NBA@2: Knicks Or Nets Better in 2013?
Who Will Be Better, the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks?
So here’s a news flash—barring some sort of unexpected miracle, the Miami HEAT will be the best team in the Eastern Conference this year by about a mile-and-a-half. After them, though, the Conference is kind of wide open, with teams like Indiana and Boston and maybe even Chicago looking like reasonably strong teams, if not necessarily championship contenders.
But no team spent more money this summer than the Brooklyn Nets, who start the next chapter of their franchise in New York this year, and the Knicks also underwent some pretty major changes this offseason. It’s easily conceivable that both teams could be the second- and third-best teams in the East, but the question heating up New York City right now is, which team is better?
The short answer—the Nets
The long answer is a bit more complicated, as both organizations have two bona fide stars, both have credible benches that mix veteran experience and promising youth, and both are coming off of disappointing seasons. Despite the similarities, however, there are pretty major differences, and that’s where one can start to see the separation between the franchises.
It’s not as if the Knicks are glaringly worse, because they aren’t. They should be a top-four team in their conference, and there definitely are areas in which they’ll be better than their new Brooklyn rivals.
When it comes to defense, for example, the Knicks are a far superior team, even though their two best players aren’t particularly well-known for playing defense. Still, there’s Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, as well as free agency additions Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas, all of whom give the team a rugged defensive outlook that head coach Mike Woodson surely looks at as a pretty major improvement.
There’s also no question that the Knicks are a deeper team, with at least ten players slated to play major minutes this season. Brooklyn, meanwhile, has far and away the most expensive starting lineup in the league, which didn’t leave much money to fill out the rest of the roster. C.J. Watson and MarShon Brooks are the best players there, but they’ll be behind the two guys on the Nets’ roster already playing the most minutes. There’s no help at center behind a guy in Lopez who played only five games last season, and there’s not a lot of optimism about what Reggie Evans will do as the only other bruiser outside of the starting lineup. Mirza Teletovic could be excellent, but he’s not a proven NBA commodity yet. The Knicks, meanwhile, have a lot of them.
So all that said, what makes the Nets the better team is that pricy starting lineup. As long as they stay healthy, Brooklyn really does have the better group. The two superstars in Brooklyn—Deron Williams and Joe Johnson—are better as a tandem than Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. They’re also probably going to be a healthier tandem, at least if Stoudemire’s knees continue to degenerate the way so many thought they would.
Johnson is a great second fiddle, and Williams plays better with help. There’s really no symbiosis at all between Stoudemire and Anthony, and it is a little troubling how well the team played while both of them were out last season.
In other words, the Knicks’ two best players are ball-stoppers, and the Nets’ two best players will likely be better because of their relationship on the court. Looking at the two teams’ top guys is an excellent place to start an argument.
Beyond that, though, the Knicks don’t have much going on at point guard between Jason Kidd and Ray Felton, the latter of which has lost a lot of his game (and conditioning) since the last time he played for New York. Losing Jeremy Lin is a bit of a momentum-killer, too. Love him or hate him, he probably would’ve been the best point guard on the team had the Knicks decided to add him to the two guys mentioned above.
The other problem is, yes, the Knicks are deeper, but three of their free agency additions are among the six oldest players in the league. Kidd, Thomas, and Camby are all on a crash course towards 40, and there haven’t traditionally been many players who were outlandishly effective that late in their careers. They can each bring a little something to the table, but to expect them to be major contributors would be a little naïve.
In the end, it’s probably smartest to look at this in terms of who has the best overall players, as well as how those players are going to mesh. The Knicks have pieces, but still feel like more of a hodgepodge than a cohesive group. The Nets, meanwhile, have built an intriguing (if not inexpensive) roster, and despite their lack of depth, which a backup center would drastically improve, they appear the better team.
It’s all subjective of course, and a lot of the argument probably depends on whether you’re a fan living in Brooklyn or Manhattan, but someone has to finish higher in the standings than the other, and for now that looks like Brooklyn Nets.
Top Recruit Steven Adams Assimilating to American Hoops
You don’t know Steven Adams yet, but you’re going to know all about him soon. The 6’11” center, who is headed to the University of Pittsburgh next season, was one of the top high school recruits in the country this past year, just behind big-time names like Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad.
But Adams, who comes from New Zealand, is a different kind of kid. Noel and Muhammad know they’re only a year removed from the NBA and will talk about it at length. Adams, meanwhile, doesn’t even have the NBA on his radar right now, even if the NBA is watching him almost as closely as his stateside contemporaries.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Adams told HOOPSWORLD at adidas Nations. “I just want to focus on the season ahead, work with (Pittsburgh) Coach Jamie Dixon and just make sure that we win.”
In order to win, however, Adams knows he’s got some work to do. He might be tall, but he’s just starting to fill out that 6’11” frame. He’s added 33 pounds since coming to America this past December, but strength training is just a part of what he’s doing to get ready for his first NCAA season.
“I’ve been working on my offense, but I know I can always do that,” Adams said. “I’m more focused on how to block shots more efficiently, how to rebound, and just run the floor. That’s all I’m focusing on at the (adidas Nations) games, and that’s where they’re giving me tips on how to be more effective.”
“They” is all the coaches at the tournament, many of whom have NBA experience, and they have helped make this experience overwhelmingly positive for this talented young man.
“It’s amazing having all the NBA coaches, and I’ve just been trying to take advantage of their knowledge,” he said. “I’ve been learning a lot.”
He’s an undeniably humble kid, but when it comes to his upcoming college career, he knows exactly what he wants to accomplish.
“Just hard-working, rebounding, anything, whatever they want from me,” he said. “All I want to do is make sure we win and that everybody plays to their full potential. That’s all I want.”
Maybe he’ll want the NBA someday, but for now he seems content to prepare for college hoops. If he does as well there as everyone expects, this five-star recruit will get his shot at the League soon enough, and then there will be no question about who Steven Adams is.