That one game is in Portland on Wednesday night, and it’s not a gimme. The Nets lost at home to the Blazers in overtime earlier this month.
That loss started a three-game losing streak.
Shortly before that, Brooklyn endured a five-game skid.
In all, the Nets have dropped 13 of 16.
They’re in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, not exactly where they’d hoped to be when the season started.
Like all teams, Brooklyn has big decisions to make ahead of the trade deadline. Will they deal veterans for draft picks and concede the season? Will they go the other way and obtain win-now talent to make a playoff push?
Brooklyn certainly has the draft capital to make a big move.
The Nets have four unprotected first-round picks from other teams, a first-rounder from Philadelphia that is top-8 protected and a first-round pick swap with Phoenix (Brooklyn also owes Houston two unprotected first-rounders and two first-round pick swaps).
Who might the club use that capital on? The Nets are among the teams with known interest in Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray. (The Knicks, Lakers, and Pistons are also among the group of teams with degrees of interest in Murray)
Dorian Finney Smith and Royce O’Neale will continue to draw interest from opposing teams ahead of the trade deadline.
Also worth noting: Atlanta and Brooklyn touched base earlier in the season about a deal involving Spencer Dinwiddie. (Atlanta’s interest, presumably, is based on what they would look for if they moved Murray)
No matter how the Nets proceed ahead of the deadline, it’s clear that something needs to change.
Brooklyn entered play Wednesday ranked 17th in offensive efficiency. Per Shot Quality, Brooklyn ranked 27th in rate of three-pointers taken that are considered "open." The Nets also ranked 26th in shot selection, which is calculated by where a team would rank if an average player took all of its shot attempts. Overall, Brooklyn ranks 28th in field goal percentage.
In training camp/the preseason, the Nets offense was structured with a healthy Ben Simmons in mind. Simmons has missed 33 of Brooklyn’s 39 games so far due to a troubling back ailment.
With Simmons out and Dinwiddie’s minutes fluctuating, the Nets’ top three players based on usage (Mikal Bridges, Cam Thomas, Cam Johnson) aren’t creating a ton of quality shots for teammates. All three players have assist ratios at 15.1 or below. For context, Johnson’s assist ratio is the highest among the trio for players who’ve played at least 30 games with minutes and usage rates of at least 18. Johnson ranks 74th out of 113 players on the list.
Bridges’ assist ratio (14.8) is the second-lowest among players who are considered their team’s No. 1 option. He is ahead of only San Antonio’s Victor Wembenyama on that list. Among the 10 players who entered Wednesday with a usage of at least 30, Thomas had the lowest assist ratio (9.2).
Overall, the Nets are 25th in assist points created. (Worth noting: Brooklyn seemed to move the ball well during its season-best 7-2 stretch a few weeks ago. Five Nets took at least 10 shots in six of the seven wins)
On the other side of the ball, Brooklyn entered play Wednesday ranked 21st in points allowed per 100 possessions.
Nets fans are becoming impatient with the results.
If you’re looking to point the finger somewhere, GM Sean Marks and Vaughn deserve blame for the subpar performance. The talent is there, so a neutral observer may place added scrutiny on Vaughn for the team's record.
But there’s no indication that Vaughn is in danger of losing his job at this point.
Marks has a close relationship with Nets owner/governor Joe Tsai. So there’s no reason to expect a shakeup at the executive level, either.
So the most likely avenue for change is via trade.
The Nets are more likely to add talent at the deadline than blow up the roster.
Tsai spent a lot of money putting together rosters during the Kevin Durant/Kyrie Irving era. Those rosters amounted to one playoff series victory. Given the investment and results, it’s hard to see how Tsai would support a full-on rebuild at this point.
After the trades of Irving and Durant, it seemed like the Nets were on their way to rebuilding the culture that they touted, but reached the playoffs with players obtained in the trades. However, based on the team’s record this year and the frustration from some players, it seems like the culture has regressed.
Still, there is time for the 2023-24 Nets to turn it around. Brooklyn will either add draft capital at the deadline for a future move, cash some of its trade assets for Murray or hold onto them until the next young, talented player becomes available via trade.
Nets Daily earlier reported the Nets’ interest in Murray.