Signing Andrei Kirilenko Vaults Brooklyn Nets into Superteam Status
It's amazing what $101 million can buy.
With USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reporting the signing of veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko, the Brooklyn Nets just bolstered what was already projected to be one of the best and deepest teams in the league. They can now officially be considered an NBA superteam.
Kirilenko gives the Nets a whopping 33 All-Star Game appearances between their players, and plenty of playoff experience as well. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez all return as starters on a team that went 49-33 last year.
After losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoff last season, however, the Nets knew they had to make some significant moves to help them advance further in the postseason.
Here's why they can challenge the Miami Heat for best in the NBA and truly be considered super.
The two positions that were of concern for the Nets heading into the offseason were small forward and power forward.
At the 3, Gerald Wallace had his worst season since he was on the Sacramento Kings back in 2003-04. His averages of 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game signified a loss of confidence; his 39.7 percent shooting from the field, a loss in skill.
Enter Paul Pierce, a 10-time All-Star who hasn't ever averaged less than 16.5 points per game.
Pierce is a veteran who has been to the playoffs 10 times, securing a title in 2007-08 with the Boston Celtics. He owns career averages of 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Unlike Wallace, he's never lacked confidence either.
The second major upgrade was at power forward, where Kris Humphries lost the starting job last season. Reggie Evans took over and immediately began cleaning the glass, but the 33-year-old forward didn't do much else, scoring just 4.5 points per game.
Enter Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest power forwards of all time.
Even at 36, KG still put together a productive season with the Celtics. He averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game—numbers that hardly match his peak performances with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but these days it's the playoffs where KG shines. He averaged nearly six more rebounds and six more minutes per game in the 2013 postseason.
Garnett brings the toughness that you need in the paint. He's still one of the more intimidating presences around, and he isn't afraid to send a message on the court when needed.
Pierce and Garnett over Wallace and Humphries is a monumental upgrade for the Nets.
The trade that brought Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn also landed them Jason Terry, a former Sixth Man of the Year. Terry can play either guard position, and he won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2010-11.
Adding Kirilenko is huge for Brooklyn's bench. It allows them to keep both Paul and Garnett from playing heavy minutes, as Kirilenko can fill in at both forward positions. He's also been to the playoffs six times, and he made four of those trips alongside Deron Williams.
The Nets also signed Shaun Livingston to play backup point guard behind Deron Williams. Livingston played well for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, and was actually 11th in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Reggie Evans moves back to the bench after playing a solid rebounding and defense role in the starting lineup last season. Like Garnett, he also brings some toughness and won't let other teams push him around down low.
Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee round out the primary reserves. Blatche had an outstanding 21.98 PER last season, scoring 10.3 points in just 19.0 minutes of play per game. Plumlee is a rookie from Duke who spent four seasons under coach Mike Krzyzewski. He comes in with a lot of college experience and will be ready to contribute right away, and he'll be able to learn from a veteran like Garnett.
It's worth noting that each of these bench players, save Plumlee, has been a starter on an NBA team at some point in their career.
Few other teams will be able to match the Nets' second unit. They're well-rounded and rife with experience.
With such an active offseason, the pressure now falls on rookie head coach Jason Kidd.
Kidd is just wrapping up a playing career that began when Full House was still airing new episodes. Long thought of as one of the best minds in the game, Kidd steps into what could now be the hottest seat in all of professional basketball.
Where will the Nets finish in the East?
By his side is assistant coach Lawrence Frank, a former head coach with the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons. Frank coached Kidd in five seasons and four playoff appearances with the Nets.
Will Kidd be able to manage and demand the respect of players with whom he was once teammates, while also forming chemistry among the group? These are all important factors if the Nets are to maximize their potential.
As we saw with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, talent doesn't always get the job done. But the Nets are lucky to not have a coach with ties to a specific system; it's essentially a clean slate for the team, and with all their veteran leadership and complementary skills, things should come together nicely.
Kidd may be young and inexperienced for a head coach, but there's no doubt he has the mind and desire to be successful. As a player, he made it to the playoffs every year from 1997-2013, starting every game up until the most recent postseason. It seems he wouldn't even know how not to get there.
Kidd can, and likely will, turn all of the talent he's been given into a superteam. The rest of the Eastern Conference, and NBA as a whole, can be sure of that.
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