NBA: How the Brooklyn Nets can be the Next Team to Rise in the East

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If they play it right, the Brooklyn Nets could soon rise in the Eastern Conference

The Brooklyn Nets made the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever this season. Behind a promising coaching staff and roster, they gave the Philadelphia 76ers a scare in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Can Brooklyn be the next team to beat in the East? We will look at a few things they can do to reach the top four of the playoffs next season.

Resign D'Angelo Russell

If they play it right, D'Angelo Russell (right) the Brooklyn Nets could soon rise in the Eastern Conference.
D'Angelo Russell is a piece the Brooklyn Nets can't afford to lose. | Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Russell was an All-Star this season and put up excellent numbers for the Nets. He averaged more than 22 points per game and was the catalyst behind their offense.

He earned his first All-Star nod this year after Pacers guard Victor Oladipo went down with an injury, and should use it to his advantage when thinking about resigning a long-term deal with the team. Russell is a restricted free agent, so the Nets can match any contract offer he receives, but they would be crazy to let him walk away for nothing.

Sign a max player

The Nets can’t head into next season with the same roster. They need to make enough moves during the offseason to bring in one of the top free agents. Everyone speculates that Kevin Durant is going to New York to join another superstar and whoever the Knicks draft in the first round, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility to see him sign with the Nets.

A one-two punch of Russell and KD could be enough to vault the Brooklyn Nets into the top half of the conference playoff standings. Another potential target would be Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets.

There are plenty of reasons for Walker to stay in Charlotte, but winning isn't one of them. Plus, he doesn’t sound like a man committed to staying with the team that drafted him. He and Russell would immediately become one of the top guard pairings in the Eastern Conference, and with the roster they have now the Nets could become a formidable team.

Use draft picks wisely

The Nets haven’t had much to work with during the NBA draft recently. They swapped their picks with Boston as part of the horrible deal that got Brooklyn Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. They own all of their first-round picks going forward, and they need to make sure that whoever they pick in the first round is a major contributor for years to come.

Keep building a winning culture

For the past couple of years, the Nets have done little to nothing of note in the Eastern Conference. This year they made a lot of noise, and they need to continue that upward trend. The only way that can happen is by staying the course and managing their roster properly.

Kenny Atkinson has done a great job building a winning culture, and it’s starting to pay off. Blowing things up now would only show that ownership is impatient and doesn't want to take the necessary steps to build a true contender.

One potential problem could be mortgaging the future again to win now. Anthony Davis is the cream of the crop on the trade market, and a deal could be worked out to get him to Brooklyn. That could be a disastrous move for the Nets. Trading for Davis would instantly make them a top seed in the East, but if he didn't resign with the team in free agency in 2020, then trading away assets and draft picks for a rental would set the team back.