By Kristian Cuaresma
A Step in the Right Direction
This is not a suggestion that a top eight finish is where the bar of expectation be set. And I’m not advocating that the team should be satisfied with how its tournament run ended. However, these guys did make NetsGC history with the franchise’s best tournament placing ever. NetsGC’s first playoff appearance last season was its landmark achievement, and for an organization looking to make strides every year, this week’s placing was on brand.
Like its rivals, NetsGC was forced out of its comfort zone with THE TURN’s archetype bans and fought through adversity in both rounds, specifically against Magic Gaming. The best-of-three matchup that was the norm last season, reared its head in this tournament and gave Brooklyn a taste of what the season four playoffs could be like.
And while we’re on the topic of playoffs, NetsGC currently hold the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. With the top five teams guaranteed a spot in the postseason, NetsGC controls its own destiny with an arguably favorable schedule. This is a vast improvement over the constant chasing and scoreboard watching the team had to do last season.
Searching For the Right Combination
Archetypes bans aside, NetsGC struggled to find its offensive and defensive rhythm throughout the tournament. Brooklyn played with a rarely seen lineup in its final game against Orlando and throughout its series against Charlotte.
While SlayIsland has been one of the most versatile players in the league this season, it took him awhile to get his game going as the team’s shooting guard. He was brilliant in the fourth quarter of game two, greening several of his shots, but it proved to be too little too late. Precedent suggests that SlayIsland will find a way to be productive from anywhere on the court, but we should not be too surprised if he moves back to power forward (or even gets another shot at lock) at some point this year.
Faiz has also displayed tremendous versatility in his rookie campaign. Despite being drafted to be an elite sharp, Faiz has often been asked to play as the team’s primary lockdown defender. He has certainly done an admirable job, especially when the team goes to its double lock lineup. However, there’s also an undeniable allure to giving him access to his full array of moves as a sharp and secondary ball handler. It’ll be interesting to see if Brooklyn goes back to slotting him as Choc’s wingman, especially after the headache Magic Gaming and Hornets Venom GT’s backcourts caused.
As for Dante and Legit, the two players who have been shuffled in and out of the lineup, it’s difficult to tell which direction the team will go. When Dante is clicking, he is a great shooter, especially for a lock. The rookie currently leads the team in three-point shooting percentage (minimum of 10 attempts). It’s not a coincidence that Brooklyn’s current four-game winning streak coincides with the best stretch of games in Dante’s young career. As for Legit, he has a proven track record that is appealing to outsiders. It is, however, tricky to track his future outlook because of a small sample size and scrimmages not being televised. Yet , like Dante, the youngster makes an impact when he is on the court.
Sign of Things to Come
If NetsGC can hold onto a playoff spot in its final 10 games of the regular season, then THE TURN will be the first and last time the guys experience a best-of-three series until the postseason. Brooklyn has spent a majority of its first half of the season matching up with teams likely to be vying for a playoff spot. In its 18 games, NetsGC has matched up with nine opponents that combine for a record of 78-70. Only two of those opponents are currently under the .500 mark, with six other teams currently in the top six of their respective conferences.
The anxiety inducing and heart wrenching games experienced in this tournament should give Brooklyn a taste of what potentially awaits them come late August. Things slow down and every possession is magnified. Missed open jumpers hurt more than normal and turnovers often result in a devastating swing for the other team. With Hornets Venom GT potentially serving as a first-round matchup in the playoffs, it is likely that valuable film can be extracted from NetsGC’s exit in THE TURN, especially considering these teams don’t meet again in the regular season. Ironically, it was Hornets Venom GT that knocked NetsGC out of the postseason last year. While it may hurt now, NetsGC will next set its eyes on the bigger prize and prepare for what will surely be a playoff gauntlet.
NetsGC return to regular season action against Knicks Gaming on July 23 at 7:00 p.m. (EST).