The Boston Celtics were off tonight, but their fans still have reason to cheer with the Brooklyn Nets dropping a close game against the Detroit Pistons.
This loss was huge in the race for the worst record in the NBA. Brooklyn is now five games worse then the Los Angeles Lakers with seven games to go, so it seems like they’ve all but locked up the top lottery spot for Boston.
While it’s great for the Celtics to get what will guarantee them a top four pick in the draft – especially coming off a year where the Nets handed them the third overall pick – next year might not be as fruitful.
The Nets haven’t been a terrible team with Jeremy Lin in the lineup. The journeyman point guard has been limited to just 30 games this season due to various injuries, but Brooklyn is 9-21 with him in the lineup. That’s not necessary a great record by any means, but the .300 winning percentage is far better then the 7-38 (.156) mark they’re sporting with Lin on the sidelines. Lin has finally been the court consistently these past few weeks, and it’s really paid off for the Nets as they’re 7-10 over the last 17 games.
Brooklyn will still miss the playoffs next year – baring some miracle – but they’re not going to be this bad if you get a full season from Lin, who signed a three year deal over the summer. They also still have veteran Brook Lopez at center averaging over 20 PPG plus you can realistically expect some sort of improvement from 21-year old Isaiah Whitehead and 22-year olds Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, all of whom are currently big players in their rotation.
While they won’t have their own first round pick from the infamous blockbuster trade with Boston, the Nets will still have two first round picks in June to improve the roster even further. They’ll get the Celtics first and second round picks due to the conditions of the swap and they also acquired the Washington Wizards first round pick at the deadline.
You won’t be able to draft studs like Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz if you’re in Brooklyn’s shoes, but these two late first round picks still open the door for them to take a number of appealing players who would help them escape the basement of the league; First Team All-American and the nation’s double-double leader Caleb Swanigan, UCLA leading scorer T.J. Leaf and Duke sharpshooter Luke Kennard are just three players projected to be taken around the time the Nets will finally be on the clock.
If Danny Ainge is going to trade the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, he better hurry up and do it over the summer. It doesn’t take that big a jump to get the Nets from the bottom of the league, as even getting something close to a .400 winning percentage would hand them could still put the pick somewhere between seven and ten. The Nets will also have zero reason to “tank” or throw games away down the stretch.