My first instinct is that the broad consensus is expecting too much out of the Brooklyn Nets. Vegas Insider has them pegged at 15/1 to win the East, much better odds than the Atlanta Hawks (50/1), a team that comfortably made the playoffs last season.
Of course, the odds swung from Atlanta to Brooklyn in part due to the Joe Johnson trade between those two teams, but should his Brooklyn arrival really be the source of so much optimism? Joe had a fine season last year, hitting .388 on threes, and shooting .454 from the field overall. It was a bounce-back season after a lackluster 2010-2011 campaign in which he shot a scant .297 from beyond the arc.
So, credit to Joe for returning to old form. but at 31 years old, Johnson will probably not improve on that decent old form. At his best, Johnson is a good player, and certainly an addition for this Nets squad. But this team won the equivalent of 27 games in a regular season (22 wins in the lockout year).
According to Basketball Reference, Joe Johnson accounted for 8.4 wins in his best year, back in 2009-2010. If you're banking on seeing this guy again, well, I would not be so sure.
So, even a wildly optimistic Joe-John projection doesn't quite get Brooklyn to the consensus-expected 46 victories. Perhaps you're of the opinion that Gerald Wallace and a healthy Brook Lopez will get Brooklyn to meet or exceed expectations.
It's a view that I can respect, even if I don't share it. Gerald Wallace has been a fine player in years past, though he's suffered a recent drop-off in production--a drop-off that's coincided with his presence on three teams in two seasons. There is also some role overlap between Deron Williams' perimeter-oriented ball-handling, Joe Johnson's and Gerald Wallace's.
As for Brook Lopez, he's yet to prove not immensely problematic for his team. While the 20 points per game possibility seems alluring, his terrible defense might not make the payoff worth his scoring punch. This may seem harsh, but I would encourage you to look at these Brook "highlights" compiled by Nets blogger Justin Feo. It is difficult to construct a competent defense around such a wayward anchor.
In fairness to Brook, the Nets were were second to last in 2011-2012 for defensive efficiency, and Lopez played on five games. This brings me to my next concern: How much improvement can we expect from a terrible defensive team that lacks shotblockers?
The goal here isn't to troll the Nets or to paint them as completely hopeless. They should make great strides on offense, and contend for a playoff spot in the East. But a playoff spot is not assured and title contention is incredibly far fetched. Brooklyn has improved, but they have a long way to go.
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