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2012-2013 Brooklyn Nets Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 12, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
You won’t find a team less connected to its history than the Brooklyn Nets. Division rivals like the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics may celebrate their past, but general manager Billy King and CEO Brett Yormark have given this incarnation of the Nets the feeling of an expansion franchise. The losing years-roughly two thirds of its history-no longer seem to apply to a team that’s changed markets, stadiums, logos, uniforms and players over the last four months. Whether the product on the court has tangibly changed is anyone’s guess, but the upcoming season is undoubtedly the beginning of a new journey for Brooklyn and the NBA.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets:
Say what you may about the contracts of Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and Brook Lopez, for the struggling Nets becoming relevant was priceless. They couldn’t afford to enter a new era in Brooklyn without a team worth rooting for and that’s exactly what they have now. Led by the re-signed Deron Williams, the Nets have vaulted into contention territory. Nets’ ownership and management deserve a lot of credit for putting together a team as talented from top to bottom as they have. They originally went after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard. As close as they came to some, they weren’t able to acquire any of those marquee players. To end up with a team this good is a heck of a consolation prize. The Boston Celtics deserve to be tabbed as the preseason favorites for the Atlantic crown, but the Nets could very easily end up taking that spot.
2nd Place – Atlantic Division
The Brooklyn Nets may not be the most hyped team in the league this season – that will be the LA Lakers – but they are certainly looking to make a big splash in their new home with their own star-studded lineup. Deron Williams saw the Nets as his best available path to a championship, and while the Nets may not be chosen by many to contend this season, they will be remarkably better than last year. Brook Lopez worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer and is expected to have more of a low post game as a result. That, together with the addition of Joe Johnson should make the Nets one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and second only to Boston in the Atlantic Division.
2nd Place – Atlantic Division
– Bill Ingram
The Brooklyn Nets will likely have the biggest turnaround of any team in the league this season. After winning just 22 games last year, the Nets look like a legitimate contender after re-signing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries while adding Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans, Mirza Teletovic and Andray Blatche. The Nets may be able to go from worst to first in the Atlantic Division if all of their pieces mesh and get on the same page. Brooklyn missed out on Dwight Howard, but they still have a very talented team that will be able to win plenty of games and possibly make a run in the postseason. This could’ve been an awful offseason for the Nets had Williams left as a free agent. Instead, they are positioned to contend for years to come.
2nd Place – Atlantic Division
– Alex Kennedy
With one of the most expensive starting lineup in league history (all of the starting five will average eight-figure salaries over the life of their current contracts), the Nets had better hope this team has a great first year on the other side of the Hudson. It’s an expensive team, but cash aside, it’s also a pretty good team. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson form one of the better backcourts in the league, and this bench—headlined by C.J. Watson, MarShon Brooks, and Mirza Teletovic—is actually pretty good, too. They need depth in the frontcourt, but overall this looks like a pretty solid team. New York and Boston appear to be better bets to win the Atlantic, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all for Brooklyn to end up with the fourth-best record in the East.
3rd Place – Atlantic Division
– Joel Brigham
The Nets were ravaged by injuries in 2011-12 and failed to make a postseason appearance, but heading into training camp the expectations surrounding Brooklyn for 2012-13 are significantly higher. The Nets’ front office was extremely active this summer stocking the team with All-Star talent, re-signing Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace, while trading for Joe Johnson. The Nets gave up a lot to acquire Williams from Utah in 2011 and have now invested a lot to re-sign him and surround him with a supporting cast to lead the franchise back into the playoffs. Can he get it done?
2nd Place – Atlantic Division
– Lang Greene
Top Offensive Player: If Deron Williams seemed out of sorts last season, that’s because he had the unusual task of being the Nets’ top scorer in addition to the top distributor. Williams averaged career highs in points (21.0 ppg), shots (17.5 fga) and possession (29.8 usage rate). Obviously the loss of Brook Lopez to a broken foot and a general lack of offensive talent forced Williams’ hand, so we can expect him to be back to his usual pass-first self this year. Lopez is back, scorers like Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic are on board and for the first time in awhile, defenses can’t solely focus on Williams.
Top Defensive Player: An NBA assistant coach once told HOOPSWORLD that Gerald Wallace is a great individual defender, but struggles with team concepts and often can be found out of position. He may have been right, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wallace remains the Nets’ best overall defender. Even into his 30s, Wallace matches up with shooting guards, small forwards and undersized power forwards. He rebounds well, and best of all, Wallace’s intensity is beyond question. Even as the Nets were finishing with a .333 winning percentage in 2011-12, Wallace could be seen barking defensive assignments to teammates in the huddle and on the floor. His job won’t be easy this season (he’ll be defending LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, etc.), so don’t be surprised if his reputation takes a small hit. Other candidates: Williams (great at defending the ball and passing lanes) and Kris Humphries (tremendous pick-and-roll defender).
Top Playmaker: Williams’ standing as one of the league’s best point guards wasn’t really enhanced last year. Playing alongside offensive black holes Johan Petro and Shelden Williams, D-Will averaged 8.7 apg, which was his lowest clip since his rookie season. His turnover rate was a career-high 12.2 percent and he tied with Jeremy Lin for 41st in the NBA in assist rate. Still, there’s no one else coach Avery Johnson would want running his offense, and given the new weapons he has, Williams should bounce back in a big way this year.
Top Clutch Player: It’s not that Williams will always be taking the last shot; rather, he’ll be the one who decides who gets that chance. It could be Lopez, Johnson or even Teletovic. But if a defense is overly concerned with Williams’ new options, it’s worth remembering that he’s hit over 35 percent of his career 3-pointers, 81 percent of his free throws and has nailed his share of game winners. Suffice to say, the open man will be the one who takes the big shot on this team.
The Unheralded Player: Humphries is among the most-booed players in the NBA, but those who know him from his reality-TV marriage aren’t appreciating the kind of blue collar player he’s become. Humphries entered the league as a lottery pick who led the Big 10 in scoring and rebounding at Minnesota. Now he’s a high-energy power forward who still rebounds, but makes his living on defense rather than offense. This league is heavy on pick-and-rolls, and Johnson knows you need a big man who can move his feet. Humphries gives him that, even if his offensive game is relegated to putbacks and dunks.
The Best New Addition: Contract aside, Johnson gives the Nets the dynamic offensive weapon they’ve been waiting for. He can shoot, drive and dish. Now that he’s surrounded with better offensive players, Johnson can hopefully do away with his iso-Joe persona that made him a controversial figure among Atlanta Hawks fans. Johnson is 31, so his athleticism isn’t what it once was. The reality is, when you’re smart and can shoot (think Ray Allen of the Miami HEAT), you don’t need to be the fastest player. You just need to keep the defense guessing. Johnson isn’t the best value though. That distinction would probably go to Watson or Teletovic.
1. Deron Williams: The fact that Williams’ free-agent visit to his hometown Dallas Mavericks was more or less a courtesy call tells fans everything they need to know: he’s buying into King’s vision for the team. Distractions like the pursuit of Dwight Howard, free agency rumors and the Nets’ putrid record aren’t factors now. Brooklyn is 0-0, Williams has teammates he believes in and now everyone is out of excuses. The future is now and Williams is running the show.
2. Avery Johnson: His record won’t show it, but Johnson is probably a better coach now than he was with the Mavericks. There is no grey area with players and he has enough job security to say whatever he’s feeling, whether that’s publicly to the media or within the locker room. But that freedom hasn’t turned Johnson into a tyrant. Now he’s the kind of coach who’s willing to meet privately with his guys away from the team facility. Johnson is direct, head strong and supportive of everyone that puts on the uniform.
3. Joe Johnson: Johnson was brutal to watch in Atlanta at times. Whether that was his fault for hogging the ball or his teammates’ fault for sitting back and watching him hog the ball is anyone’s guess. Now that he’s one of several versatile offensive weapons, though, Johnson can finally exist in a functional offense. Johnson’s totals won’t be what they once were, but he’ll be a far more efficient player alongside Williams and Lopez.
4. Brook Lopez: First of all, Lopez isn’t injury prone. He never missed a game before breaking his foot during last year’s preseason. Secondly, he can rebound the basketball. Lopez averaged 8.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10, and while that figure plummeted to 5.9 in 2010-11, it probably had to do with the painful calcium deposits in his arm, which he had surgically removed after the season. In two preseason games against Tyson Chandler and the Knicks last December, Lopez had 20 rebounds in just 55 minutes. So he isn’t Dwight Howard. Lopez is among the best offensive centers in recent memory and he can score in ways Howard can only dream of.
5. Mirza Teletovic: There’s a theory going around-one that Teletovic subscribes to-that the 6-9 Bosnian forward’s game is better suited for the NBA than European leagues. Seeing as he led Euroleague in scoring last season, that might make him an incredible bargain for King. For those who aren’t familiar, Teletovic, 26, is a stretch four with good shooting range and the ability to drive to the hoop. He’ll probably be the Nets’ sixth man this season, but should be on the floor at the end of games as well.
– Alex Raskin
The Nets’ offense is a thoughtful blend of talents. Lopez is deadly in the high post, Johnson can score from the perimeter and in the lane, Wallace and Humphries provide hustle points (fast breaks, tip-ins, etc.) and Williams ties it all together. Backups like Teletovic, Watson, Brooks, and Andray Blatche provide an additional wave of scoring. For long-time Nets fans, the offense will be a breath of fresh air from recent seasons, when spacing and ball movement were negligible.
– Alex Raskin
Johnson is known as a defensive coach, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this season. Lopez isn’t exactly a rock in the middle and outside of Keith Bogans and Reggie Evans, the bench isn’t offering much support. That’s not to say that Brooklyn can’t be a good defensive team, but this is the area where Johnson’s players can improve the most.
– Alex Raskin
Looking around this room it’s clear that we have plenty of offensive talent. Deron and Joe have proven themselves as elite backcourt scorers and we know that Brook will anchor us on the block. We know we can score with the best teams in the league so our key focus must be on the defensive end of the floor. Our frontcourt must look to set a physical tone with our opponents, especially on our home floor. But make no mistake, we must make strides on defense as a team. Our communication and effort must improve daily and will be an emphasis every time we practice. If our defense can match our offensive firepower, we will give ourselves a real shot at a championship.
– Anthony Macri and Brett Koremenos
Will roster additions make a tangible difference?
For the last few seasons, the Nets have existed as a sort of theoretical think-tank basketball team. Regardless of what was actually happening on the floor, King, Johnson and owner Mikhail Prokhorov spent a lot of time talking about the Nets’ brilliant future. That future is finally here, but they’re not the only improved team in the Atlantic Division. The Knicks, 76ers, Celtics and Toronto Raptors will all be vying for playoff spots and if the Nets don’t finish among the top six teams in the Eastern Conference (maybe the top four), the 2012-13 season will probably be judged as a failure.
– Alex Raskin
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