Brooklyn Nets Still a Step Behind Best in NBA's Eastern Conference

Brandon SandersContributor IIIJuly 17, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04:  Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts after he fouls in the final minutes of the game against the Chicago Bulls during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 4, 2013 at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Chicago Bulls defeated the Brooklyn Nets 99-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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"I have said that if the Nets don't win the NBA championship within five years, I will punish myself by getting married. We are in year three. So no one is more interested in winning a championship than yours truly."

Brooklyn Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov shared this with Steve Serby of the NY Post just prior to the 2012-13 NBA season. Since then, the Nets won 49 games, got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs to a depleted Chicago Bulls team and traded for two Hall of Famers. 

What a crazy few months it's been for Brooklynites.

This upcoming season, the Nets will put a roster on the floor worth over $100 million, via HoopsHype. They will pay over $80 million in luxury taxes. Yet, they still remain the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference. Sure, they might have the talent to win the Atlantic division, but how much of a feat is that? The only other legitimate playoff contender in that division is the New York Knicks.

Don't get me wrong; The Nets are better than they were a year ago. That's indisputable. Adding three champions in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry is always a plus. Adding them at the ages 35, 37 and 35 just makes that plus little smaller.

They now have more options to go to late in games, and certainly get an upgrade in paint protection due to KG. However, are the Nets elite?

The answer is no.

There are still three teams in the conference who would certainly be able to beat them in a seven-game series: the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls, and the defending champion Miami Heat.

The Brooklyn Nets still fail to possess what makes these teams so special and hard to beat. The Nets even got to see it up close and personal when they fell to the Bulls this past May.

What makes the aforementioned teams so special is not only their star power (the Nets have that), it's the ability to be defensively disruptive on the perimeter and create easy offense.

The Bulls have Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng and rookie Tony Snell to shake things up for opposing team's perimeter players. You could even throw in Joakim Noah, whose lateral quickness rivals some guards.

The Pacers have Paul George, Sam Young and Lance Stephenson. 

The Heat have LeBron James (who should count as two people) and Shane Battier.

The Knicks even have Iman Shumpert!

Who can the Nets throw out there when they need to slow down Derrick RoseDwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony? The best answer is an aging Andrei Kirilenko who's slowing down on that end of the floor. My guess is, during the regular season, a ton of guards (think Stephen Curry or James Harden) will have season and career-highs against Brooklyn. It's not too hard to believe actually.

The truth is that guards rule this league. Yes, it's true the Nets have Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, but they're also the same duo who got absolutely torched by Nate Robinson this past postseason. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, or Andrei Kirilenko would not have been able to stop Robinson in that series. 

Who's going to stop the likes of LeBron James or Paul George?

It's only year four, but I think it's safe to say that Mikhail Prokhorov should prepare to get tie the knot two years from now.