Despite a predictably bumpy start to the 2016-17 season, the Brooklyn Nets 5-13 record does have some silver linings within it. The reality of the team’s predicament entering this season was that achieving success would require a certain level of patience. This situation was made more difficult by the dearth of draft selections that would ordinarily make such improvement possible.
However, new head coach Kenny Atkinson is making strides toward respectability, progress that’s so far been stalled by the absence of free agent signee Jeremy Lin. Five games into the season, Lin went down with a hamstring injury and since he’s been out of the lineup, the Nets have dropped 10 of their last 13 games.
Lin was one of the few free agent signings, which was a good sign when it comes to the Nets. That’s because developing young players is the only way that Brooklyn will be able to build itself in the coming years. Previously, the quick-fix mentality brought in aging stars at a high price when it comes to future draft picks. The end result is the current state the team finds itself in for this year.
Eric Booker was a relatively inexpensive addition through the free agent market that’s paid off well. Booker currently leads the team in rebounding in his first stint as a regular, while also ranking among the league leaders in steals. That puts him in a select category with the likes of Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard.
The Nets have definitely gone young, with seven members of the team 25 years old or younger. While that may result in a number of tough results along the way, first-year head coach Atkinson has the patience to stay the course. That means giving players that have sparks of potential the opportunity to blossom and letting them learn from their mistakes.
Giving Sean Kilpatrick more time on the court has seen benefits, with Kilpatrick only having played in 35 games over the previous three years. He’s already close to matching his entire minutes for all of last season and took control of the game in Brooklyn’s overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers on November 29.
Scoring 38 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in an outstanding performance, Kilpatrick won’t come close to matching those numbers on a nightly basis. Still, he has put up 14 and 19 points in the two games since, proving the 26-year-old can serve as one of Atkinson’s building blocks.
Lin’s injury forced the Nets to put rookie Isaiah Whitehead in to either sink or swim. Right now, Whitehead is treading water, though suffering a concussion soon after replacing Lin set him back. Brooklyn has a good deal of money invested in Whitehead, so it only makes sense to offer the rookie the chance to keep getting his feet wet.
All of these steps are small ones but the only way that the Nets can move forward from the recent horrors of the past is to look ahead.