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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans to welcome Brooklyn Nets, the 1-18 road warriors

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Newly minted 2017 All-Star starter Anthony Davis to do battle with Brook Lopez.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New Orleans Pelicans Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, Tom Ziller wrote a piece for SB Nation bemoaning the race for the 8th-seed in the Western Conference. In it, Ziller broke down each of the teams still alive for the postseason as we glide past the halfway point of the NBA season. Spoiler alert: all the teams sitting outside the where-you-want-to-be bubble are reasonably still alive for the playoffs. From Portland all the way down to the friggen Suns, no team in the West is more than 4.5 games out of the postseason.

That cluster of teams who can at least pretend they still have a season worth playing for is butt. The Brooklyn Nets, however, are infinitely more butt than all of those scrubs combined.

Owners of the worst record in the league, Brooklyn also doubles as the team possessing the least talented roster in the game. The Net players are a collection of “he’s still in the league?” guys, journeymen, guys I refuse to believe are actual people, and it’s blended together so smoothly it would make any bartender blush.

The Nets are bad and currently devoid of a way to make their present any less bleak in the near future. Boston still has the right to swap first round picks in the draft this year as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade, and their second round pick could very well end up Atlanta’s as part of the Joe Johnson deal. In a draft featuring a plethora amount of talent, Brooklyn will be forced to sit this one out.

So, what do you do when you’re a bad team that doesn’t get a chance to improve itself with a potential franchise altering superstar? You lose...a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Brooklyn’s lost 11 straight games and 16 of their last 17. If you remember, the Nets actually got off to a decent start to the season. Brooklyn was 4-5 through their first nine games; but then life sort of came at them fast and the Nets have gone 4-28 since then.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

As far as attractive assets other teams might want, the Nets still have Brook Lopez, which is nice I guess. The 28-year-old is averaging 20 points for the second consecutive season and he’s added a fairly reliable three point shot to his arsenal (averaging about five attempts a game and hitting on 35 percent of them). But, Lopez isn’t rebounding like we’re used to seeing him. He’s grabbing two fewer boards, five, than his already career anemic average of seven and his 9.1 rebounding rate is the lowest it’s been since the 2011-12 season. Lopez has never been much of an anchor for a defense and this year he’s staying true to form. His defensive rating is the highest it’s been since that aforementioned ‘11-’12 season. And Lopez has one more year on his contract worth nearly $23 million. So maybe he’s not that attractive of an asset after all.

And that’s sort of where the Nets are as a franchise: desperately in need of a reboot but currently unable to get a rebuild started. They probably can’t flip Lopez until next season; they still owe Boston their first round pick this year and next season. It’s like they’re trying to start a fire and they’ve got the firewood and the gasoline but they don’t have any matches to light it. They’re just stuck.

In their meeting a week ago, Brooklyn almost stole an ugly game from an Anthony Davis-less Pelicans team. The Nets were up three with about 3:30 to play but the Pelicans closed the game on a 13-1 run. Tyreke Evans led the way with 29 points and Terrence Jones did an admirable AD-impression with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Jrue Holiday and Solomon Hill got in on the fun as well with Holiday scoring 21 and Hill posting a 14-10 double-double.

The Nets came up short against the Pelicans and New Orleans was missing their superstar. Davis won’t be absent Friday night in the Smoothie King Center, and playing against a team with one — count ‘em one — road win on it’s resume, it’s hard to imagine New Orleans not beating up on the league’s worst team.

What: Pelicans vs. Nets

Where: Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, LA

When: January 20th, 2017 at 7:00 PM Central

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, YES, WRNO - 99.5 FM