With a new brand and arena, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the Brooklyn Nets this offseason.
They have certainly made moves to upgrade their roster, but are they really going to be better than the New York Knicks?
Have they made enough moves to improve from their 22-44 record this past year and catch a Knicks team that went 36-30, closing the year 18-6, primarily when Jeremy Lin was hurt?
Let's take a look by position, with the following assumptions.
First, the Knicks are not going to match Jeremy Lin's deal (h/t ESPN.com). Lin was a priority, but he has essentially been shown the door after the Rockets upped their offer sheet. As security at the point guard position, the Knicks traded for Raymond Felton.
Second, it doesn't look as though Dwight Howard is going to Brooklyn this upcoming year. The Nets aren't out of the race completely, but Houston and Los Angeles have become likelier destinations.
The Knicks did not match Toronto's offer sheet to Landry Fields.
I'm assuming the Nets match any offer for Kris Humphries.
Knicks: Ray Felton, Jason Kidd
Nets: Deron Williams, CJ Watson
Williams is a three-time All-Star and a legitimate force at the position. He averaged 21 points and 8.7 assists per game last year. Though the Nets have struggled his past two years, he has had little help around him.
The Knicks just traded for Ray Felton and signed Jason Kidd to sure up their point guard situation.
Felton is a nice piece that played well in New York in 2010, averaging 17 point and nine assists. Keep in mind that Amare played his best basketball with Felton running the point.
Felton is just 29. He can surely be a nice addition from both a financial and basketball perspective, but the Knicks need him to get in shape and return to his level of play from two years ago.
Brooklyn has a substantial advantage here and this will be an important key to their success.
Knicks: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith
Nets: Joe Johnson, MarShon Brooks
A casual basketball fan might think that this weighs heavily towards the Nets.
Not so fast; this is closer than it seems.
Iman Shumpert is an amazing talent. As a 22-year-old rookie, he already started filling up box scores, averaging almost 10 points, three assists, three boards and two steals a game. He is regarded as one of the top five perimeter defenders in the game and has bounding athleticism.
A similar comparison to Shumpert in terms of age, impact and position is Boston's Avery Bradley. They are both skilled perimeter defenders who are developing their offensive games.
Shumpert's health is recovering after his injury last year, and he will only continue to improve. I expect him to have a breakout year in 2012-2013.
Joe Johnson is a nice player, but he is going in the other direction. At age 31, he is no longer a superstar. Long term, his contract is also a liability for the Nets.
His minutes have declined each of the last six seasons, from 41.4 to 35.5 a game, as has his scoring, from 25.0 to 18.8 points.
J.R. Smith and MarShon Brooks essentially provide the same thing: scoring off the bench. Smith is probably a better all-around player, but Brooks is a better shooter.
I still give the Nets an advantage here, but it is not a huge one at all. Johnson's age, career arc and the enormous liability of his contract are concerns. Shumpert's incredible athleticism and potential really close the gap.
Knicks: Carmelo Anthony
Nets: Gerald Wallace, Mirza Teletovic
A 6'8", 230-pound five-time All-Star, Carmelo is arguably one of the top 10 or 15 players in the league.
Gerald Wallace is a nice, versatile player and defender, but he does not have the offensive prowess or the physical strength of Carmelo.
Similar to Johnson, Wallace's scoring has regressed the last six seasons. In 2007-08, he averaged 19.4 points a game. Last year, his average was 13.8. His biggest contribution will have to be off the ball, whether it is his rebounding or defense.
Carmelo closed this past season on an extremely high note, averaging 28 points and 8 rebounds in the playoff series against Miami. He also played much better at the end of the year without Jeremy Lin and was the focal point of their 18-6 stretch to close the year. I expect more of the same from him this coming year.
Knicks: Amar'e Stoudemire, Steve Novak, Kurt Thomas
Nets: Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans
Kris Humphries will be a nice rebounder and a good player for Brooklyn, assuming the Nets bring him back. He is a solid power forward that averaged around 14 points and 11 boards a game last year.
Amar'e had a difficult year and took fewer shots playing with Carmelo and Jeremy Lin, but keep in mind that he still averaged nearly 18 points and eight rebounds a game.
In a bad year.
His health has improved and the addition of Ray Felton is a huge plus for Amare.
The Nets are great rebounding this position. Reggie Evans is a nice motor off the bench and it was important for Brooklyn to sign him. The Knicks have versatility here. When Amar'e isn't on the floor, New York can go with Novak and spread it out. At 6'10" and 240 pounds, Steve Novak came off the bench at the forward position, averaged nine points and shot 48 percent from three.
The Nets defend this position very well; however, the combination of Novak's shooting and a more typical year from Amare gives the Knicks a slight advantage.
Knicks: Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby
Nets: Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez is a nice talent and just got a huge, $61 million contract.
Keep in mind, though, that because of injury, he played in only five games last year.
He is a nice scorer, averaging 20 points a game two years ago. However, he lacks traditional big man skills: In that same year, he only averaged six boards a game.
Camby and Chandler are two exceptional defenders. Camby averaged nine boards per game in limited action, and Chandler was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler also improved his game offensively and became a better pick-and-roll player with the arrival of Jeremy Lin.
The Knicks are simply much more reliable at this position, despite Lopez's offensive talent.
The Knicks frontcourt is just much deeper than Brooklyn's. Carmelo, Amar'e, Chandler, Camby and Novak is a much more formidable group than Wallace, Humphries, Evans and Lopez.
What the Knicks lack in defense with Amar'e and Carmelo, they make up for in having the Defensive Player of the Year in Chandler as well as Camby, who is a solid defender off the bench.
Also, the shooting they have off the bench at forward with Novak is something the Nets don't have. Wallace, Humphries and Lopez have their limitations, and Brooklyn has little off the bench to help them in the frontcourt.
The Nets do have a prominent advantage in the backcourt, especially at point guard with Deron Williams.
The Knicks have talent at these positions, though; Shumpert is a rising star and will only continue to improve.
Overall, I have to give the Knicks a slight advantage. For now, they just have a deeper group. They actually have an established eight-man rotation and proven depth at each position, despite their age.
The rotations could evolve as the season plays out, but the Nets haven't formed one yet. Watson, Teletovic, Evans and Brooks is not quite as dynamic of a bench as JR Smith, Novak, Camby and Kidd.
Despite his age, Camby is an even better defender and rebounder than Evans. Watson and Kidd are both decent options for a backup point. Though Brooks is a very nice shooter, JR Smith is more versatile and a better all around player. Novak is a great asset off the bench because of his shooting.
Another important distinction is that the Nets went 22-44 last year, and the Knicks went 36-30.
Sure, the Nets got a nice player in Joe Johnson and may now have a healthy Brook Lopez. But have they greatly improved their depth and their bench? No.
Is that one addition and a healthy Lopez worth 14 extra wins?
It's a tough argument to make.
On the other hand, the Knicks brought in a couple veteran pieces, in Felton and Camby, which should improve their leadership and bench. Shumpert is undoubtedly going to get better when he returns from injury. I see no reason why the Knicks can't be just as good or better than last year.
So while there is a nice buzz growing in Brooklyn, the Knicks still have the better team in New York.
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