Welcome back to another edition of the Sports Script’s NBA preview, for the 2013-14 season. This has been a long running series but we’re nearing the end of the line. Yesterday I covered the Houston Rockets, my number six team in the league, and what their chances were this year, so make sure you give that a read, along with the rest of them. Today we have a team that got better almost instantly, and became a title contender through one big trade. They are literally a team with a one year window to win, so they have to get going, and most importantly stay healthy. My number five team, is the Brooklyn Nets.
Key Additions: Kevin Garnett (Trade via Celtics) Paul Pierce (Trade via Celtics) Andrei Kirilenko (Signed via Wolves) Jason Terry (Trade via Celtics) Alan Anderson (Signed via Raptors) Shaun Livingston (Signed via Wizards) Mason Plumlee (Draft) Jason Kidd (Played for the Knicks, Now Coaching)
Key Departures: Gerald Wallace (Celtics) Kris Humphries (Celtics) C.J. Watson (Pacers) MarShon Brooks (Celtics) Keith Bogans (Celtics) Jerry Stackhouse (Retired) Kris Joseph (Celtics) Avery Johnson (Fired)
Oh the Brooklyn Nets. This is such an interesting team, because it went from a middle of the pack team, destined for first round or second round exit for the next three or four years, to a title contender for probably just one. They made the decision to trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with Jason Terry, to help them win this season, because if you ask me, those guys have just one year of high level play left in their rejuvenated bodies. They only managed to give up Gerald Wallace’s awful contract, Kris (Former) Kardashian, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph and a few first round picks to the Celtics which is about a big a win in a trade as possible, but only if they win this year, because then things will really start to go down hill, and make those picks really interesting. They hired Jason Kidd this offseason, before the big Celtics trade happened, and while Kidd was one of the smartest players on the court, he’s going to have his hands full with players only a year or two his junior. This isn’t something that you want, a rookie head coach with no prior NBA coaching experience as an assistant, leading your legitimate NBA championship contender. Andrei Kirilenko was a massive addition, especially to a front court that doesn’t play very good defense, and at the price of only $3 million, it’s an absolute steal. I wonder if having a Russian owner had anything to do with it… After that they grabbed a few decent bench players in Shaun Livingston, Mason Plumlee the first round pick and Alan Anderson coming over from Toronto.
The starting lineup is about as complete a lineup as you will see in the NBA, from point guard to center, legitimate starters in each slot. Deron Williams had a bounce back year for the Nets last year, and now is going to be playing for the most talented team he’s ever been on, so it will be interesting to see how a somewhat pass first guard deal with so many other weapons on the court. He’s going to have to feed a lot of mouths in order for this team to be successful. Joe Johnson is playing in his second year as a Net, and while he didn’t have a terrible year last year, he didn’t live up to expectations coming in from a big trade in Atlanta. He’s a score first, midrange to long range shooter, not the most efficient player in the league, but he can fill up the basket, and is one of the top eight or so shooting guards in the league. Paul Pierce is the new addition at the small forward, and he’s going to provide some real leadership to this team, and a championship pedigree along with Kevin Garnett. The back to the basket, fadeaway game isn’t the same as it used to be, but Pierce is still a very capable catch and shoot player, and is also still able to go off the dribble a few steps and be able to shoot over the top of his defenders. He has what I like to call “Old Man Game”. The kind of basketball style where he just seems to move so slowly, but everything has a meaning, and a goal when he does it, and he can get a shot off at almost any angle. Kevin Garnett won’t be doing much down on the post, but he’s still going to be the vicious defender that always has been, and paired with Brooks Lopez, his defense will be even more valuable. He’ll be doing a lot of covering for Lopez’s defensive lapses and inability to rebound. He’s still going to be looking for that midrange jumper game that he’s known for, but on the Nets he won’t be relied on to do much of the scoring. Brooks Lopez might actually be the most important player on the team, and has become a top three center in the NBA, and one its best big men. He had a huge year last year, and now that his rebounding and defensive deficiencies will be somewhat masked with Kevin Garnett beside him, he can continue to progress as a player, especially on offense. Shots might be even rarer to come by with Garnett and Pierce on the floor, but Lopez’s post game will be a huge need for this team, especially with so many perimeter players who don’t love to get into the lane and get easy baskets.
The Brooklyn Nets have all of a sudden managed to acquire one of the most talented teams in the league, and while things look great right now, this is a delicate team that’s fortunes could go south with just one thing going wrong. What is Deron Williams wrist problems flare back up? What if Pierce and Garnett are no more than glorified role players at this point in their careers? And what if they aren’t even able to stay healthy? Can Jason Kidd really lead a title contender with no coaching experience before this? So many questions, but this is a team with a ton of talent, so I believe they will have some good success anyway. However this is not a team good enough to go up against the Heat, but they will give them a run for their money if they come across each other in the playoffs.
Final Prediction: 55-27, 3rd Eastern Conference