The Nets are in their first season in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Nets have finally revived professional sports in Kings County. It had been 55 years since the last Dodgers game at Ebbets Field when the Nets opened their season in the Barclays Center earlier this month.
A 22-44 team last year, the Nets went all-out in their first offseason away from New Jersey. While aggressively pursuing Orlando's Dwight Howard, they brought in C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans, Jerry Stackhouse and re-signed Gerald Wallace.
All of these moves coincided with the re-branding of the franchise in a new city. This created considerable hype around the team going into the season, but many felt that the Nets were destined to fall short of their expectations.
However, the Nets look like a playoff team early in the season. What have they done to silence doubters and outperform expectations?
Brook Lopez is known as a generally weak rebounder for a seven footer
One major area of weakness for the Nets last season (despite the presence of Kris Humphries) was rebounding. They were not deep in the front court, with Brook Lopez missing most of the season with a foot injury.
Kris Humphries was able to finish among the league leaders in rebounds, but beyond him, Shelden Williams, Johan Petro, Mehmet Okur and Jordan Williams proved ineffective.
This season, the additions of Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche—plus the return of Lopez for a full season—has made the Nets a dangerous team on the glass. Brooklyn ranks 13th in rebound differential and should continue to improve as center Brook Lopez continues to improve his defensive and rebounding skills.
Gerald Wallace brings intense perimeter defense to the Nets
The Nets do not have many top-notch defenders; Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez are all passable but none would be considered elite.
However, Avery Johnson has the Nets playing good team defense. Keith Bogans, reserve point guard CJ Watson and forward Gerald Wallace provide good perimeter defense and can often frustrate opponents with hands-on aggressive play.
This season, the Nets are giving up less than 92 points per game and are the top scoring defense in the league.
The Nets boast some of the strongest bench players in the NBA
One of the most important things a successful NBA team should have is a strong bench. No player can play 48 minutes every night, so the second unit becomes vital in the middle stretches where many games are decided.
Last season, Anthony Morrow, Sundiata Gaines and Damion James were staples of the Nets defense. This season, MarShon Brooks, CJ Watson, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche and Jerry Stackhouse lead one of the strongest second units in the league.
Resting Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez never looked so easy.
Deron Williams and Avery Johnson provide experience and leadership for Brooklyn
Another important factor in Brooklyn is the presence of veteran leadership. Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace have all been around the league for a long time and know what it takes to win.
On a team with young impact players like Lopez and Brooks, veterans who can take control in the fourth quarter are vital.
However, perhaps the most important "veteran" on the team is Avery Johnson. Johnson has coached great teams (the 2006 Dallas Mavericks) and terrible teams (last season's Nets). He has been to the NBA finals and knows how to get through a season and to the playoffs. His coaching will be vital for the Nets to remain contenders and elevate their game to the highest level later in the season.