Nets Win Projections Underestimate The Lin/Atkinson Factor

Last season Yahoo projected the Hornets would win 27 games, but with Lin playing an important “glue” role, they wound up with 48 victories and made the playoffs.

This season ESPN predicted the Nets would only win 20 games.

Understand this. The projections made by national sports sites and writers are really just “educated” guesses, and in most instances you should take the word “educated” with a grain of salt. While it is fairly easy to come up with a reasonable projection for a team that’s returning most of its best players–like the Cavs, Warriors, Raptors, and Celtics–those with a lot of new faces like the Nets are much harder to predict.

Brooklyn Nets 2017-2018 Nike Jerseys

I believe projections for Nets victory total this year are quite a bit off. Why? Because if you really carefully study this Nets roster with its in-season growth potential, and really understand the Jeremy Lin/Kenny Atkinson X factor, the victory bar could significantly be raised, perhaps into the 30+ range and maybe beyond.

Although, yes, I’m a Jeremy Lin fan, I used my 19 years of experience as an NBA writer covering the Knicks and Nets to think outside the box in my projection analysis.

Let’s start with Lin and Brook Lopez, a former All-Star center, and the best player on the team.

Lopez is known as a very good pick ‘n roll player. Lin, even by those who consider him just a backup point guard, is widely considered among the top PnR point guards in the NBA. The last high-quality PnR guard Lopez played with was Deron Williams, but it came during a time in which Williams was already heading for the down side because of nagging injuries.

That’s one reason why I believe Lin is going to help make Lopez an All-Star for the second time in his career. And not only because of Lin’s PnR connection with him, but also because the point guard has the innate ability to get the ball to big men in positions where they can score more easily. This combination of adding significant PnR to Lopez’s game, and getting the ball to him in the best position, is why I believe the big man might have a career season. Make no mistake about it: a career-best output by Lopez is going to go a long way toward boosting the Nets win totals over the low-ball projections.

I also think what was not considered in those 20-win scenarios is the ability of new head coach Kenny Atkinson to develop and bring out not only the best in guards like Lin, but in big men. Center/power forward Al Horford when he was with the Hawks has widely credited Atkinson for turning him from just a low post player into one who can score in the paint and also play a stretch 4. Under Atkinson’s tutelage, Lopez, who already has a strong mid-range shot, may be able to stretch the floor–if not beyond the arc, at least close to it.

And of course, never underestimate Lin’s ability to make other teammates better. He’s done it on every team he’s played for.

With the Knicks, he brought out the best in Tyson Chandler, Landry Fields, and Steve Novak, all three of whom would go on to get lucrative contracts with the next teams they played for. In Houston, Lin helped improve the games of Terrence Jones and Donatas Montiejunas. And, dare I say it? Lin even helped make fumble-handed, defense-and-rebounding specialist Omer Asik into (gulp) a decent PnR center. Two years ago in a bummer season with the Lakers, Lin’s PnR partner was Ed Davis, a power forward on a $900K+ salary, who blossomed working with Lin to the point where the next year as a free agent he was signed by the Blazers to a $6+ million dollar deal.

  • Yeah, that point you made about how “writers based their estimates in part on Lin’s stats as a backup point guard” is exactly right. I also agree that Nets’s versatility with their players who can play multiple positions is going to be an advantage that writers overlook. Excellent job!

  • grover chang

    36 wins is too conservative. This team is better then Lin and the Hornets. Did the Hornets have a low post option like Brook Lopez? No. Brook-Lin wins 50 games and make the playoffs.

  • Rick James

    brook-lin is officially trade mark infringement

    • orLinaryjoe

      Is this site a shirt or cap? lol

  • Ed Hamilton

    Nets players need to respond to Jeremy Lin’s quickness.
    Getting younger on the current Roster shows how they planned
    on surrounding Lin with capable finishers and can probably
    put on a higher note in terms of defending opponents.

    their first 20 games will probably show how they can make
    their adjustment together as a team.

    Fans are hopeful next season what Lin can bring to the table
    and Players and Coaches are looking into Lin’s ability to lift
    the team to more winning ways.

    I like this article 100%

  • Sueki

    Lin excels as an underdog again……….. and again…..

  • Winner

    This is a well-written article.To me, 36 wins is too low. If they stay healthy, I can see this team sneaking in the playoffs as 7-8th seed with at least 42 wins. Let’s go JLn and the Nets! 😄

  • orLinaryjoe

    Truthfully, this new team will start out slow, but will pickup as the season matures. Just will sit back and enjoy the show. Brook-Lin!

    • savi

      Actually, in NBA games with a 82 game season, there are lot more obstacles to winning than we can think of. Once other teams scout the weaknesses in Nets team, every team will come to beat them. With exception of Scola and Foye, Each one of the Nets, including the coach, is young and relatively new, to finding ways to overcome adversary, so I won’t just look at the upside and hope that this team will keep getting better as season progresses. I wish that this team does win 35+ games because all the interesting teams do win at least 35 games, rest of them are so boring and I hate watching them.

  • Bob NYC

    ESPN’s prediction of 20 wins is ridiculously low. This team of mostly underdogs have a lot to prove, and so I believe they will surprise us fans with many unexpected wins. I’m gonna say double that of ESPN’s number; I say 40 wins! GO NETS !!!

  • webattorney

    Obviously it depends on many factors, but I think 30 wins prediction is reasonable, mainly because it takes some time for new players to gel.

  • sle71r

    As long as this team stays injury free with Lopez and Lin, this team will win 46+ games (to the surprise of all the so-called experts) Watch out for Sean Kilpatrick, if he get’s to team up with Lin with any regularity, he’ll be the next in the line of unknown players that Jeremy makes better (so called experts will be saying “where did this guy come from?)