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Brooklyn Nets: 5 Areas in Need of Improvement for Playoff Run

Joshua AcostaContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: 5 Areas in Need of Improvement for Playoff Run

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    The Brooklyn Nets will face off against the defending champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals this season.  At least Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov believes so.

    Prokhorov promised Nets fans a championship within five years of his tenure.  After two forgettable seasons in the New Jersey, the Nets currently have a 30-22 record (as of Feb. 13), good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference. 

    Although the Nets seem to have turned around their losing ways, there are areas in need of improvement before they can raise their championship banner at the Barclays Center.

Ball Movement

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    It’s no secret, the Nets’ offense, ranked 29th in assists, is often stagnant.  In their most recent game, the team only recorded nine assists all game.

    Deron Williams needs to be more of a facilitator on offense.  Williams is averaging a career-low 7.6 assists this season, his lowest average since becoming a starter in the league.  As the ball-handler, Williams should command more backdoor cuts to create opportunities.  Feeding the ball to Brook Lopez in low post is not a bad idea either.

    With nine new players to the roster this season, lack of chemistry is understandable, but it’s time the Nets step their game up if they want a chance in the playoffs.

Leadership/Identity

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    For a team whose part owner invited swag, the Nets sure lack it.

    The team is still trying to find its identity under new coach P.J. Carlesimo and may be running out of time. 

    The Nets also lack an outspoken veteran who can motivate and set the example.

    Gerald Wallace recently attempted to fill the void by calling out his teammates.  He vented (via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York):

    We don't play together. Careless turnovers. We don't execute offensively. And defensively, we don't do anything. We don't defend. We don't guard the ball. We don't help each other out. It's the same story as it's been all season.

    Adopting Wallace’s aggressive style of play solves one problem.  The team reacting to his statement solves the other.

Roster

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    If Prokhorov wants to win a championship within the next three years, the roster will need more tinkering.

    According to ESPN New York writer Mike Mazzeo, the Nets are interested in acquiring Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, while SI.com reported the Charlotte Bobcats interest in trading Ben Gordon for Kris Humphries.

    Humphries for Gordon is a no-brainer since Gordon has more to offer the Nets.  Gordon is averaging 12.7 points and 2.3 assists per game with a PER of 15.74 while Humphries is averaging 5.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game with a PER of 13.53.  Gordon can space out the floor, help their lack of ball movement and give the Nets another shooter besides Williams and Johnson.

    Although Josh Smith is in his prime, Billy King should shy away.  Smith will desire a max contract after the season and Atlanta would require too many pieces in return.

Record Against Winning Teams

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    The Nets simply don’t play well against teams above .500.

    Their 12-20 record against teams with winning records includes three blowout losses to the Heat, two beatdowns from San Antonio and two losses to the Golden State Warriors, all playoff-bound teams.

    The common theme among all Nets losses is their inability to play defense.  Although the Nets rank fifth in points allowed with 94.4 points per game, they allow 101.7 points a game in losing efforts.

    Clearly the Nets aren't a cohesive defensive unit yet.  As the season continues and players get used to each other on the floor, the defense should improve.  Miami didn't win the first season their big three got together—it takes time.

Lack of Production Coming off the Bench

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    If the Nets want to contend in the playoffs, they’ll need more production from their bench players.

    Aside from Blatche, no player averages over 10 points per game or has a PER over 15, the average rating.  Collectively, the bench ranks 22nd in the league with 29.1 points per game and 25th in field-goal percentage with 41.7 percent from the field.  Nets will have no shot against teams like San Antonio, who are blowing away opponents even when they start their bench players.

    If things don’t improve, trading pieces like MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries might be the solution.  If Prokhorov and King are serious about winning, they’ll be picking up the phone soon.  Bench depth is a common denominator among championship teams.

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