The Brooklyn Nets have a ways to go before catching up with other title contenders
The Nets have critical flaws that, unless addressed, will keep Brooklyn a perpetual also-ran—though admittedly a much better one than usual—through 2015-16.
That’s the contract length of no fewer than four members of the Nets’ starting five (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace), per basketball-reference.com.
And with the size of those contracts, Brooklyn is pretty much stuck with what it’s got.
For the most part, any improvement in the Nets’ game is going to have to come from within. It’s possible. There is talent.
P.J. Carlesimo, or whoever will be in charge over the next few years, will have to force some adjusted play on this roster, molding it into a championship squad.
Until then, “Lopez’s putback gives Brooklyn the series over Miami!” is not something we’ll be hearing anytime soon.
If the Brooklyn Nets want to win a title, they’ll first have to figure out how to beat any of the Western Conference’s best. One thing the Nets proved this season is that they can’t.
Forget about getting to the NBA Finals if you can’t get out of the East. The Nets have proven they can compete with the East’s best, but will need to improve their game in order to overtake the conference.
The Nets were 13-13 against the East’s playoff teams, including 0-3 against the Miami Heat.
Brooklyn frequently rises to the occasion, taking two from the second-seeded New York Knicks and even sweeping the Indiana Pacers, but that .500 pace against Eastern Conference playoff squads will continue to ensure poor seeding and early-round exits.
The Nets will need to man up if they are ever to take the Eastern crown.
Brooklyn’s brand of basketball is not physical and the team is manhandled by big players.
Brook Lopez, though coming into his own, is soft in the middle and strong teams can muscle it inside against him.
As George Willis of the New York Post points out, "There’s a certain toughness that’s needed to succeed in the NBA playoffs. Part of it is mental. Much of it is physical."
That's bad news for this team.
The Nets finished 2012-13 with the 17th-best offense in the league. Luckily for them, only three Eastern Conference teams have better overall offenses (New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks).
The Nets defense is respectable, but not enough to overcome a relatively meek offense.
Brooklyn averages about 96.9 points per game. Opponents average 95.1. The difference—less than a basket—is too tight a margin to make it through four rounds of playoff basketball.
The Nets were held to 90 or fewer points on 24 occasions this season.
Now that his ankles are healed, Deron Williams has returned to form. The point guard averages 19 points and 7.7 assists per game. Solid numbers on both accounts, no doubt.
But for the Nets, that’s pretty much where the ball movement ends. No one else on the team shares the ball. After Joe Johnson's 3.5 assists per game, the team falls off a cliff in this respect.
Brooklyn has the fourth-worst passing offense in the NBA (20.3 APG).
The ball never finds its way inside out, so once the ball gets into Brook Lopez’s or Andray Blatche’s hands, defenses know to collapse on the big men.
According to owner Mikhail Prokhorov (via Sporting News), "One more good player, and we need time to make a really strong team.”
Thanks to the luxury tax restraints, pulling off such an acquisition would require a gazillion rubles. Enough that even Prokhorov will likely not pony up.
The Nets do have time, though. They have three years to make this roster (with support coming from transactions and the draft) into a championship contender.