With the NBA's All-Star Weekend just two weeks away, it's finally a practical time to start taking a look at potential playoff match ups for the Brooklyn Nets—both the best case and worst case opponents.
The Nets are currently 27-19 (as of Friday, February 1) and fourth in the Eastern Conference. At this point in the season, that would give them a series against the No. 5 seed in the East—currently, the Atlanta Hawks.
We all know that there's still a lot of basketball left to play, though.
There's a strong chance that the Nets will end up finishing with one of the top four seeds. Under P.J. Carlesimo, Brooklyn is playing with relative consistency and any team chemistry issues that existed under Avery Johnson have vanished.
There are holes on the roster and in their game strategies, though, and some opponents will be able to expose them in a playoff series.
It all hinges on playing the right teams at the right times.
Even without much of a sample size, it's clear to me that I would want the Nets to play the Pacers in a potential playoff series.
The main reason is simple.
The Nets were able to hold Paul George (arguably the best player on the Pacers) to just 15 points on 6-18 shooting without their best defender (and the guy who would have guarded him), Gerald Wallace.
Keith Bogans instead played a majority of the minutes covering George, and he did a fantastic job. There's no doubt, though, that Wallace would have the potential to play even better against him.
Should this happen in a playoff series, this would force Indiana to put the ball in the hands of other, less capable scorers.
Sure, David West torched the Nets for 27 points on 11-19 shooting in that game. If he's the only one hurting the Nets, though, I'll take it.
Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Gerald Green aren't capable of taking over a game on offense, and it's unclear as to how effective Danny Granger will be when he returns from his left knee injury sometime this month.
If you can shut down George, you can beat the Pacers. At least through one matchup, the Nets look like they're capable of doing so.
Throw previous match ups out the window when you consider this one. No "Rajon Rondo" equals "a series that I would love the Nets to be a part of."
The Boston Celtics are 22-23 as of Feb. 1, making them the seventh seed in the East. It'll prove extremely difficult to keep their playoff position without Rondo orchestrating the offense, but they would make the playoffs if it started today.
The Nets match up fantastically against the Celtics without Rondo in the lineup.
Deron Williams versus Avery Bradley is no contest. While Bradley has played well in the 14 games since he's returned from injury, Williams' recent hot streak and historically strong play give the Nets the immediate advantage.
With Rondo at the point, that advantage shifts drastically to Boston.
Wallace—again, if healthy—is capable of holding Paul Pierce in check. It's impossible to completely shut down a player of his caliber and reputation, but keeping him under 18 points per game should be no difficult task.
That leaves Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett as the main scoring threats.
Lee has been a letdown up to this point in the season, Terry lives and dies by the three and Garnett is simply not the same player he used to be.
A potential matchup between Lopez and Garnett would be very fun to watch. Both players feature strong post games, but Garnett is the far superior defender and rebounder.
Either way, a Rondo-less Celtics make Boston a team that all other playoff squads should salivate over playing in the playoffs.
Excuse my simplicity but, duh.
Why on Earth would the Nets have any desire to play the Miami Heat in the postseason? Brooklyn has been absolutely man-handled by the defending champs in their three match ups this season.
How bad is man-handled? Well, the Nets lost by a combined 63 points in those three games—the smallest margin was a 13-point loss on Dec. 1.
Through their three contests, the Nets have had no answer for the Heat's "Big Three." Their offense has also struggled mightily, putting up game-scoring totals of 73, 89 and 85, respectively.
Nets versus Heat in the playoffs would become a matchup of each team's "Big Three"—LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for the Heat; Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez for the Nets—and a battle of the benches.
The Nets may have the deeper bench with MarShon Brooks, Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic, but it can be argued that Ray Allen is the most potent bench player between these two teams.
His sharp-shooting ability could take over games, even if he's only on the court for around 15 to 20 minutes per contest.
In short, the Nets have absolutely no answer for the Heat. Unfortunately for them, any shot at the NBA Finals likely runs through them in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets do not match up well with the Chicago Bulls for two reasons—Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
The Bulls have enjoyed very strong play from their two big men this season. Boozer is scoring 15.8 points and bringing down 9.7 boards per game. Noah is averaging a double-double of 12.1 points and 11.3 rebounds. Oh, and he's blocking 2.1 shots per game.
The front court of the Nets—Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans—simply cannot compare. While Lopez is better than both Boozer and Noah offensively, the lack of Evans from offense actually swings that battle in Chicago's favor.
Noah's defensive capabilities would also likely hinder Lopez's offensive game, even though Lopez is widely considered to have one of the best post games in the league.
Rebounding-wise, the Bulls have the clear advantage. Lopez is not a very strong rebounder. Evans is an above average rebounder, but he's only on the court for around 20 minutes per game.
Aside from this match up, fans have to also consider the fact that Derrick Rose will likely be back at 100 percent health by the playoffs.
A battle between Rose and Deron Williams would be fantastic to watch, but Williams' defensive downfalls would likely give the edge to a healthy Rose.
The individual match ups simply make this a much less-than-optimal playoff series for the Nets.