Celtics pursuit of the Number 1 pick: Analysis of Nets remaining schedule
With the Nets losing to the 76ers last night, the swirling rumors of an impending Joe Johnson buyout and the recent resurgence of Kobe Bryant, it is no longer a certainty that the 76ers and Lakers will receive the first and second most ping pong balls in the lottery.
As of this morning, the Nets are two games ahead of the Lakers and 4.5 games ahead of the 76ers, which may look like wide margins considering how bad these teams are, but is not if you know what lies ahead for the Nets over their remaining 30 games. THE NETS REMAINING SCHEDULE
For context, the Nets are 13-39 overall, 9-20 at home, 4-19 on the road, 8-24 against the Eastern Conference and 5-15 against the Western Conference.
The First Four
All at home and clearly the easiest part of their remaining schedule. For Nets fans who do not want to give the Celtics the best odds at obtaining Ben Simmons, these are games they must win.
1. Nuggets - Despite Denver being 9-16 on the road, the Nets are 9-20 at home. The Nuggets are also 9-8 against the Eastern Conference this year. In all likelihood, while this is a game the Nets can and must win, Denver will probably be favored.
2. Grizzlies - Their last game before the all-star break. Memphis is 30-21 and have won 8 of their last 10. The Grizzlies are also 14-7 against the East this season.
3. Knicks - First game following the all-star break. Thanks to the Celtics, the Nets are actually 4-6 against the Atlantic Division this season. The Knicks have been fading as of late, losing 8 of their last 10, and are not very competitive on the road this season.
4. Hornets - Charlotte has played their way back into playoff contention with their recent strong play, but are 10 games under .500 on the road this season.
Prediction: 1-3. As we saw last night, the Nets are capable of losing to anyone. The worst-case scenario is two Nets wins, but I foresee them getting just one.
The Nine-Game Road Trip
This will be a critical stretch of games for the Nets. Making matters more difficult for them is that the first game is right after the trade deadline, which means Brooklyn may have even less quality players than they do now for the entire trip. In all likelihood, given their games against all four of their lottery competitors, this will be a lottery-defining portion of their schedule insofar as Brooklyn will either come out of it with a real chance to catch the 76ers or the door will be officially closed. Remember, the Nets are 4-19 on the road.
5. Blazers - The Blazers are playing very well as of late, winning 7 of their last 10, and are only a game back of the eighth seed in the West. They are also 15-11 at home this season.
6. Suns - Quite frankly, if every team started back at 0-0 and played out the rest of the season, my prediction for the worst record would be the Suns. They are in very bad shape, much worse than the 76ers and Lakers right now. They are also only one game ahead of the Nets in the standings. Losers of 9 in their last 10, the Suns are still a respectable (in lottery terms) home team this season at 10-16.
7. Jazz - The Jazz are 17-10 at home this season and 12-8 against the East.
8. Clippers - The Clippers are 17-8 at home and 16-5 against the East.
9. Lakers - The Lakers are 6-12 against the East this year, which is fairly good if you consider their 11-42 record overall. This will be the second of a back-to-back for the Nets as well.
10. Nuggets - As referenced above, Denver is playing better and have had success against the East this season. They are 11-15 at home.
11. Timberwolves - As we saw last night, Wiggins and Towns can win games for this young Wolves team. This will also be the second of a back-to-back for the Nets.
12. Raptors - The second-best team in the East, the Raptors are 18-6 at home.
13. 76ers - This is the very same matchup we saw take place last night, in which the 76ers won. No reason that should not happen again, especially considering the fact the Nets are more likely to get worse between now and then.
Prediction: 1-8. There are five of these games I consider automatic losses for the Nets (Blazers, Jazz, Clippers, Nuggets, Raptors). The Lakers and Timberwolves will be the second of a back-to-back for the Nets, which, combined with the fact these are road games for Brooklyn, should give the edge to LA and Minnesota. As for the 76ers and Suns, a split seems like a fair projection with a win over Philadelphia, but a loss to Phoenix.
Back Home for 2
14. Bucks - The Bucks are another team who will likely get worse after the trade deadline, as they are rumored to be shopping Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe. Milwaukee is currently on a five-game losing streak and is 7-24 away from home on the season.
15. 76ers - After losing two straight to Philadelphia, the Nets get a win here.
Prediction: 2-0. Panic mode for Celtics fans.
On the Road Again for 2
16. Bulls - The Bulls are 16-9 at home and will be in the thick of a playoff race.
17. Pistons - The Pistons are 16-8 at home and will also be in the thick of a playoff race.
Prediction: 0-2. This is easy. Not only are these two teams a lot better than the Nets, but they will be playing them at home and in the middle of the chase for the playoffs.
Back Home for 3
18. Hornets - They are currently 1.5 games back of the Pistons for the eighth seed and have clawed their way back to being only one game under .500. With Al Jefferson returning shortly after the all-star break, it is likely Charlotte will be in the playoff race at this time.
19. Cavaliers - The Nets are not beating Lebron and the Cavaliers in late March.
20. Pacers - The Pacers have not been very good on the road this season, but are 18-11 against the East and you have to figure their motivation, being in the playoff hunt, will be much higher than the Nets for this game.
Prediction: 0-3. The wrong opponents at the wrong time for the Nets leads to three more losses.
A Four-Game Road Trip
21. Heat - The Heat are 29-22 overall and 16-9 at home. They will likely be fighting for playoff seeding at this time and it would be a major upset for them to lose in this spot.
22. Magic - Losers of 9 in their last 10, it is unclear how Orlando is going to play it at the trade deadline. Despite their recent losing ways, they are only 4.5 games back of the playoffs. They have much more talent than Brooklyn and are 13-12 at home this season. Also, a back-to-back situation for Brooklyn.
23. Cavaliers - Easy loss for the Nets.
24. Knicks - The Knicks are 14-13 at home and are rumored to be interested in an upgrade at the trade deadline, potentially in the form of Jeff Teague or another point guard.
Prediction: 0-4. The Nets have no chance in two of these games and I predict the Knicks add to their team rather than subtract at the deadline. As for the Magic, they are more talented and will be at home. It will also be the second of a back-to-back for the Nets.
The Final Six
25. Pelicans (Home) - The Pelicans are 6-11 against the East this season, which is good for a team 14 games under .500. However, they are 5-15 on the road, lost five in a row, are seven games back of the playoffs and, as a result, may decide to be sellers at the deadline. If that ends up being the case, this will be a battle of two very bad rosters. While the Nets will be playing the game at home, the Pelicans will have Anthony Davis.
26. Wizards (Away) - At this point, one should consider any road game a loss for the Nets. The Wizards, with John Wall and a returning Bradley Beal, may be in playoff contention at this point as well.
27. Hornets (Away) - The reasons I predicted a Hornets win over the Nets in game 18 apply here as well.
28. Pacers (Away) - The Pacers are 16-8 at home and will likely be involved in a must-win situation here with regard to the playoffs.
29. Wizards (Home) - Although the Nets will be at home, not knowing what their roster will look like and knowing the Wizards will have John Wall leads me to believe Washington will win.
30. Raptors (Home) - While there remains a chance Toronto is sitting players for this game, it is also possible they are still in the battle with the Cavaliers for home-court throughout the playoffs.
Prediction: 2-4. I foresee a frustrating finish for Celtics fans, with the Nets finding a way to get wins over the Pelicans and either the Wizards or Raptors.
Based on my projections, the Nets will go 6-24 in their final 30 games to finish with an overall record of 19-63. In my view, Celtics fans should circle the Nets next four games and watch closely because after that, Brooklyn will play 18 of their next 24 games away from home, where they are currently 4-19.
Furthermore, that 24-game stretch is going to be played after the trade deadline, which is important to note because the Nets will more likely than not subtract talent from their current roster. It is why they are starting to interview prospective general managers on Monday. They plan to start their rebuild at the deadline and who knows what that is going to include.
Considering the Nets current roster would struggle with that stretch of 24 games, who knows what their post-trade deadline team will do, which brings me back full circle: if the Nets are unable to find a win over their next four games, things may get really bad for Brooklyn fans and really good for Boston fans.