To casual NBA followers, the Brooklyn Nets look like any other middle-of-the-road team: a high-floor, low-ceiling outfit stuck in the purgatory between meaningful playoff contention and the promise of draft-lottery salvation. They have no surefire stars but some nice young pieces, some projected cap space, and all their own future first-round picks in the cupboard.
It's not a particularly good or bad place for a team to be. A few things break right, and they can become a perennial playoff competitor. A couple of things break wrong, and they might wind up on the treadmill of mediocrity.
But the mere fact that the Nets exist in this middle ground is a minor miracle. Finally freed from the long tentacles of the 2013 trade that sent a half decade's worth of draft capital to Boston for the husks of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Nets can proceed on their own terms. When you consider the hell they emerged from, purgatory starts to look pretty nice.
Getting here was a process, which in many ways was just as arduous as Philadelphia's. Brooklyn's losing was never as incessant or shamelessly transparent as Philly's, but while the 76ers had a draft-pick bonanza to hold up as justification for their suffering, the Nets had nothing to remind them of what all the losing was for. For the most part, they just had to bear it, and wait. We haven't seen the culmination of their process, but we are seeing the fruits of their labor and their patience.