The 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets are loaded with talent, but where do they rank among the franchise’s most star-studded teams?
Expectations were high for this year’s squad, and rightfully so. The buzz created by a new state-of-the-art arena, a new city and a fresh look gave long-suffering Nets fans a reason to be optimistic.
Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the 69th richest man in the world according to Forbes Magazine, spent a combined $227 million on multi-year contracts for Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace in the offseason (via HoopsWorld.com). In pairing Johnson, a six-time All-Star, with superstar point guard D-Will, general manager Billy King has created one of the most talented backcourts in franchise history.
The revamped roster has already accounted for 38 wins this season, making the final years in New Jersey seem like a distant memory. It appears the Nets are once again playoff bound, but will merely reaching the postseason be enough for this year’s team to measure up?
Please Note: With apologies to Julius Irving, this ranked list only includes teams from the post-1976 ABA-NBA merger. The original source of all the statistics used in this article, unless stated otherwise, is Basketball-Reference.com.
Regular Season Record: 45-37, Finished Fourth in Atlantic Division
Playoffs: Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-2) vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Coach: Stan Albeck
Three Best Players (season per game averages): Otis Birdsong (SG): 19.8 points, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals, Darryl Dawkins (C): 16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, Buck Williams (PF): 15.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
A few years after the franchise moved to the Meadowlands, Otis Birdsong, Darryl Dawkins and Buck Williams led the New Jersey Nets to their first playoff series victory. The team, coached by Stan Albeck, won its first-round series (3-2) vs. the Moses Malone and Julius Irving-led Philadelphia 76ers.
After dethroning the defending champion 76ers, the Nets fell in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-2) to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Dawkins-Williams duo provided the 1983-84 team with a formidable frontcourt. The Brooklyn Nets don’t have a power forward to even compare with Williams, but Brook Lopez has emerged as an All-Star center, averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest.
The Brooklyn Nets also have an elite point guard, something the 1983-84 team lacked. Prior to Tuesday night's win over the New Orleans Hornets, All-Star Deron Williams was averaging 25.1 points and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc over his last eight games (via ESPN.com).
The 1983-84 Nets (45-37) finished fourth in the Atlantic Division. The 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets (38-27) are currently ranked second in the Atlantic Division. They'll finish the regular season with a better record, even if they play .500 ball the rest of the way.
Given its assemblage of All-Star-level talent, this season’s team is expected to win its opening-round playoff series and compete for a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, winning a best-of-seven series against the defending champion Miami Heat seems unlikely at this point.
Regular Season Record: 38-27, Currently Ranked Second in Atlantic Division
Coach: Avery Johnson (14-14), P.J. Carlesimo
Three Best Players (season per game averages): Deron Williams (PG): 17.9 points, 7.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds, Joe Johnson (SG): 16.6 points, 3.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds, Brook Lopez (C): 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks
The ultramodern Barclays Center, the black and white color scheme, the redesigned logo and a new cast of characters have given the Nets an entirely new personality. No longer the laughing stock of the Eastern Conference, they're on pace to win more games than in the previous two seasons combined.
Brooklyn has topped every team in the Eastern Conference except the Miami Heat. Many are expecting them to at least win an opening-round playoff series. The season would have to be considered a success if the Nets beat the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks or Boston Celtics in the second round.
But that’s where the line has been drawn, at least for the time being.
Brooklyn has been blown out in three games vs. the Heat this season, and the road to the NBA Finals will almost surely go through South Beach.
These Nets have a ceiling and it’s higher than that of the 1983-84 team, but to truly be considered a great team you must also be regarded as a legitimate title contender.
Before D-Will and Iso-Joe, there was Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.
Regular Season Record: 49-33, Finished First in Atlantic Division
Playoffs: Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1) vs. Miami Heat
Coach: Lawrence Frank
Three Best Players (season per game averages): Vince Carter (SG): 24.2 points, 4.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds, Richard Jefferson (SF): 19.5 points, 3.8 assists, 6.8 rebounds, Jason Kidd (PG): 13.5 points, 8.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals
The 2005-06 New Jersey Nets featured arguably the best backcourt in franchise history. Point guard Jason Kidd and shooting guard Vince Carter have combined for 18 All-Star appearances. Both are likely headed to the Hall of Fame when they retire.
The Kidd-Carter-Jefferson trio led the Nets through a roller-coaster season in which they followed up a sluggish start with a 14-game winning streak in March. It was the longest streak in the NBA that season and it propelled them to another Atlantic Division Title.
What separated the 2005-06 Nets from the 1983-84 and 2012-13 teams was the fact that they were proven road warriors with legitimate championship aspirations. The core of the squad was just a year removed from back-to-back NBA Finals appearances and won a franchise record 20 games away from Continental Airlines Arena.
The 2005-06 squad finished the regular season at 49-33. The Brooklyn Nets will need to go 11-6 to reach that mark. With an eight-game, 17-day road trip on the horizon, winning 11 of 17 would be quite an accomplishment.
Vince Carter and company had the misfortune of running into the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Heat, led by superstars Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, made quick work of the Nets en route to winning the NBA title.
Coach Byron Scott led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2001-02 and 2002-03.
Regular Season Record: 52-30, Finished First in Atlantic Division
Playoffs: Lost NBA Finals (4-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Coach: Byron Scott
Three Best Players (season per game averages): Kenyon Martin (PF): 14.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, Keith Van Horn (SF): 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, Jason Kidd (PG): 14.7 points, 9.9 assists, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals
The course of the Nets’ franchise was drastically altered in 2001 when Stephon Marbury and Johnny Newman were traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Jason Kidd. The Nets finally found the floor general that could take them to the next level.
After acquiring Kidd, New Jersey signed former Philadelphia 76ers center Todd MacCulloch, who also became an integral part of the most successful regular season in franchise history.
The Nets won their first Atlantic Division Title before defeating the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics on the way to their first NBA Finals appearance. Unfortunately they were swept by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.
The Brooklyn Nets will have to go 14-3 in their last 17 games to tie the best regular-season record in franchise history. Until that happens, there’s no reason to even speculate on the 2012-13 Nets chances of overthrowing this outfit.
Kenyon Martin was the backbone of the league's No. 2 defense.
Regular Season Record: 49-33, Finished First in Atlantic Division
Playoffs: Lost NBA Finals (4-2) vs. San Antonio Spurs
Coach: Byron Scott
Three Best Players (season per game averages): Jason Kidd (PG): 18.7 points, 8.9 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals, Kenyon Martin (PF): 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, Richard Jefferson (SF): 15.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists
The 2002-03 New Jersey Nets were led by five-time All-NBA First Team point guard Jason Kidd.
Kidd had the best season of his prolific career in 2002-03. His supporting cast of Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson, and Sixth Man of The Year Runner-Up Luscious Harris wasn’t too shabby either.
Before the season, the Nets traded away Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch, two cogs of the previous year's Finals team. They acquired center Dikembe Mutombo in return, but he sat out most of the season with a wrist injury. Despite this adversity, the Nets were somehow able to make it back to the Finals, only to be defeated (4-2) by the San Antonio Spurs.
The Brooklyn Nets will have to finish 11-6 to end up at 49-33. If they do, they have a good chance of winning the Atlantic Division, especially with the Knicks recent injury issues. But P.J. Carlesimo’s group must win the majority of its remaining contests on the road if it wants to claim the Atlantic crown. Brooklyn is 16-14 away from the Barclays Center.
What distinguished the 2002-03 Nets from the current team and the 2001-02 squad was depth and defense. The lineup featured five players who averaged over 10 points and ranked second in the league in defense, allowing opponents just 90.1 points.
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