Comparing New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets in 1st Year of Inner-City Rivalry
For the first time since 1977, the city of New York will have two basketball teams. The New Jersey Nets are now the Brooklyn Nets, and that means a lot of bragging rights are on the line. It all begins on Thursday, when the two teams open their seasons against each other at the new Barclays Center.
The question now becomes: Who has the better team, and which team has the higher potential this season? The Nets made some moves to try and become relevant immediately in the Big Apple, while the New York Knicks have plenty of talent on their team.
So, let's check out which team has the edge at each position and who will ultimately finish with the better record.
Point Guard (Knicks)
The comparison at the point guard position between these two teams is really nonexistent. But since it's the most important position on the court, we'll break it down anyway.
The Knicks bring back an old friend in Raymond Felton. After being shipped in part of the February 2011 mega deal with Denver to land Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks re-signed Felton in the offseason. There are some positives out of this, as well as a few negatives.
One of the reasons the Knicks liked Felton in his half season with the team was because of his incredible play with Amar'e Stoudemire. The two worked the pick-and-roll to perfection, and it was that type of play that made Felton so valuable.
There are a couple of problems with that theory, though. Stoudemire has suddenly become injury prone, as he will miss the beginning of this season with a knee injury, meaning Felton will have to make it work with guys that weren't on the team in 2010-11.
Another issue is the coaching change since then. Mike D'Antoni was the coach, which probably helped inflate Felton's statistics. Now with Mike Woodson on board, it'll be a lot of isolations, and Anthony will handle the ball a ton.
All of this, without even mentioning the fact that Jason Kidd is now on the team. Which point guard will get the most playing time in the game's final six minutes?
So although Felton is solid, there are some questions and concerns as well.
Point Guard (Nets)
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The Nets needed for Deron Williams to re-sign with them this offseason. In fact, it was a must. Now that he did, the Nets are in great shape on the court. Williams is not only an outstanding point guard, but a leader on a team in a huge market. There was no way the Nets could've moved to Brooklyn with a new arena and fail to have a star. Plus, it helped keep other players on the team.
Williams is definitely a top-three point guard in the NBA. The only two that might be better are Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. Yes, Williams is ahead of Derrick Rose until Rose can prove he's fully recovered from his ACL tear.
With a lethal combination of Williams and Joe Johnson in the backcourt, the Nets have a top tandem that will give opposing teams in the East nightmares.
Williams is terrific at both dishing the ball and scoring. He's basically like a combo guard.
In comparing his skills to those of Felton, there is no comparison. While Felton needs others like Stoudemire to make him better, Williams makes those around him better. That's where the huge difference comes in.
Shooting Guard (Knicks)
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Just like at point guard, the comparison at shooting guard isn't really there either. Although this is a little closer, the Knicks don't match up with the Nets in the backcourt.
For the Knicks at the 2-guard, it'll be Ronnie Brewer on opening night. That can always change, but Mike Woodson just doesn't want to make J.R. Smith a starter. It would probably be a more logical thing to do considering Smith's scoring abilities, but he's a valuable sixth man off the bench.
The Knicks signed Brewer this offseason, and he isn't a bad addition. He's a great defensive player that fit in well with a great defensive team in the Chicago Bulls. He can guard top players on the perimeter, like a Dwyane Wade, and can score at times, even with a strange shooting motion.
He's very similar in a way to injured guard Iman Shumpert, who's projected to be the Knicks' long-term answer at shooting guard. Shumpert, though, can score 20-plus a game, something Brewer can't really do.
Shooting Guard (Nets)
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The long-time Atlanta Hawk was dealt to the Nets, as Brooklyn was trying to convince Deron Williams to re-sign. It all worked out, and now the Nets have arguably the best backcourt in the NBA.
Johnson has in some ways been underrated for his ability. That's due in large part to the Hawks' yearly disappointment in the early rounds of the playoffs. The Hawks continuously get mocked for being a perennial first- or second-round exit, but that shouldn't take away from Johnson.
He averaged 18.8 PPG last season and is now partnered with a point guard who averaged 21 PPG and 8.7 assists. That can make for an unbelievable combination. Johnson can also shoot the three-pointer, as last season he made 39 percent of his attempts.
Brewer might be solid, but Johnson is great.
Small Forward (Knicks)
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We've now reached the hottest topic in this slideshow. The small forward position which includes the always-controversial Carmelo Anthony.
What is Anthony exactly in this point of his career? Some have dubbed him a top-five offensive player in the sport. Even that has taken a hit recently. We do know one thing for sure: His defense leaves a lot to be desired.
The Knicks' entire season and future is in the hands of this guy. If Anthony sticks to his words and actually doesn't care about his PPG, then the Knicks could be in for a great season. But if Anthony hogs the ball like his normal self, they've got a huge problem.
If you just look at his pure ability, he's way better than any player at the position offensively. He can make any shot and creates any shot he wants. He can score from mid-range, off the dribble, at the line, from behind the arc or in the paint.
It's his mindset that's the key. We'll have to see which Anthony shows up. The ball hog or great teammate.
Small Forward (Nets)
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For once, the Knicks have an advantage. As good as Gerald Wallace is at the 3, Anthony is just flat out better.
But let's not just gloss over what Wallace brings to the Nets. At 6'7", Wallace is a solid small forward who can score and rebound a little. He's a nice piece to the Nets' puzzle. With great players all around the team and especially with him in the frontcourt, Wallace can continue to give the Nets a nice amount of points.
With a point guard like Williams, as long as you're a decent player, you'll be a good player.
Wallace has averaged at least 14 PPG every season since 2005-06. As long as he stays away from injuries, which has been a problem with him at times, he'll give the Nets plenty at the position.
Power Forward (Knicks)
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The biggest key and biggest question of any of the 10 starters on these teams is Amar'e Stoudemire. There just isn't a real feel now of what to expect from him.
He came into camp seemingly healthy and ready to go. After busting up his hand following a foolish postgame playoff injury against the Miami Heat, Stoudemire has been working so hard to get back. That was all thrown off by a left knee injury that could cost him the entire month of November.
Stoudemire's best time so far with the Knicks was the first half of his first season. He and the aforementioned Felton worked nicely together in early 2010-11 until the Anthony trade happened. Ever since, Stoudemire's production has decreased.
Now he's injury prone and might hold the key to the Knicks' success. When healthy, we all know what he's capable of offensively and on the boards.
Until we see him on the court, there's no telling what to expect from him.
Power Forward (Nets)
Everyone knows who Kris Humphries is thanks to his little marriage with Kim Kardashian. But Humphries is actually a great player too.
He's averaged a double-double now for two straight seasons and has really made himself into an All-Star-caliber power forward. Throw in over a block per game last season and Humphries is an all-around star entering his fourth season with the team.
Unlike Stoudemire, he's not injury prone and is still only 27 years old. He's a player the Nets know they can rely on every night for 15 points and 10 rebounds. When a team can put a player in his prime with those numbers in the lineup every game, they know they're in terrific shape.
Although Stoudemire has had the better career to this point, things might be leaning toward Humphries as we move along.
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The Knicks definitely have an advantage at the center position. Tyson Chandler was so good that he won NBA Defensive Player of the Year over perennial winner Dwight Howard last season.
What Chandler did for the Knicks last season was simply amazing. He changed the defensive culture of a club that, for a decade, was a defensive laughing stock.
Just take a look at this statistic: In 2010-11, the Knicks defensive rating was 22nd in the league. Last season with Chandler, it was fifth. He made the Knicks into a top-five defensive team, that along with coach Woodson, should help the Knicks limit teams to around 92 PPG.
He can even help on the offensive side in the paint. He averaged 10 rebounds a game and threw in 11 points as well.
He's the Knicks' best center since Patrick Ewing, and he's a player that finally makes the Knicks a respectable defensive team.
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The Nets have a very interesting center in Brook Lopez. After playing every game of his career in his first three seasons, he only played five last season because of a foot injury.
There's no disputing that Lopez is a top-five center in the NBA. He can score with any of them, averaging 19 PPG last season.
His problem is, he has a perception of being a soft player. His rebounding numbers seem to back that up right now. His numbers in that department have decreased every season. He only averaged six rebounds per game in his last full season two years ago, and in five games last season only averaged 3.6 per game.
It might be a reason the Orlando Magic kept denying a trade for him when the Nets wanted to deal Lopez for Howard.
If he can become a better rebounder and keep up his scoring numbers, he'll be as good as Chandler and perhaps even Howard. Right now, though, he's still a work in progress.
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When it comes to benches, the Knicks might just have the best in the NBA. If it were 2004, that is. The Knicks brought in a bunch of big names this offseason to fill in their bench and have a lot of depth.
Although they signed three players that are either 40 years old or close to it, those guys can still be productive.
Last season, the Knicks' bench was the team's biggest concern. Now, they have a little bit of everything. From a three-point specialist in Steve Novak to a crafty veteran point guard in Jason Kidd, the Knicks' bench can be super productive this season. It's probably top five in the league.
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Unlike the Knicks' bench, the Nets have more of an average mixture. They also brought in players that can produce, but they have a strange combination.
Names like C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche are nice, but do they have a go-to player? The young MarShon Brooks seems to be injury prone to begin his career, and it's hard to identify who the sixth man on this team is.
It's one of the reasons why it's hard to figure out why this team has extremely high expectations.
In comparison with the Knicks, the Nets' bench is mediocre.
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The Knicks have a very good team heading into the season. Perhaps their best team since the days of Jeff Van Gundy in the '90s.
It's all going to come down to two players. Anthony and Stoudemire. If Anthony can be more of a team player and Stoudemire gets healthy and productive, the Knicks can compete in the Eastern Conference.
Unlike any other team in the NBA, the Knicks can finish anywhere from second to eighth in their conference. If the previously mentioned scenario with their two star players happens, they can be the Heat's biggest competition.
If they remain mediocre during the season and things start to go downhill, they'll be a middle-of-the-road team.
So far, the chemistry between Anthony and Stoudemire hasn't been there. It'll be interesting to see how things will turn out as we move along.
Prediction: 47-35, 4th in East
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For the first time in years, the Nets have a good team again and are in position to make their first playoff appearance since 2007-08. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has done a great job bringing in the necessary pieces to make things work in Brooklyn.
No, the Nets couldn't land Dwight Howard, but it's not a huge deal. The starting five is as good as any in the NBA and mostly all of their players are still young.
The bench is going to probably be an issue early on, but the backcourt is tremendous and the team shouldn't have issues in the regular season.
When it comes to the playoffs, will the Nets be for real, or will they be the latest version of the Hawks? Nobody knows the answer to that right now, but anything less than a playoff appearance will be a huge disappointment for this team.
Prediction: 46-36, 5th in East