15 Bold Predictions for Brooklyn Nets' 2013-14 Season
While the Brooklyn Nets have their most promising team in recent years, life on Earth can be unpredictable, and no one knows for certain how the season will go. Organizations are always susceptible to injuries and players becoming malcontent with their roles, and those two factors can deter the most talented teams from championship glory.
The unpredictable could be quite positive, however. Few expected the Nets to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and even fewer predicted Jason Kidd to become Brooklyn's head coach after retiring from the New York Knicks.
Since we don't know where the future lies, we might as well take a chance and predict what could occur as the season progresses.
Kevin Garnett Plays at Least 70 Games
Kevin Garnett hasn't played in 70 games since the 2010-11 NBA season when he stepped on the court 71 times for the Boston Celtics. In 2012-13, Garnett appeared in 68 contests, eight more than the 2011-12 season.
At 37 years old, it doesn't seem likely that KG checks into over 70 games, but he is as willed and determined as one can be in the NBA. Even though head coach Jason Kidd would prefer Garnett to sit out the second game of back-to-backs, the 18-year-veteran has lobbied to be on the court for the sake of team chemistry.
To get over that 70-game plateau, Garnett will play less than the 29.7 minutes per game he averaged in his final season with the Celtics.
Deron Williams Leads the NBA in Assists
With the amount of weapons the Brooklyn Nets possess, it will be difficult for Deron Williams to not have a career-year distributing the ball.
Last season, Rajon Rondo led the NBA with 11.1 APG in 38 contests. Chris Paul—who played 70 games—dished 9.7 APG. Williams, after a slow first half due to injuries, finished the season with the fifth most assists per game (7.7).
Since he has Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup now, instead of the offensively inept Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans, it should be easier for Williams to rack up assists as he drives the lane and passes it to teammates that can score consistently from the field and perimeter.
Andrei Kirilenko Wins the Sixth Man of the Year Award
Andrei Kirilenko impacts basketball games in a slew of ways, and that talent will be on display yet again this season.
Since he's playing off the bench, the Russian swingman will be well-rested and eager to ignite the Brooklyn Nets defensively and on the offensive end.
He'll average 11 points per game, scoring in transition, off the dribble and when cutting to the basket.
AK47 will pick up around four dimes, grab six boards, steal the ball twice and block just over two shots per game. Seeing as how he's likely to be a spot-starter, those numbers could improve with the extra minutes that will follow.
A stat line of 11 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG, 2 SPG and 2 BPG should be enough to impress voters more than someone who's strictly a scorer.
Jason Kidd Coaches the Eastern Conference All-Stars
At the All-Star break, I expect the Brooklyn Nets to be in first place in the Eastern Conference by a couple of games, which means Jason Kidd will be the head coach for the East.
Kidd may have a couple of rookie struggles throughout his first year coaching on the sidelines, but it won't be enough to deter the Nets from being ranked at the top of their conference. Kidd has the right idea offensively, featuring less isolation sets and focusing more on ball movement and spacing.
Since his roster is filled with hungry veterans, that game plan will be respected and followed precisely. It's hard to stop a well-rounded team that moves well without the ball and consistently finds the open man, and the Nets should score plenty of easy buckets as a result.
Brook Lopez Is Named to the All-NBA Second Team
Lopez will have a career year in 2013-14.
He'll average at least 22 PPG and will elevate his rebounding and shot blocking numbers to 7.4 RPG and 2.7 BPG.
The presence of Kevin Garnett will allow Lopez to be more of a weak-side shot blocker and offensively, as a 4 that can be relied upon from 18 feet, Garnett will not clog the paint playing beside Lopez.
Reggie Evans Averages 10 Rebounds Per Game
In 2012-13, Reggie Evans averaged 24.6 MPG and grabbed 11.1 rebounds per game. Although he'll play fewer minutes this season, he'll still find a way to corral at least 10 boards an outing.
Evans is a high energy guy who does a great job reading the way the ball comes off the rim and anticipating where it will land. His motor has him willing and able to jump up a second or third time—as if it was his first leap—if the ball is tipped, and he'll eventually grab possession.
If Evans and Kevin Garnett are in the lineup together, expect KG to let Evans fly around the basket and pull down everything in sight, boosting those rebounding numbers to the double-digit mark.
Shaun Livingston Will Average a Career High in Assists Per Game
Shaun Livingston has great court vision, and if it wasn't for that ugly knee injury he suffered in 2007, he'd be a starter somewhere around the league.
His career high in assists is 5.1 APG, and that occurred with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2006-07 NBA season. Since then, he's bounced around the league and struggled with injuries. If he can stay healthy, he will command the second unit almost as efficiently as Deron Williams would.
Livingston will get everyone involved while he's on the court, and thanks to his long arms, he'll be able to initiate plenty of fast breaks. With him pushing the ball in transition and effectively running pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays, he'll easily average at least 5.2 APG.
The Brooklyn Nets Sweep the Season Series with the Miami Heat
In Brook Lopez, the Brooklyn Nets have the tool necessary to outscore the Miami Heat.
Although the Heat brought in Greg Oden to shore up their frontcourt weaknesses, Oden—due to injuries—is far from the shot blocking phenomenon that he was when he came out of the Ohio State University. Lopez should be able to get the best of Oden when, and if, they match up (Oden needs to get on and stay on the court first).
The Heat have been vulnerable in the paint with Chris Bosh out of position at the 5, and a versatile scorer like Brook Lopez at center could be enough to make one forget about their Big 3.
Last year in the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, the Heat allowed Roy Hibbert to average 22.1 PPG against them, almost doubling his career average of 11.3 PPG. Lopez should fare as well or better in the four regular season games he plays against Miami, which will lead to the Nets sweeping the season series.
Tyshawn Taylor Will Be Traded
Tyshawn Taylor is an interesting prospect.
He's fearless with the ball, almost to a fault at times. He can be erratic just as much as he can be explosive.
In the case of an injury to either Deron Williams or Shaun Livingston, Taylor could find himself being exchanged for a veteran that can be trusted. Taylor has the opportunity to learn under Jason Kidd, Williams and Livingston, but with a roster built to win now, Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King might not have the patience necessary to watch Taylor evolve as a player.
Mirza Teletovic Will Shoot 40 Percent from the Three-Point Line
Mirza Teletovic shot only 34.3 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13, but that could be attributed to a lack of rhythm and consistent playing time.
Teletovic should get a chance to be on the Brooklyn Nets' active roster, and he should be featured in a few pick-and-pop plays when on the court. He has plenty of range and could be a solid weapon from the three-point line.
He's been a bit off-target through four preseason games, shooting 1-of-12 from three in his last two games against the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. As the season progresses and Kidd has all of his weapons at his disposal, Teletovic will be able to hoist up some better looks in rhythm that he'll knock down. He's definitely talented enough to reach that 40 percent clip.
Paul Pierce Posts a Career High Field Goal Percentage
Paul Pierce's career field-goal percentage is 44.7 percent. This season, he surpasses the 49.7 percent he averaged for the Boston Celtics in 2010-11 and shoots 52 percent from the field.
Since Pierce won't be the focal point of Brooklyn's offense, he won't need to hoist up any overly contested shots that he may have forced in years past. Pierce also won't need to work nearly as hard to get his, seeing as defenses will be hesitant to double-team him thanks to the variety of weapons the Nets have.
Expect Pierce to take around 10 to 12 shots per game, with most of them in rhythm off of assists. Less iso-ball for Pierce should mean fresher legs, which will improve his shooting numbers.
Joe Johnson Will Be the Nets' Second Leading Scorer
Joe Johnson had a lackluster season throughout 2012-13.
He averaged only 16.3 PPG with a 42.3 FG percentage and 37.5 3PT percentage and dished out only 3.5 APG—down from his career average (4.4).
For the 2013-14 season, Johnson will return to form and have one of the better shooting years of his career, which will lead to him averaging the second most points for the Nets behind Brook Lopez.
Like Pierce, the decrease in isolation plays run will see Johnson exerting less energy on offense and improving his efficiency. With the ball in his hands less, Johnson will find himself in better scoring situations, whether it's catching the ball off of a dribble-handoff, cutting to the basket or curling off of a screen or two.
He'll average 18.8 PPG and shoot 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Best Scoring Bench in the League
The Brooklyn Nets have a few options they can rely on to score consistently coming off of their bench.
Andray Blatche, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko can each be counted on to put up at least 10 points a game, if necessary. Mirza Teletovic has excellent range and, when in rhythm, could be trusted to knock down a few threes. Alan Anderson possesses a reliable mid-range jumper and can score off of the dribble.
According to HoopsStats.com, the Dallas Mavericks' bench averaged the most points in the NBA last season with 41.5 per game. This group of Nets reserves has the talent to reach Dallas' 2012-13 total and, quite possibly, surpass it.
Kevin Garnett Makes the NBA All-Defensive Second Team
Kevin Garnett may be at the end of his career, but his defensive abilities are as sharp as ever. He won't block shots at an alarming rate, but he is still reliable for at least one a game.
His man-to-man defense will be on display at those outings where he takes the opponent's best big man as his own defensive assignment and stifles them with his physicality and wherewithal. As much as defense is predicated on physical abilities such as speed and strength, intelligence plays an important role in reading an opponent's positioning and intentions.
KG has been around the game long enough where he won't get fooled by a bunch of pump fakes or any of the other tricks his man may throw at him. He'll stay on his feet, counter his opponent's counter moves and wait for the perfect opportunity to reach for a steal.
Garnett will be a force for the Nets, and he'll anchor Brooklyn's defense just as he did with the Boston Celtics.
The Brooklyn Nets Beat the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals
The Brooklyn Nets will be the one seed with the Miami Heat finishing in second place. In third, behind the Heat will be the New York Knicks.
Somehow, the Knicks will defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, possibly on a Game 7 Carmelo Anthony buzzer-beater and will move on to face the Nets. Brooklyn, however, will be too much for New York, and the Knicks will be eliminated in six games.
Brook Lopez will have two 30-point performances against the Knicks, and Pierce will average 20 PPG throughout that series. Deron Williams will carve up New York's defenders and find himself in the paint in what feels like every other play.
New York will keep up with the Nets, with each game being decided by five points or less, but Joe Johnson will drain clutch shots in the final minutes of a couple of games that the Knicks fail to recover from.