The Brooklyn Nets are already much improved from their abysmal 2011-12 season, but they are a long way from establishing themselves as the Eastern Conference contenders that many thought they would be.
There have been some positives out of Brooklyn to take from the first three games, but there's no denying the fact that the Net are not playing as well as they have the potential to.
Even after the depressing loss to the Heat, there's still plenty of hope for Avery Johnson and his team—all they have to do is overcome a few hurdles.
This is a no-brainer here, but it deserves recognition.
With so many new pieces in place this season, the Nets need some time to get acquainted with one another.
Joe Johnson is the lone starter new starter, although Gerald Wallace only played in 15 games for the Nets. Brook Lopez also only played in five games,
The starters need some time to build up their chemistry.
The bench is also filled with new players. MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans are actually the only players returning from last season's roster.
The team's chemistry should be significantly stronger than it is now within a few weeks.
Gerald Wallace is not a big scoring threat, but he is the most reliable defensive presence on the team. This fact alone makes him immensely important to the Nets.
Bogans is a lockdown defender as well, but Wallace is the most dependable defensive player of all the starters.
As a team, the Nets don't necessarily play great defense.
If you need an example, see that game against the Heat. Offense lacked in that game as well, but the defense was clearly at a disadvantage without Wallace.
With Wallace healthy, the defense takes a much-needed step towards legitimacy. It's really difficult to contend without at least an average defense, and the Nets have a below-average one without their small forward.
The Nets have not shot well from the free throw line early on.
That's not exactly a conducive strategy towards winning close basketball games.
Hitting the freebies from the charity stripe is something that every single Nets player needs to improve upon. Deron Williams is the team leader at 79 percent. While that's not terrible, it's definitely not where you want your team leader to be.
As a team, the Nets have checked in at just over 69 percent.
It may be a result of early season misses and a lack of opportunities adding up, but free throw shooting can't continue to be an issue.
Contending teams capitalize when they have opportunities—plain and simple.
The Nets have been out-rebounded 40.67 to 36.67 through three games. Much of that has to do with their lack of an established rebounder in the paint.
Kris Humphries has averaged double-digit rebounds the past two seasons, but he's struggled early on. He's averaging 6.7 rebounds per game this season.
Brook Lopez has never been a good rebounder, averaging just 7.4 career rebounds per game coming into this season. He's even under-performed to those relatively low standards, averaging the same rebounds per game as Humphries.
Rebounding does fall mostly on the shoulders of the big men, but it really is a team effort. The entire team will have to work at hitting the glass harder and out-rebounding their opponents.
Keeping the ball out of the other team's hands is obviously crucial to giving your own team the advantage.
The Nets have turned the ball over entirely too much through three games.
Deron Williams is the team leader at 5.0 per game. This is obviously a number that is way too high for a team's starting point guard.
Collectively, the Nets have turned it over an average of 17 times per game. This is a number that needs to go down—way down.
Williams will surely improve, but others will have to do the same.
C.J. Watson has turned the ball over 2.67 times per game. As a reserve point guard, that's an extremely high number.
Title contenders don't turn the ball over that much, and they especially don't have their starting point guard leading the team in that category.
It's easier said than done, but the Nets need to take care of the basketball.