Another big factor in my pushing the estimation of the Nets’ win totals higher is that this roster is filled with young, developing players with potentially a big upsides. Atkinson (and Lin as floor general) can help bring that potential
to the surface. It may take until late December or early January before we first start seeing the results, but I’m convinced the Nets are going show major improvement in the second half of the season.
But what happens before then, you ask?
Fair question. The answer lies with defense.
The roster put together by new GM Sean Marks has an awful lot of very athletic players that’re capable of playing a swarming defense. D will at least keep the Nets in games to the point where a crunch time surge in scoring by either Lopez, Lin, Bojan Bogdanovic–or all three–can produce surprise victories. Atkinson has been very vocal about how this team is going all-in on hard D, and they showed glimpses of that ability in the Summer League.
It’s impossible to make an “educated” guess about “potential,” which is why I think so many writers, who saw how bad the Nets were last season and how many unproven players they have now, made low win predictions. I myself can’t really say that I know what the upside will be for young players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Joe Harris, and first round draft pick Caris LeVert, among others. Nor can I say with any certainty that relatively young veterans like PF Trevor Booker, backup center Justin Hamilton, and draft “bust” Anthony Bennett, will also have breakout seasons under Atkinson’s developmental skills.
But consider this, too: another reason I think 20 victories is too low is the Nets’ roster as constructed has a lot of players who can play two positions. On a team where assets in the off-season were hard to come by, GM Sean Marks was smart to acquire combo players who can give Atkinson more versatility and flexibility in creating rotations. With so many of these players in the 6’6 to ‘6’9 range, the Nets are going to be able to ride the NBA wave of small ball lineups.