As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Brooklyn Nets, who last year had a record of 49-33 and did make the playoffs.
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Coach: Jason Kidd
General Manager: Billy King
2012-2013 Record: 49-33
Place in Conference: Fourth in East, Second in Atlantic Division
Leading Scorer: Brook Lopez (19.4 points per game)
Key Additions: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Jason Kidd (Head Coach)
Key Losses: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Marshon Brooks, C.J. Watson, Kris Joseph, D.J. White, P.J. Carlesimo
Last summer Nets General Manager Billy King used the seemingly unlimited resources of owner Mikhail Prokorov to return the Nets to the playoffs by resigning Deron Williams, giving Brook Lopez a max contract extension and trading for Joe Johnson. While they started out hot, the Nets soon tapered off, struggling against the better teams in the league. Head coach Avery Johnson was soon fired and replaced by assistant P.J. Carlesimo on an interim basis. The Nets had the typical improvement that follows a coaching change, but bowed out to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs in one of the more embarrassing efforts in recent memory.
Why was it embarrassing? The Nets lost game seven at home to a Bulls team that was missing Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, had Joakim Noah playing injured and was relying on Nate Robinson as its go-to scorer. To make matters worse, it wasn’t even close, and this series cost Carlesimo any chance he had at keeping the job. In an effort to take the next step, Prokorov again opened his wallet this summer, and the Nets acquired future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett along with Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics. They also signed Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson to come off the bench alongside Terry, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans. Most surprisingly, the Nets hired former franchise cornerstone and recently retired point guard Jason Kidd as the new head coach despite Kidd having no coaching experience at any level.
As much as most teams want their core around youth, the Nets realize that it almost always takes a veteran team to contend for a title (which just makes what the Thunder has done all the more impressive). Because of Prokorov’s deep pockets and King’s aggressive work, the Nets have built a veteran team that should be strong on both sides of the ball. Unlike most teams built around star veterans, the Nets’ seemingly unlimited resources have allowed them to add impressive depth right way, particularly with the acquisition of Kirilenko, who can keep both Pierce and Garnett fresh while maintaining a high level of play at either forward position. Garnett should be an excellent fit alongside Lopez and Pierce’s shooting should also fit well with Williams and Johnson. Garnett is also arguably the most intense player in the league, and it is hard to imagine any team with Pierce and Garnett submitting a playoff effort like last year’s Nets did against the Bulls. Among the returning Nets, Williams returned to All-Star form in the second half, Lopez made his first All-Star team and is arguably the best offensive center in the league, and Blatche resurrected his career with the team as a highly efficient reserve.
While being a team of established veterans with multiple future Hall of Famers is definitely a plus, even the most diehard Brooklyn fan has to admit the Nets are a bit long in the tooth. Garnett and Pierce are both in the twilight of their careers and have been locked in an ongoing battle with age and injuries for several years. Kirilenko is entering his mid-thirties and is practically a mortal lock to miss 15-20 games a year. Johnson’s decline from All-Star to mediocre starter has been startling in its quickness, and at 32 years old a bounce back season is unlikely. Williams has battled conditioning and injury issues, Terry is no spring chicken and Livingston will probably deal with the effects of his devastating knee injury for the rest of his career. Even Lopez has battled foot injuries the last few years (always a concern for a big man, as any longtime Cavaliers fan can tell you) and had surgery again this offseason. This combination of age and injuries will likely significantly limit the amount of games many of the core members of the team plays together. The most glaring weakness however, seems to be the head coach. Considering the amount of money he spent to make the Nets contenders and the age of the players on the roster, it’s surprising that Prokorov entrusted this season to a rookie head coach with no previous coaching experience at any level. While Kidd seems willing to rely on assistants such as Lawrence Frank as he learns on the job, he still will have to prove his veteran squad that he is the man for the job, or there could be quick and potentially dire consequences for both the Nets’ success this season and Kidd’s coaching future. The irony of this is not lost on any NBA fan who remembers Kidd’s reputation as a coach killer earlier in his career. It will be interesting to see how he responds to what are likely to be enormous expectations for the team now that the tables have turned and the pressure is on him.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
The Nets are right there with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls in the race to be the second best team in the Eastern Conference. While they may prove to be the best of that group come playoff time, it is unlikely to happen in the regular season. While they are a veteran team, many core players are new to the roster and it may take the team some time to find the right chemistry. The logical need to limit the minutes of Garnett and Pierce, along with the injury potential of several other players and Kidd’s learning how to coach on the fly will likely hamper any large boost to the team’s regular season record or conference standings. That being said, if the Nets can stay healthy and find the right chemistry come playoff time, they will have the ability to best any team they face, including the Miami Heat. Final Prediction: 52-30, Fourth in the Eastern Conference.