What the Experts Are Saying About Brooklyn Nets' Postseason Chances

Mike BenjaminContributor IApril 19, 2013

What the Experts Are Saying About Brooklyn Nets' Postseason Chances

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    WHERE BROOKLYN AT! (No, seriously, where's Brooklyn at?)

    Quietly, the Brooklyn Nets have slid into one of four first-round home-court positions as the No. 4 seed.

    They've done the deed by wiping the floor with the cellar dwellers of the league (34-6 against sub-.500 teams), by pushing a near-retired coach into active duty (P.J. Carlesimo), and by avoiding the drama of Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter's ownership tenure coming to its ignominious end.

    For their troubles, they'll be seeing those frisky Chicago Bulls in Round 1, albeit without a certain Rose in bloom.

    With all that said, does anybody believe in the Brooklyn Nets? Can somebody spread love the Brooklyn way?

    Let's check in with some voices around the NBA and see what folks think about Brooklyn these days.

Are the Nets Too Stupid to Win?

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    The Nets might not be Sacramento Kings-like dumb, but when the Nets turn stupid, they usually stay stupid. When they get behind, they stay behind. At least, that’s the way it has been against the Bulls, and that’s all that matters now.

    - Steve Rosenbloom, Chicago Tribune.

    Wow. Mr. Steve Rosenbloom everybody! 

    After learning of the first-round draw of the Nets that his hometown Chicago Bulls received, Rosenbloom decided to deconstruct the series in historic, stats-free fashion. In his words, the Brooklyn Nets are "perhaps the dumbest team in the league."

    I'm not exactly sure how you would quantify "stupidity" in APBRmetrics, but I wanted to see if I could help Rosenbloom in some way strengthen his assertion with some facts and figures:

                  "Dumbest" NBA Teams (stats from Basketball-Reference.com)
      Turnover Pct* Pace Factor** Effective Field Goal Pct.***
    Sacramento Kings 13.4 93.6 49.1
    Chicago Bulls 13.6 89.3 47.0
    Brooklyn Nets 14.0 88.8 49.8

    *Estimate of amount of turnovers per 100 plays.

    **Amount of possessions a team gets over 48 minutes.

    ***Adjusts field-goal percentage for fact that three-point shot is worth more than two-point shot.

    Wait a second. Not only are the "dumb" stats between Brooklyn and Chicago comparable, it looks like Chicago may actually be more "stupid" than the Sacramento Kings. The Kings are a more efficient shooting team, run faster to get more possessions and turn the ball over less than Chicago.

    Oops! (Your move, Rosenbloom.) 

    The lesson, as always: Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will never beat good stats.

Will the Real Deron Williams Please Stand Up?

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    Deron Williams may not be back. He may be better. - Jay Cipoletti, NBA.com.

    D-Will is a baaaaad boy....... #Nets - Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams)

    So, which Deron Williams is going to show up for these NBA Playoffs?

                                Deron Williams: 2012-2013 NBA Season (Splits) 
      Points/Game Assists/Game Field Goal Pct. 3-Point FG Pct.
    Pre All-Star (50 Games) 16.7 7.6 41.3 34.7
    Post All-Star (28 Games) 22.9 8.0 48.1 42.0

    While hoops fans watched a less than impressive All-Star Saturday night in Houston, Williams was busy transforming into the Terminator.

    Since Feb. 17, a rejuvenated D-Will has averaged 22.9 points per game (eighth in NBA) and 8.0 assists per game (tied fourth), while shooting 48 percent from the floor (seventh among point guards who have played over 20 post All-Star games) per ESPN.com. 

    At NBA.com, Cipoletti argues this is the best D-Will's every played, and I agree. With all respect to Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, Brooklyn owns the hottest point guard in the game.  

    Shout out to juice cleanses and cortisone injections

Who Are You, Brook Lopez?

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    I think Brook Lopez has a lot to prove - meaning, he has a lot he can show everyone. - David Thorpe, ESPN.com

    I can't wait. - Brook Lopez, Center, Brooklyn Nets.

    Over the years, even as the Nets flipped rosters, fired coaches and shuttled from East Rutherford to Newark to Brooklyn, Lopez has remained the franchise's unmovable constant. This season, despite flirtatious glances at a certain Left Coast All-Star (Dwight Howard), Nets brass has stuck with their prize center piece. 

    Good things come to those who wait.

    Lopez is having a career-best year by any standard, but he'd much rather hang out with Ryan Anderson than spend time talking about his impact. So, let's play the resume game!

                                              Brook Lopez: NBA Superstar? 
                             Value    
       NBA Rank   

    Points/Game              

          19.4

            10th

    Free Throws Made       297         13th
    Blocks       154          7th
    Player Efficiency Rating (PER)*       24.7          5th

    *Lebron James (first), Kevin Durant (second), Chris Paul (third), Carmelo Anthony (fourth).

    If Deron Williams is the straw that stirs the drink, Lopez IS that drink. Bottoms up.

Do the Nets Know How to Play Defense?

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    The Nets are, by far, the most improved team in the league from last season, in terms of both winning percentage and point differential. And it's amazing that a team can rank in the top 10 offensively with Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace playing 2/3 of the minutes at the forward positions. But given their defensive inconsistency, getting out of the first round is no guarantee. - John Schulmann, NBA.com

    Deron Williams has looked like his old Utah-level self the past month or two, and Brook Lopez is the best scoring center in the league. But the Nets very average defense might have them in trouble in the first round against the Bulls. - Kurt Helin, NBCSports.com

    Will someone on this team, for the love, please guard somebody? - Matt Moore, CBSSports.com

    All season long, team defense has been the awkward turtle of the Nets locker room. This year, Brooklyn has allowed its opponents to shoot over 46 percent from the floor, the worst such percentage allowed among the 16 playoff entrants, per BasketballReference.com.

    Couple that with the fact that the Bulls are the third stingiest team in the NBA by points scored per game (92.3 allowed), and the numbers point to a gritty first-round matchup for the Brooklyn Nets.

    I agree with the three analysts above, but recognize that average team defenses have shown the propensity over recent seasons to turn into top-five defenses once the playoffs arrive.

    The 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, for example, were the 10th ranked defense during the regular season by points allowed, but rose to fifth during the playoffs, with team defense and the third-best offense propelling them to a NBA Finals win.

Will Gerald Wallace Find His Shot?

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    This is the same Wallace the Nets are counting on for big minutes in the playoffs, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract in the summer and who is suddenly so insecure he’s afraid to take a shot. - Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News

    He needs to stop talking about [his broken shot]...it's going to start creeping in your head. - Deron Williams, interview with SLAM Magazine

     

    So far this year, the Nets have gotten nothing but $40 million of bricks from Gerald Wallace.

                                 Gerald Wallace's Shooting Woes   
      Points/Game Field Goal Pct. 3-Point Field Goal Pct.
    Last Season   15.2 41.6 38.5
    This Season   7.7 39.7 28.2

    Yikes. And to think, the Nets could have taken a younger Harrison Barnes to play their starting small forward position for two-thirds of the price.

                                  Wallace vs. Barnes (2012-13 Season)
      Points/Game  Field Goal Pct. 3-Point Field Goal Pct.
    Gerald Wallace 7.7 39.7 28.2
    Harrison Barnes 9.2 43.9 35.9

    Best chance for the Nets: The Bulls see the name "Gerald Wallace" on paper and react like it's the year he competed in the dunk contest

Is Joe Johnson Really Worth All That Cash?

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    Joe Johnson remains the priority for the Nets because of his irreplaceable skill set. There's no denying the importance of getting [Joe] Johnson healthy and pairing him with Deron Williams for the playoff run. - Mitch Abramson, New York Daily News
    Obviously a championship. We want that golden ball, otherwise it wasn't a success. - Joe Johnson, on what makes a successful postseason (via Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News).

    Playoff basketball is, above all else, why the Nets took on Joe Johnson and his albatross contract.

    Let's face it: Joe's numbers have been rather pedestrian this season, putting up his worst shooting percentage (42.3) and lowest scoring average since his second year in the NBA (16.3).

    Other than that crazy outlier performance he had against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City (33 points, 11-19 shooting, 5-10 three-point shooting), he hasn't yet paid off for this Brooklyn squad. 

    But for Joe, none of these numbers really matter. Brooklyn still came within a game of 50 wins and were one of the top four teams in the East. Joe just needs to raise his stat level for the postseason, show the city why it was worth leveraging the team's future for him and let bygones be bygones.

X-Factor: The Other Brooklyn Bigs?

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    No matter how tired we is, we still stick to the same regiment. No matter how many minutes we might have played the night before in a back-to-back, we stick with the same thing. - Reggie Evans, on the Nets big men as brothers in arms.

    Dray was the only one I felt bad about (playing a lot of minutes). And frankly, he needs conditioning. - P.J. Carlesimo, talking Andray Blatche after Game 81 of the NBA season.

    Throughout most of the season, Hump has been more of a non-factor than an X-factor...Humphries won’t be asked to carry the offensive or defensive load, but he will be asked to miss his civil trial divorce hearing in California on May 6 if he wants to help his team win. - Tom Lafe, The Brooklyn Paper

     

    YES! Reggie Evans using the proverbial "we," and Blatche still being out of shape after Game 81 of the regular season!

    Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Brooklyn Nets!

    Brook Lopez is having a spectacular year, but he's going to need help from his front line guys if the Nets are going to make any noise this postseason.

    As fellow B/R writer Jay Wierenga mentioned earlier this season, Chicago is still one of the most dominant defensive teams in the NBA, ranking in the top six in points allowed (third), opponent field goal percentage (fourth), and defensive rating (sixth).

    Team defense starts with rim protection and defensive rebounding, so the Nets will rely heavily on a prospective big-man rotation of Evans, Blatche and Humphries to team with Lopez to anchor the front line.