In order to win a championship, one must first construct a team that, at least, has a minuscule shot at defeating the defending champion Miami Heat.
The Brooklyn Nets have done just that.
As we get ever closer to the opening of training camp, let’s take a look at every man on the Nets roster and what one should expect from all 15 men.
Will Taylor prove that he is a capable backup point guard?
Earning ample playing time on a team that possesses a great deal of depth like the Nets is not an easy task.
For Alan Anderson, however, there will be nights when head coach Jason Kidd plays him for an extended amount of time, and there will be the evenings when he logs single-digit minutes in a game.
By no means is that because of Anderson, for he is a great option off the bench, as evident by the 10.3 points he averaged as a second-unit player in Toronto last season.
Rather, his up-and-down playing time will simply be a result of the 12-man-deep rotation that the Nets now possess.
Possessing veteran-like qualities that one rarely finds in a rookie, Mason Plumlee should find himself a part of the 12-man rotation.
Although minutes won't be overly consistent, there will be a number of contests in which he'll get extended run on the court, especially when Kevin Garnett gets a night off.
Prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, many, including myself, believed that Mirza Teletovic would be a high-volume scorer for the Nets off the bench.
It didn't happen.
In fact, the 27-year-old logged fewer than 10 minutes a game.
In an interview with Sport Eagle TV (via NetsDaily.com), Teletovic expressed that he was not confident playing with the Nets last season, which explains his lackluster first outing. For without confidence, what does one have?
Now, as to what that means going forward, nobody knows. What I do know is that Teletovic needs to get it together and play like the sharpshooting big man we know he is.
With Shaun Livingston and Jason Terry destined to be the main second-unit options at the 1 and 2, Tyshawn Taylor will probably be sitting in street clothes most nights, unless he shows up to camp balling like a bona fide stud.
For Taylor, figuring out who he is as a player should be objective No. 1 this season simply because the NBA has become a league in which talented guards are in abundance.
Hence, showing not only the Nets but the league in general that he has one or two skills that set him apart from other young NBA guards will help prove that he belongs on this stage.
With all the options at Brooklyn's disposal in the frontcourt, Tornike Shengelia will have a job ahead of him in trying to prove to Kidd that he does not need another stint in the D-League.
While that may be the case, the 21-year-old has tons of potential, and another year of watching from the sidelines will only help him on his journey in becoming an everyday player in the league.
Say what? Shaun Livingston is ranked this high?
Yes, he is, and here's why:
You know what you're going to get from Shaun Livingston on the court.
Over the course of his injury-riddled career, he has continually managed to carve out a spot for himself in rotations because he knows his game and he does it quite well.
He is a capable floor general whose creative guile has enabled him to find relatively good success in the league.
It's funny because a lot of us make fun of guys like Livingston, Kwame Brown, etc. because they did not live up to the hype that comes with being a high-lottery draft pick.
However, the utter truth is that Livingston, and many others, have made it this far because teams know what they're getting from them.
Last season, Livingston averaged 6.3 points and 3.3 assists in a little over 22 minutes a game.
Although the somewhat promising, yet underdeveloped Tyshawn Taylor could be in the mix for a couple minutes, expect Livingston to be the Nets' main backup point guard on the depth chart.
Know who you are.
That is, in my mind, the best piece of advice anyone could give any player who wishes not only to become a household name, but last a long time in the NBA.
Reggie Evans is the definition of just that.
Certainly, no one would trust Evans with the ball at any point of a game, for he is largely incompetent in regards to engineering baskets on offense. Likewise, Evans probably knows that too, which is why he sticks to the script and continually does what he is asked to do: rebound and hustle—hard.
Over the course of his career, Evans is averaging 7.2 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game.
Per 36 minutes, that average is adjusted to an applause-worthy 13.3 rebounds, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
You can't put a price tag on that type of production, for there are very few individuals in the last 10 years whose board numbers can equate to that of Evans.
Just like last year, one can expect him to be a big-time contributor for Brooklyn.
After a season in which every long ball the Nets chucked up looked as if it was destined to hit the side of the rim, it was vastly evident that the front office would be looking to acquire a potent three-point shooter to correct said woes.
Fortunately for them, Jason Terry was a part of their blockbuster deal with the Boston Celtics.
Although The Jet didn't answer the call in Boston, he should prove to be the super-efficient player we've grown accustomed to seeing over the years.
With so many dynamite scorers around him that defenses will need to account for, his spot-up jumper from the wing areas should be money almost every time.
Kevin Garnett is not “The Big Ticket” he used to be. Age has caught up with the 37-year-old forward, and it would not be much of a surprise if this coming season is his last.
Despite all of that, Garnett’s still-overwhelming ability will prove to be the foundation for the Nets in their run toward championship gold.
For one, very few players can put in post work like KG. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), he scored 0.92 points per possession when engaged in post-up situations last season.
Playing alongside talented big men like Brook Lopez and Blatche will enable him to be even more efficient, due to the diminished defensive pressure he will receive.
Likewise, over the years, we have seen the impact he has had on guys like Kendrick Perkins, Glenn “Big Baby” Davis and Jeff Green, upping their overall level of play and performing with a go-getter’s attitude when on the court.
Hence, expect Garnett to constantly bark in the ears of Blatche and Lopez, feeding them advice and admonishing them to carry out specific courses of action that will, in effect, help them reach the next tier in becoming a fierce competitor.
Since his inception into the NBA 15 years ago, Paul Pierce has been a shining example of a go-to scorer to whom one turns when the game is on the line.
With Brooklyn, Pierce will not have that strenuous responsibility anymore.
Having had to exert every once of energy he could muster last season for the C's, Pierce averaged 18.6 points on a squad whose valiant conductor, Rajon Rondo, had to sit on the sidelines due to a torn ACL.
As a result, Pierce had to pick up the slack.
While one should not look for Pierce to light up opponents with more than 20 points a game (really, though, that ain't happening), expecting Pierce to play a vastly efficient brand of ball is something that will more than likely happen all season long.
Although the legs aren't what they once were, we will see, on plenty occasions, why he is still "The Truth."
Now, I know you are probably scratching your head, trying to figure out why Blatche is ranked higher than Garnett.
Crazy, I know. But please, let me explain.
While that is not a definite conclusion, one can safely assert that Blatche's time on the floor will increase.
Based on the strides the player made last season, the rebirth of Blatche will continue.
Really, with the veteran influences that he will be in the midst of, one should expect his fine play from last season to carry over.
Blatche managed to snatch ex-Net Kris Humphries' minutes like he was the schoolyard bully early last season. It became apparent that he was metamorphosing into a mature, mind-geared-toward-the-task-at-hand NBA player.
During the team's first-round bout against Chicago, Blatche showed that he was evolving into just that, averaging 10.3 points in only 19 minutes per contest.
Surely, the 27-year-old will, once again, be one of the key contributors off the bench.
“Joe Johnson, where art thou?”
Such sentiment, or something similar, vehemently echoed from the mouths of not only Nets fans, but NBA fanatics in general while having to sit through the player’s brickfest during the 2013 playoffs.
With a new season comes new expectations. And in Johnson’s case, putting the ball in the basket at a relatively consistent rate is all any fan can really ask of him.
Last season, Johnson averaged 16.3 points per game on—get this—an eye-tearing 42.3 percent from the field.
Even if Johnson was playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, those numbers would still not be acceptable, seeing as he is the fifth-highest-paid player in the league, according to Sportrac.
Yes, we all felt for him during that twilight zone-like trance he was in during the first round. However, he has to put in the work we know he’s capable of and prove that he is worthy of the big bucks he’s getting paid.
No ifs, ands or buts. He has to do better.
Wait, what? Is Andrei Kirilenko really ranked ahead of Johnson, Pierce and Garnett?
Yes, he is. And trust me, it’s for a good reason.
Whether on offense or on defense, Kirilenko will, for a certainty, ball out on every single possession until the buzzer goes off.
After a stint in Russia, Kirilenko returned to the NBA last season, reminding us all why he is known as the “AK-47,” averaging 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals on 50.7 percent shooting from the field with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Likewise, one should not expect Pierce and Garnett to average 30-plus minutes a game during the regular season, let alone play close to 82 games. Thus, Kirilenko will see a great deal of action at the 3 and 4 all season long.
Brook Lopez has been nothing short of consistent throughout his young NBA career.
After having missed the bulk of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season due to a broken right foot, Lopez came out last year as if he hadn’t missed a step, averaging 19.4 points and 2.1 blocks on 52.1 percent shooting from the field.
While it is a known fact that Lopez is one of the most skilled big men on the offensive end of the court, the Nets will need him to step up his overall commitment to regularly crashing the glass.
The big guy only averaged 6.9 rebounds per game last season.
Let it be clear that I am in no way trying to talk badly of him, for he is, in my mind, one of the most complete big men I’ve ever seen in my young years of existence.
However, if he ups his intensity in the above-mentioned area of play, can you imagine how grand of an impact he would have?
The guy would probably be the most dominant center in the game. Period.
Regardless of whether or not we see a more active Lopez this coming season, he will, once again, put forth performances that signify his priceless value.
Was there really any doubt in your mind that “El Capitán,” Deron Williams, would not be No. 1?
Yes, only a crazy person would think otherwise.
While Williams struggled mightily throughout the first half of the season, he returned to form after the All-Star break, averaging 22.9 points and 8.0 assists on 48.1 percent shooting from the field.
For the team to run like the well-oiled machine we know they can be, they will need the pre-Nets version of D-Will to show up night in and night out.
Honestly, all should be pretty optimistic that Williams will do so.
Yes, hoping for Williams to play better than that of his days in Utah is somewhat of a reach.
However, Kidd has made it clear that he is going to make sure Williams plays at the awe-inspiring level we all know he’s still capable of, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
I’m going to push him. I want the best for him.
When we sit down and talk about goals, team goals and also individual goals, I’m going to push him and I want to get him back to double-digit assists.
With the offensive weapons that Williams has at his disposal now, hitting that mark is certainly something he can do with his eyes close.
We know he is a leader, and we know he is one of the craftiest playmakers to ever play the game. However, getting back to superstar status will be key for the Nets to find themselves being showered in champagne and holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.