CARMELO thinks very poorly of Jarrett Jack, and the fact that he’ll be starting for the Nets is one sign that this will be a tough year for Brooklyn fans (again, according to CARMELO). But can he make his teammates better?


thaddeus-young

Thaddeus Young is your typical “pretty good at everything” guy. And all teams need one of those.


andrea-bargnani

If he’s able to stay on the court, Andrea Bargnani could surprise as a nice scoring option at a bargain-basement price. But knowing his past, that’s kind of a BIG IF.


bojan-bogdanovic

As a rookie last season, Bojan Bogdanovic shot well at home and poorly on the road. If he can become more consistent, that will probably make fellow Croatian and No. 1 comparable Gordan Giricek very happy.

Mike Mazzeo covers the Brooklyn Nets for ESPN.

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