With the kind of offensive power the new-look Brooklyn Nets have this upcoming season, one of the most interesting developments will be how the starting lineup and bench distribute scoring responsibilities.
The answers to these questions will fall on guards Williams and Johnson's ability to facilitate the offense both between themselves and for a frontcourt of Lopez at center, power forward Kris Humphries and swingman Gerald Wallace.
On the defensive end, the Nets' biggest concern is a lack of physical interior defense. Is this red flag justified statistically?
In the following segment, predictions on the statistics for each of the probable first nine players in the Nets rotation are made for the 2012-13 season.
(All statistical references to prior seasons were taken from www.basketball-reference.com)
2009-10 Stats, Utah Jazz: 13.9 FGA, 18.7 PPG, 10.5 APG, 47% FG, 1.2 STL
Predictive Stats for 2012-13: 15 FGA, 20 PPG, 10 APG, 48% FG, 1.5 STL
Analysis: During the 2009-10 season, when Deron Williams last played alongside strong offensive players like a healthy Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, he was widely considered the best point guard in the league.
Expect the Nets point guard to post similar numbers in 2011-12, when he will be surrounded by arguably more potent scorers than on his past Utah Jazz squads.
Notably, Williams will need only 15 shots per game to score 20 points because he will find himself in favorable one-on-one matchups when opposing defenses are forced to cover the Nets' other scoring options.
Because coach Avery Johnson preaches an aggressive perimeter defense, Williams should see a slight increase in his steal numbers next season.
2011-12 Statistics: 15.5 FGA, 18.8 PPG, 3.9 APG, 45% FG, 39% 3FG
Predictive Statistics for 2012-13: 17 FGA, 20.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 47%, 39% 3FG
Analysis: A change in scenery will rejuvenate Joe Johnson's game.
Two seasons ago, Joe Johnson averaged 21 points per game for the Atlanta Hawks. However, over the past two years, Johnson took 2.5 fewer shots per game, and as a result, his scoring dropped to 19 points per night.
Johnson's decline in offensive production was due in part to shortcomings in the Hawks' offensive scheme. The Hawks lacked an elite passing point guard and had a stagnant offense that overly focused on isolation plays set for forward Josh Smith.
These circumstances will change for Johnson this season. By way of playing with an elite, pass-first point guard, Johnson will see more open shot attempts in 2011-12.
If Johnson can score 19 PPG in Atlanta, there is no reason he won't average around 20 PPG on the new-look Nets.
Johnson is also one of the better passing two guards in the league. Before last season, Johnson had averaged over five assists a game between 2007-11. Under coach Avery Johnson's uptempo, backcourt focused offense, expect Johnson's assist numbers to increase next year as well.
2010-11 Season: 16 FGA, 20.4 PPG, 6 TRB, 1.5 BPG, 49% FG
Predictive Statistics 2012-13: 14 FGA, 16.5 PPG, 7 TRB, 1.5 BPG, 51% FG
Analysis: Brook Lopez is a "finesse" center. He takes an unusual number of mid range jumpers for his position and is not a very active rebounder.
As the Nets' third scoring option next year, Lopez will see less touches than in 2010-11, and his offensive output will go down.
However, because team defenses will have to keep an eye on Lopez lurking around anywhere from under the rim to 10 feet away, that will create more space for his teammates to take high-percentage shots.
When Lopez does get his shots, they should be for a higher percentage than when he was the first scoring option for the Nets back in 2010-11.
There is no indication that Lopez's game will become more physical in the paint, and therefore, don't expect to see significant improvements in rebounding and blocked shots per game.
2011-12 Season: 10.9 FGA, 13.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 STL, 45% FG
Predictive Stats for 2012-13: 9 FGA, 12 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.9 STL, 47% FG
Analysis: Gerald Wallace doesn't need too many shots to be effective on offense. He strives on scoring at or around the rim and getting to the free-throw line (his career average is five free throw attempts per game).
Wallace will see a drop off in field goal attempts this year. He will be relegated to a more limited role on offense than when he was with the Charlotte Bobcats and, more recently, the Portland Trailblazers.
The upside for Wallace is that because his offensive burdens will be lighter, he will be able to focus on his primary strength, which is on the defensive end of the floor. Expect Wallace to contend for the second All-NBA defensive selection of his career as his numbers in steals and rebounds improve next season.
2011-12 Stats: 10.8 FGA, 13.8 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 48% FG.
Predictive Stats for 2012-13: 7.5 FGA, 10 PPG, 12 RPG, 1 BPG, 52% FG
Analysis: Humphries earned a two-year, $24 million contract for being a "double-double machine" last season. He will continue to produce double-doubles on a nightly basis, but his offensive production will take a significant drop.
Humphries is the fifth scoring option on the Nets, and will generate most of his offense from put-back shots and seldom-found high percentage shots from between three to nine feet away from the basket.
This means that Humphries' scoring will decrease significantly, but his scoring efficiency should see a nice increase.
Because the Nets backcourt and corner defense is strong with Wallace, Williams, and Johnson guarding the outside, expect Humphries to see an increase in defensive rebounding opportunities next season.
2011-12 Stats: 11.4 FGA, 12.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, .9 STL, 42% FG
Predictive 2012-13 Stats: 10 FGA, 11.5 PPG, 3 APG, 1.2 STL, 45% FG
Analysis: MarShon Brooks will become a better player in his second year in the NBA. Playing on an offensively well-rounded Nets squad, he should see better shot attempts and experience increases in assists and field-goal percentage in 2012-13.
However, in a deep Nets rotation, the Nets sixth man will see slight drop-offs in scoring and field-goal attempts from last year.
Even when Brooks commands the Nets' second unit, he will inevitably share scoring responsibilities with stretch forward Mirza Teletovic and backup point guard C.J. Watson, each of whom have solid offensive games.
Brooks wants to be the sixth man of the year, but at around 11 points a game, he will most likely fall short of that goal.
2011-12 Stats (Euroleague): 16.6 FGA, 21.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 43.4% FG, 43% 3FG
Predictive Stats 2012-13: 8 FGA, 10 PPG, 41% FG, 38% 3FG
Analysis: One of the bigger questions surrounding the Nets bench next season is whether Teletovic can adjust to more physical NBA defenses and whether he will be content in taking far fewer shots per game than when he was in the Euroleague.
If Brooks attempts far too many isolation plays when he and Teletovic are on the floor together, Teletovic may struggle to find his role in the Nets offense.
Nevertheless, the 6'9" sharpshooting forward could be a matchup nightmare for defenses if he acclimates himself to being a corner three-point shooter who at times can attack the rim from the baseline.
2011-12 Stats: 8.9 FGA, 9.7 PPG, 4.1 APG, .9 STL, 37% FG, 38% 3FG
Predictive Stats: 5.5 FGA, 7.5 PPG, 4 APG, .9 STL, 38% FG, 40% 3FG
Analysis: Another Nets sharpshooter off the bench.
Last year, Watson was an offensive spark plug for the Chicago Bulls, compiling nearly 10 points a game in just over 23 minutes a night. He was lethal from the three-point line and an effective passer.
In what will be a running theme for the entire Nets' bench, Watson will have to share shots with a bevy of offensive options on the floor.
Watson—who last year played under Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's vaunted defensive scheme— will also provide sound perimeter defense for the Nets' second unit.
2011-12 Stats: 1.3 FGA, 1.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG
Predictive 2012-13 stats: 1 FGA, 1.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG
Analysis: Reggie Evans is an NBA journeyman whose singular role is to play physical defense and crash the boards. In under 14 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, Evans averaged 4.8 rebounds.
Evans should see more playing time on the Nets this season, because the Nets don't have a legitimate backup center to date. Expect Evans to make substitutes at both the 4 and 5 spots on certain nights.
As a result, Evans' rebounding numbers should increase this year.
The Nets should average more than a 100 points on around 85 shots per game next year—output that will either be at the top of the NBA or near it. They have a prolific, backcourt-oriented offense that will move the ball fluidly and take many quick shots.
The Nets' rebounding will be around average. Wallace, Humphries and Evans will do most of the crashing on the boards. If Brook Lopez's interior defensive game improves, then the Nets may turn out to be an above-average team on the boards.
Statistics don't capture everything, and one of the harder areas to predict is how the Nets' interior defense will perform next year. Humphries and Evans may be strong rebounders, but they are still defensive liabilities.
Brook Lopez may struggle defensively in an Atlantic Division that now features two all-NBA centers in Andrew Bynum and Tyson Chandler.
Still, teams with outstanding offensive firepower and some competent perimeter defense usually do very well in the regular season.
For instance, the Phoenix Suns averaged 59 wins over four seasons when they sported a high octane offense earlier this decade, and the Denver Nuggets won 50 games two years ago with a young, high-tempo offensive squad of their own.
So really, is it unrealistic to think that the Nets won't win around 50 games and be a top four seed in the Eastern Conference?