Brooklyn Nets: Realistic Expectations for the Team in 2012-13
Under billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Brooklyn Nets spent $81 million dollars in offseason acquisitions for the 2012-13 season. Just what will this massive expenditure translate to once the NBA regular season begins?
Specifically, the Nets key summer acquisitions constitute of an elite backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, defensive specialist Gerald Wallace and high scoring center Brook Lopez. In the following segment, ten realistic expectations for the new look Nets in 2012-13 shall be explored.
Deron Williams Will Have a Career Season
When Deron Williams was surrounded by solid offensive talent on his former Utah Jazz squad between 2007 to 2011, he averaged 19 points and 10 assists a game. Expect Williams to put up even better numbers with the Nets this season.
Williams will be playing alongside formidable scoring options at all areas of the floor. He can target All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson (career average 19 PPG) on the wings and corners, hit center Lopez (17.4 PPG) for a mid-range jumper or kick the ball out to wing man Gerald Wallace (16.7 PPG since 2005) on the fast-break.
Because opposing defenses will be forced to spread out to cover the Nets' multiple scoring options, expect Williams to exploit man-on-man defenses for high-percentage shots. The career 46 percent field goal shooter should see a slight improvement in this statistical area as well.
Williams, Johnson and Lopez Will Be NBA All-Stars
The Nets backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are NBA All-Star team regulars. Williams has amassed three consecutive All-Star berths since 2010, and Johnson has appeared for the team six times in his career.
Both players should attain an All-Star team berth next year. With the benefit of playing alongside one another, Williams and Johnson (career average four assists a game) will create high-percentage shooting opportunities for one another. Each player should average around 20 points per game.
Nets fans should expect Brook Lopez to attain his first All-Star selection as well. Behind Philadelphia 76ers' center Andrew Bynum, Lopez may be the second best center in the Eastern Conference.
Lopez—a career 17 point per game scorer— should see a modest increase in his offensive output in 2012-13. He will have the benefit of playing his first full season with a pure point guard in Williams and, as a result, will likely see more easy shots from under the rim.
At around 19 points and two blocked shots a game, Lopez should be the strongest contender to be a back-up center in the Eastern Conference all-star team.
Joe Johnson's Scoring Average Will Be Around 21.5 Points a Game
Between the 2007 and 2010, the then Atlanta Hawk averaged 22 points on 19 shots a game. However, during the last two seasons, Johnson's shots per game dropped as the Hawks' increasingly slow paced offense started to revolve more around small forward Josh Smith. As a result, Johnson's numbers dropped to 19 points on 16 shots a game.
During all six seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, the two guard didn't have the benefit of playing on an up-tempo offense with a pure point guard. All that is about to change during Johnson's first year with the Brooklyn Nets.
Johnson should expect to see more fast break opportunities and open mid-range shots now that he will be playing alongside Williams, who is one of the best passers in the NBA. As a result, Johnson will see increases in open shots and scoring per game.
Expect the Nets to run some isolation plays through Johnson as well, who, like Williams, will benefit from his teammates' floor spacing. Johnson is capable of driving to the basket, and should have advantageous one-on-one opportunities to exploit this season.
The Nets Will Be in the NBA Top 5 in Points Scored Per Game
Under coach Avery Johnson—who preaches an up-tempo offense—the new look Nets squad will average close to 100 points per game next season.
With solid ball movement generated from the Nets backcourt, expect Williams, Johnson, and Lopez to compile near 60 points a night. The Nets remaining role players aren't too shabby on the offensive end either.
Gerald Wallace will gets his 15 points per game a night, particularly on the fast break in which Williams will excel at running this season.
While power forward Kris Humphries' reputation is based more on his rebounding prowess (11 a game last season), he's an effective scorer around the rim. Expect Humphries to clean up the offensive glass and score around 11 points a game primarily from put back opportunities.
Add a solid offensive second unit with two guard Marshon Brooks (12 points per game in his rookie campaign) and intriguing European stretch forward Mirza Teletovic (22 points per game in the Euroleague), and the Nets offense will be a force next season.
The Nets Defense Against Three Point Shooting Will Be in the Top 10 This Year
In the 2011-12 season, the Nets were amongst the worst perimeter defenses in the league. They ranked 29th in the NBA in three-point percentage allowed (37 percent).
However, with Johnson and Wallace defending the wings and corners in 2012-13, the Nets will shut down opposing squads open long-range opportunities.
Gerald Wallace is one of the best defensive swingmen in the NBA. Averaging a career 1.5 steals a game, Wallace is a physical, aggressive defender who will continually disrupt opposing teams' outside shooting.
Joe Johnson is an underrated defender in the NBA. Last season, opposing shooting guards and small forwards averaged a below average 13.5 player efficiency rating against Johnson (via 82games.com).
The Nets Frontcourt Defense Will Be Easily Exploited
The Nets did little to address its interior defensive woes in the NBA offseason.
While Lopez is a talented scorer and Kris Humphries is one of the best rebounding forwards in the league, both are poor man-on-man defenders in the paint. They will struggle to defend elite frontcourt scorers in the Atlantic Division; particularly Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire and Andrew Bynum.
The Nets' recent acquisition of Reggie Evans will add some rebounding to the team's second unit. But Evans isn't going to record starting minutes. At any rate, Evans can't be relied upon to defend against the NBA's best scorers in the paint.
The Nets inability to adequately defend around the rim will be their biggest weakness next year.
The Nets Will Get off to a Slow Start in 2012-13
The Nets will try to build chemistry between relatively new teammates while weathering a challenging first two months of the regular season.
First, the good news: the Nets have seven games in November against poor teams including three against the anemic Orlando Magic. They should also record wins in November against these rebuilding teams: the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors, the Sacramento Kings and the Portland Trailblazers.
However, the Nets are also slated to play the Eastern Conference Final champion Boston Celtics twice, the NBA champion Miami Heat twice and the New York Knicks three times before the New Year. Out West, the Nets have away contests against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs.
Each of those top NBA squads should be salivating to defeat the Brooklyn Nets after all the offseason hoopla surrounding the team's first year in the NBA.
All in all, expect the Nets to be a slightly above .500 squad the first two months. The Nets will have nights when they overwhelm competition based on talent alone, and others where because the team hasn't gelled yet, seasoned opposing competition will exploit team turnovers and lapses in team defense.
Avery Johnson Will Go from on the Hot Seat to Coach of the Year Candidate
Because the Nets will get off to a slow start this season, the New York media will put Avery Johnson on the hot seat by December of this year.
The usual rhubarb will be that Johnson is not making the most of the talent around him, and, that there are plenty of available coaches (Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson) who could take his place and make the Nets a championship contender.
However, Johnson is a very strong head coach who will get the Nets offense and perimeter defense flowing by January.
Johnson—who averaged 59 wins over three full seasons with the Dallas Mavericks—is a solid defensive coach as well. The Mavericks were amongst the league leaders in points allowed per game during his tenure with the squad.
By April, when the Nets are a 50 win team, the New York press will tout his name about for coach of the year.
Welcome to New York, Avery.
The Nets Will Be the Number 3 or 4 Seed in the Eastern Conference
The Nets have a number of issues to address during the 2012-13 season. Fortunately, beside the Miami Heat, so do all the other top teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Celtics top three scorers—Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry are all well beyond 30-years-old. Consequently, the Celts will sacrifice some regular season wins to rest these three key players for the playoffs.
The New York Knicks have an anemic offensive backcourt, chemistry issues, and key players with questionable health (Stoudemire, back; Shumpert, knee).
Former 50-win squads like the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic both lost their best players in the offseason. Without Dwight Howard, the Magic are a lottery team, and the Hawks loss of their best scorer in Johnson means they will only be a few games above .500 next season.
The Indiana Pacers are still without a legitimate number one scoring option, which will be a problem that prevents them from winning any more than 50 to 52 games next season. They will be the Nets' biggest threat to the third seed in the Eastern Conference next year.
All things considered, the Nets are in good stead compared to these teams. While they may have some chemistry issues the first two months, once they gel, they will be an offensive dynamo and a 50 win team by April.
That win total should be good for the third or fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets Will Lose in the Second Round of the Playoffs
The Nets are good enough to win in the first round of the playoffs next spring. If they are the third or fourth seed, they will most likely find themselves playing against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Knicks, the Hawks or the Pacers that round.
On paper, at least, the Nets have superior talent to each of these teams (though against the Knicks or Pacers it would be close), and can beat each one in a first round series.
However, in the second round, the Nets would either face the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics. Because the latter squads have superior postseason experience and defense to the Nets, they will knock the upstart squad from Brooklyn out of the playoffs in six games.
Overall, the Nets have made many big moves to put them in the conversation as one of the best teams in the NBA. However, by the end of next year will prove, they will have to make the small yet essential adjustments necessary to become an NBA champion.