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2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 20, 2013 @ 9:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Nets had plenty of talent on their roster last season, and were able to win 49 games and capture the fifth seed in the East. However, they were knocked out of the playoffs by an under-manned Bulls teams missing many of their top players. In that bitterly disappointing first-round defeat, an issue that had been a major problem for Brooklyn all season reared its head in a major way – lack of heart, aggressiveness, and intensity. With that as the backdrop, the blockbuster trade that resulted in Brooklyn obtaining Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry has the potential to be truly transformational. As much as future Hall-of-Famers Garnett and Pierce will help the Nets on the floor, their biggest and most important impact may come in the locker room. There are very few individuals who can nearly single-handedly change the culture of a franchise immediately upon their arrival. It just so happens that Garnett and Pierce fit that mold.
Additions: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson, Shaun Livingston, Mason Plumlee,
Subtractions: Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Damion James
Five years ago, a roster that featured Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson would have whooped up on every other team in the league easily, regardless of whomever else was on the team. All-Star center Brook Lopez makes the roster look ever better on paper, but despite all the name recognition, not everybody is sold that this is a championship-quality team. With a starting lineup like that, it’s a mild surprise that Brooklyn’s bench is so good (Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry, Alan Anderson, etc.), but we all know that money is no object when it comes to Mikhail Prokorov. His golden goose is going to be busy pumping out eggs this year, because the luxury tax bill for this team is going to be ridiculous. Hopefully the players get Prokorov his money’s worth.
1st place – Atlantic Division
– Joel Brigham
The Nets enter this season as one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. After all, how many teams can say that every member of their starting five (and their sixth man) has played in at least one All-Star game? Brooklyn has handed out over $100 million in guaranteed contracts and now it’s time to see if all that spending translates into wins. The Nets are stacked, with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez making up their starting lineup. They also have one of the best second units in the league, with Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, Jason Terry, Reggie Evans, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson among others on the bench. It remains to be seen if the Nets can take down the Miami HEAT or Indiana Pacers, but they’ll certainly be one of more interesting teams to watch this season.
1st place – Atlantic Division
- Alex Kennedy
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to win now, as evidenced by the $70 million or so his team is expected to payout in luxury taxes alone this season. The Nets added a heavy dose of experience in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry during the offseason. Now, Brooklyn’s roster is armed with an assortment of All-Stars, future Hall of Famers, a former Defensive Player of the Year and a former Sixth Man of the Year. However, the question hovering over the Nets centers on the collective health of the unit. The team will rack up its fair share of regular season victories, but will such a veteran laden group be healthy enough come playoff time to make a final push? Do the older legs of Pierce, Garnett and Terry have enough tread left? Can All-Star center Brook Lopez, who has battled setbacks of his own, stay healthy? So much potential for this unit, but there are questions that persist. The team will undoubtedly compete for a top five spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Atlantic Division will be won by the New York Knicks in 2014.
2nd place – Atlantic Division
- Lang Greene
It took Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov longer than he expected to assemble a star-laden team, but now he finally has a squad that is fully capable of competing for a championship. The blockbuster trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry brings a level of legitimacy to the Nets that they haven’t had since Jason Kidd was running the show as point guard. Ironically, he’s running the show again, but as head coach now. How he handles the transition from playing to play calling is one of the biggest question marks about the Nets this season. This is going to be one of the most expensive teams in NBA history when you factor in the luxury tax bill. Nothing less than competing for a championship is acceptable, but those expectations are just with the star power and depth they team added this offseason. On paper they’re the best in the Atlantic and a viable threat to dethrone the Miami HEAT, but the championship window isn’t opened very wide for this elderly group.
1st place – Atlantic Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Nets have easily upgraded more than any other team across the NBA. Concerns abound regarding the team’s long-term health prospects and the ability of rookie head coach Jason Kidd to manage it all. Still, there is absolutely no doubt that the Nets have entered the conversation of legitimate contenders in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. With a formidable triumvirate of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce on the perimeter and Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez on the interior, the Nets, at least on paper, are fully equipped to give the Miami HEAT a serious run. Basketball isn’t played on paper, though, and Coach Kidd’s team will not get that opportunity to challenge LeBron James and his HEAT if they do not arrive to the playoffs in one piece. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Copious amounts of rest for its injury concerned nucleus will probably have the Nets finish second in their own division, despite having what is perhaps the most talented starting five in the entire NBA. Whether or not Jason Terry can be one of the league’s more productive reserves will make a huge different for the Nets.
2nd place — Atlantic Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: Deron Williams. One a team brimming with scorers, it will be up to Williams to make sure the offense fires on all cylinders. Williams struggled over the first half of last season, and many suspected nagging ankle injuries were to blame. But he received treatment and injections during the All-Star break that seemed to alleviate the issue. After averaging just 16.8 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting over the first 50 games of the 2012-13 season, Williams poured in a whopping 22.9 points per contest and shot over 49 percent from the floor after the All-Star break. Still, although Williams has always been a gifted scorer, he will likely be asked to sacrifice shot attempts in order to set up his new cadre of offensive weapons in 2013-14.
Top Defensive Player: Andrei Kirilenko. Kevin Garnett, despite being 37 years of age, is still an elite one-on-one and help defender; yet the team’s best all-around defensive player may very well be Kirilenko. He is incredibly versatile on the defensive end, with the ability to guard multiple positions both on the perimeter and around the basket, piling up both steals and blocks in bunches. In fact, Kirilenko was one of just two players last season to average at least 1.5 steals, 1.0 block, and 4.0 defensive rebounds per game (Kevin Durant was the other).
Top Playmaker: Deron Williams. As noted above, we know Williams can put he ball in the bucket, but in order for the Brooklyn offense to perform at its optimum efficacy, Williams needs to be more of a distributor and facilitator. He averaged just 7.7 assists a night last year, but he previously averaged over 10 assists per game for three straight seasons back during his days in Utah. He has clearly exhibited the ability, aptitude, and mindset to operate as a pass-first point guard, which is exactly what the Nets will need.
Top Clutch Player: Joe Johnson/Paul Pierce. Any time Brooklyn needed a big bucket last season, they put the ball in the hands of Joe Johnson and more often than not, Johnson delivered with cold-blooded effectiveness. However, this season Johnson will be sharing the floor with Paul Pierce, one of the best clutch players of his generation. Pierce, whose career resume includes an NBA Finals MVP, is certainly comfortable taking and making big shots. Having one too many clutch scorers is a great problem to have, and Brooklyn will have with multiple options in end-game situations.
The Unheralded Player: Andray Blatche. Re-signing Blatche, at a discount price, was a particularly shrewd move by Nets GM Billy King. Blatche’s Per-36 minute averages last season where phenomenal: 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, two steals, and 1.3 blocks. Consider this: Last season, Blatche became just second player in NBA history to average greater than 10 points and five rebounds despite playing fewer than 20 minutes per game. Having added depth on the front line will allow Brooklyn to rest their aging veterans during the regular season, hopefully keeping them fresh for the playoffs.
Best New Addition: Kevin Garnett. While Kevin Garnett’s on-court production has diminished over the years, his overall impact can’t be simply quantified by standard stats such as points or rebounds. Yes, Garnett will score efficiently, protect the basket, and rebound on both ends of the floor. However, as noted above, Garnett’s most beneficial impact will be in the locker-room and in huddles throughout the season. It’s the intangibles that Garnett brings to the table that make him such an appreciated addition.
1. Kevin Garnett – As noted above, Garnett supplies exactly what the Nets need. And in addition to the highlighted intangibles, Garnett is by no means washed up as a player. He showed late last season that he still has some gas left in the tank, and can play at a high level when needed. During the postseason, he averaged 12.6 points and a whopping 13.6 rebounds per game versus the Knicks in the first round.
2. Brook Lopez – Lopez is a polarizing player, as some choose to disparage his game by focusing on what he doesn’t do. Yes, Lopez is certainly far from an elite defender, and his lack of rebounding prowess for a man his size can be frustrating. However, on the other end of the floor, Lopez is the most skilled and offensively efficient big man on the planet. With an incredibly soft touch on his jumper, and improving low-post game on the block, Lopez poured in nearly 20 points a night last season, boasting a true shooting percentage that hovered near 57 percent. In addition, his PER of 24.8 ranked fifth in the NBA, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Also, Lopez showed growth on the defensive end as well, averaging a career-high 2.1 blocks. In fact, Lopez became just the second player since 2007 to average at least 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the same season (Dwight Howard is the other player). And at just 25 years of age, Lopez’s best days still lie ahead of him.
3. Andrei Kirilenko – Kirilenko would be a starter on the vast majority of teams in the NBA. In fact, he’d be a solid starter on many top teams in the league. For the Nets to sign Kirilenko for dirt cheap, and to get him agree to settle in as the sixth man, was a incredibly fortunate stroke of luck for the Nets. He earned over $17 million in Utah during the 2010-11 season, and left $10 million on the table in Minnesota, fully expecting that he sign a lucrative long-term deal. Instead, Brooklyn is paying him just $3.1 million for his services – immediately becoming of the best value contracts in the NBA.
4. Andray Blatche – Immaturity issues have tripped up Blatche in the past, and prevented him from reaching his full potential. However, when he’s on the floor and focused, he’s shown flashes of brilliance. After wearing out his welcome with the Washington Wizards, Blatche found a home with the Nets in Brooklyn last year. His consistent contribution in limited minutes last season was a very welcomed surprise. Having terrific depth on the front line (Kirilenko, Blatche, Reggie Evans, Plumlee etc.) will allow Brooklyn to rest Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce during the regular season, hopefully keeping them fresh for the playoffs.
5. Paul Pierce – The Celtics are arguably the most storied franchise in NBA history. They’ve won the most titles, and some of the league best all-time players have worn Celtics green. This makes it all the more amazing to consider that Paul Pierce is arguably the greatest all-around offensive talent in Boston franchise history. Piece leaves as the Celtics second leading scorer in the team history; he also ranks fourth all-time in assists, third in defensive rebounds, first in steals, and first in three-point field goals. At this stage of his career, he certainly doesn’t have to carry the load, and will be able to basically pick and choose his spots. Quite possibly the perfect situation for him as his career winds down.
The Nets not only imported an abundance of talent this summer, they also added championship pedigree and moxie to the mix in Brooklyn. The Nets now boast arguably the best starting five in the NBA: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. And the bench looks solid as well, as coach Jason Kidd will be able to sub in: Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Shaun Livingston, Tyshawn Taylor and rookie Mason Plumlee. All of a sudden, the Nets can be viewed as a legit threat to Miami’s stranglehold on the East.
Considering the stunning accumulation of talent on the roster, it is difficult to find many flaws; however, one cause for concern will be how quickly all the new pieces will be able establish cohesiveness on the court. This completely revamped lineup has its obvious upside, but it will take time for the each player to grow comfortable in their new roles. Added to the awkwardness of the adjustment period is a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd attempting to make the difficult transition from the captain on the floor to a coach in a suit on the sideline. Trading in a basketball for a clipboard is often challenging enough, and the pressure of immediate expected success will only make it more so.
- Tommy Beer
Can the Nets beat the HEAT?
The Nets window to win is two years, tops. Kevin Garnett is 37 and has previously contemplated retirement. Paul Pierce has just one year left on his deal. Joe Johnson is not getting any younger. And with the future mortgaged (the Nets traded away three first round picks to acquire Garnett and Pierce), the pressure is on. Miami has had a vice-like grip on the Eastern Conference since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, as evidenced by three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. However, the HEAT have shown some vulnerability, and were pushed to two Game 7’s before capturing the crown again this past June. Will the Nets be able to gel quickly enough and stay healthy enough to knock off LeBron and company?
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