Are the Brooklyn Nets bound to miss the Playoffs?

new-jersey-nets-miss-playoffsThis past offseason, the Brooklyn Nets made some huge free agent acquisitions to vault themselves among the NBA’s elite teams…or so it seemed. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov was pretty clear that he wanted to compete for a championship now, so GM Billy King went out and got Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

However, these moves were costly because the Nets gave up several draft picks, leaving them with just one draft selection between now and 2018. In addition to losing the picks, Brooklyn also has the highest payroll in the league at $102.2 million, along with an $87.2 million luxury tax – bringing their total to $187.4 million.

So with a third of the season now finished, what have they gotten for all of these expenditures? A 9-18 record, which is tied for third in the Atlantic Division. Things have been ugly beyond just the record too. Rookie head coach Jason Kidd seems in over his head, and he had a large role in super-assistant Lawrence Frank’s demotion. His locker room speeches are far from inspiring too, as you can see from the following gem that he delivered after the Nets’ blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers:

Well I think it is getting very close to just accepting losing. We are kind of getting comfortable with losing. And we got to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we just give in and most of the time right now we do.

jason-kidd-new-jersey-coachKidd’s rough coaching introduction and King trading away Brooklyn’s future doesn’t even begin to cover everything that’s wrong here. The team’s early season MVP, Brook Lopez, is now sidelined with a broken foot. This means the team will have to replace 20.7 PPG, 6 RPG and 1.76 BPG. Brooklyn has also sorely missed an injured Andrei Kirilenko, who’s played just 57 minutes this year. His bargain-basement signing this offseason is what truly worried the defending champion Miami Heat. But there’s nothing to fear when Kirilenko can’t stay on the court.

Even those who have been on the court have underachieved. Pierce is scoring just 12.6 PPG and shooting 40.2% from the field. Nobody expected him to play like he did a decade ago. But Pierce is really struggling to fit in with his new team. Garnett is even more disappointing, averaging just 6.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG and shooting a dreadful 37.5% from the field. At 38 years old, you have to wonder if KG is now on a steep decline.

Joe Johnson (16.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and Deron Williams (12.5 PPG, 7.6 APG) have both been solid thus far. But these two alone aren’t capable of leading a team to the NBA title. So if they don’t get some help from the supporting cast soon, you have to wonder if this overly expensive team is headed for the draft lottery.

What’s sad is that, even if they do get a lottery pick, the selection will belong to the Atlanta Hawks (via Joe Johnson deal). So it basically looks like it’s postseason or bust for this team. Their best chance currently resides in passing some of their foes in the awful Atlantic Division. Toronto currently leads the Atlantic with an 11-15 record, while Boston holds the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed with a 12-17 record. Boston is 2 games ahead of New Jersey, while Toronto is 2.5 games ahead of them.

Assuming Brooklyn can’t overtake either of these teams and grab a playoff berth, this could mark one of the biggest disasters in NBA history. After all, who wants to pay $189.4 million for a lottery pick that you won’t get to use anyways?

2013 NBA Draft: Who will Cleveland pick First?

nerlens-noelThe NBA Draft Lottery was held last night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers truly hit a jackpot. With just a 15.6% chance of corralling the top pick, Cleveland saw their ping pong ball come up first. So they’ll be making the first selection when the 2013 NBA Draft takes place on June 27th.

While nobody is a slam dunk to be chosen No.1 this year, the popular consensus is that Cleveland will take Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. The 7-footer is pretty raw offensively and has a super-skinny frame at just 210 pounds. But he’s got tremendous upside, is a phenomenal shot-blocker, and fills the Cavaliers’ need for another good frontcourt player.

Anderson Varejao currently plays center for the Cavs and has been an excellent rebounder and solid defender…when he actually plays. However, the 6’11” big man has played just 81 games in the past three years, including 25 last season. Because of Varejao’s injury issues, taking a chance on Nerlens certainly isn’t a bad idea. And even if they’re both healthy, Varejao can play some power forward as well.

American v KansasKansas guard Ben McLemore has also been discussed as a potential number one pick. And it wouldn’t be completely unfathomable to think that Cleveland would choose him if they saw something unique. However, this is a team that took shooting guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick last year. Plus they have Kyrie Irving at point guard, which would make taking McLemore a little overkill.

One more name that’s been thrown out as a potential number one selection is Otto Porter Jr. This is completely a needs-based pick since Cleveland has a big hole to fill at small forward. But as talented as the Georgetown product is, most analysts don’t see him as the absolute best player in the draft.

otto-porter-jrIf the Cavaliers don’t fall in love with anybody, there’s also the option of trading away the top selection. However, this is a bad idea for a team that’s seemingly tanked the last few years in hopes of stockpiling young talent through the draft. It’s also hard to see Cleveland getting fair value on any potential superstar they’d select number in June.

The wheels have definitely been set in motion for the Cavs to return to competitiveness in the 2013-2014 season. Irving is one of the best young point guards in the league after averaging 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 1.51 SPG and shooting 39.1% from the 3-point line. Waiters had a strong rookie campaign after scoring 14.7 PPG and dishing out 3.0 APG. Tristan Thompson is proving to be a good frontcourt player, following a season where he averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.4 RPG.

Plus this club is loaded with solid role players in C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Marreese Speights, Tyler Zeller. Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Pargo. Will all of this be enough for a playoff run next year? Depending upon how their No. 1 pick develops in the upcoming season, Cleveland definitely could be back in the postseason for the first time in four years.