By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – Just a couple weeks ago, Celtics fans couldn’t help but be a little bit alarmed when looking at the status of their upcoming pick swap with the Brooklyn Nets for the 2017 NBA Draft.
Boston had stumbled out of the gate with 3-4 record and were hampered with key injuries to Al Horford and Jae Crowder. Meanwhile, new Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson instilled an uptempo offense that helped a misfit roster come together and win four of their first nine games, while looking like a tough out most nights overall.
Would the Nets be a bit better than the projected worst record in the league that Las Vegas had them pegged as? The early signs pointed to yes.
Luckily for Boston, Brooklyn has started to regress in the past couple weeks due to performance and injuries as they ride a four-game losing streak and the East’s second worst record (4-9) heading into a matchup with the Celtics on Wednesday night.
What’s the long-term outlook on the Brooklyn swap for Boston though? Let’s take a closer look at the Nets through and up-and-down first month to see where they will be headed after 82 games in the standings.
A 3-point shooting team without good shooters
The Nets are playing fast (second in pace) and they aren’t being shy about hoisting up the 3-ball. They rank second in the league in 3-point attempt rate, firing away over 34 times a league from downtown. This makes for fun offense that keeps opposing defenses on their toes, but you need a deep depth chart of shooters to achieve it effectively.
Despite a hot shooting start to the season, the Nets don’t have those type of players. There are only two players on the roster (Brook Lopez, Justin Hamilton) that are shooting above 33 percent from 3-point range, as the team ranks 26th in the league overall. For a team that lives and dies by that shot, you aren’t going to win many games with that formula.
Injury problems in the Nets backcourt
The biggest addition to the Nets’ this offseason was the four-year deal handed to Jeremy Lin to man the point guard spot. His up-tempo style was a perfect fit for Atkinson’s offense but he’s out for the foreseeable future after suffering a hamstring strain a couple weeks ago.
With no timetable on his return and another injury to veteran backup Grevis Vasquez (waived), the Nets have been forced to rely on a pair of rookie point guards (Yogi Ferrell, Isaiah Whitehead) to run their offense.
That’s a tall task for any NBA rookie, particularly a couple of second round and undrafted players, which bodes well for the Nets’ continuing to slide in the standings.
A lack of tanking around the NBA bodes well for Boston
Despite an impressive 2017 draft class, there are few signs around the NBA early on that teams will be looking to tank for a full season for one of those picks.
All seven non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference are within 2.5 games of the eighth seed, including the Nets and Sixers.
Meanwhile, the teams languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference (Dallas, New Orleans, Minnesota) have more talent on their roster than their record indicates, certainly much more than the Nets at this juncture.
A few select teams (Miami, Dallas) may opt to tank later in the year for long-term planning purposes if injuries remain an issue but it’s hard to envision the Nets being better than the third or fourth worst team in the league this year, a reality that should help the value of the C’s pick swap, whether they elect to keep it or trade it in the coming months.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.