Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce arrived in Brooklyn with championship intentions, and their leadership and experience may prove to be the missing pieces that have held the Nets behind. The upgrade at both forward positions has the potential to pay a serious dividend if the two aging stars properly pace themselves.
Let's take a look at how the Brooklyn Nets fared during the 21012-13 season:
- 49-33 record
- Second place in the Atlantic Division
- Fourth place in the Eastern Conference
- First-round playoff exit, losing to the Chicago Bulls 4-3
Finishing 16 games above .500 was a vast improvement from the 2011-12 season when the Nets went 22-44. Brooklyn saw Joe Johnson drain a few clutch shots over the course of the year, and Deron Williams and Brook Lopez both excelled in their prospective roles. The franchise stumbled after winning 11 of their first 15 games, leading to a coaching change, but the team hit stride with key contributions from role players Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche complimenting the team's stars.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, the disappointing playoff series with the Bulls tarnished what was otherwise a season worth smiling about. After winning Game 1 106-89, the Nets lost the next three contests and found themselves on the edge of defeat. Despite competing and forcing the series to seven games, Brooklyn possessed more talent than an ailing Bulls ball club, and the series should have never gotten out of hand as quickly as it did.
For Brooklyn to avoid a disappointing season, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will need to be monitored closely by head coach Jason Kidd. Taking note of the minutes played by Garnett and Pierce, and any possible ailments that may be present, must be a priority of Kidd's in order to ensure the longevity of the two former Boston Celtics.
- Kevin Garnett, PF (traded by the Boston Celtics)
- Paul Pierce, SF (traded by the Boston Celtics)
- Andrei Kirilenko, SF (free agent, Minnesota Timberwolves)
Garnett provides the Nets with the toughness they lacked against the Chicago Bulls in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Even at 37 years old, he can still anchor a defense and bully an opponent out of positioning. With KG in the lineup, Brooklyn also has someone to be vocal on the court and bark out defensive rotations and assignments. Youngsters Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee will have plenty to learn as they practice with the Big Ticket.
Pierce will also teach his teammates a bit about winning through leading by example. Throughout his career, he has willed the Boston Celtics to winning seasons and playoff appearances. Now, with the Nets, he's in a supporting role where he can do what he does best: knock down open shots. With Brooklyn's talented starting lineup, Pierce ought to excel playing alongside four other men that can score 20 points if called upon.
Kirilenko's arrival in Brooklyn fortifies the Nets' bench and provides the franchise with one of the best second units in the league. In Kirilenko, the Nets have an energetic small forward that can defend a few positions, handle the ball, rebound, score and distribute, making him the perfect reserve to compliment the abilities of guys like Blatche, Evans and Jason Terry.
- C.J. Watson, PG (signed with the Indiana Pacers)
- Gerald Wallace, SF (traded to the Boston Celtics)
Losing Watson doesn't hurt the ball club a whole lot, but replacing him with the injury prone Shaun Livingston could prove to become an issue down the road. If Livingston is able to stay healthy the entire season, however, Watson won't be missed much.
Wallace may be a better defender and rebounder than Pierce, but his impact pales in comparison to what Pierce can deliver to the Nets. In 2012-13, Brooklyn struggled clicking with Wallace in its lineup. He did little to spread the court—thanks to his perimeter shooting woes—and he needed the ball in his hands to slash toward the basket and score, which resulted in the offense becoming stagnant at times.
Deron Williams and Jason Terry Returning to Action
Williams and Terry have been limited in the preseason as they have recovered from injuries. Williams returned to practice on October 22nd, taking part in five-on-five action for the first time, and he will have to work his way into game shape. In regards to working with the his fellow starters for the first time, Williams said, via Mitch Abramson of the NY Daily News, “I didn’t feel in sync at all because I haven’t played basketball. But it felt good to get out there.”
Terry made his Nets debut on October 23rd, against the Boston Celtics, and contributed seven points, three assists and two rebounds in 24 minutes. Both Terry and Williams will need to be healthy throughout the 2013-14 NBA season in order for Brooklyn to cash in on their championship dreams.
Keeping Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce Fresh
As important as the health of Williams and Terry are to Brooklyn's success, the Nets will need Garnett and Pierce to maintain their effectiveness throughout the entire year. It may be difficult convincing the two stars to take games off on the back end of back-to-backs, but a middle ground will have to be found in the amount of energy exerted before the playoffs begin.
Garnett and Pierce have a lot of ball games ahead of them, and while they're capable of pacing themselves appropriately so they have enough energy left by the time the postseason rolls around, they have to trust their head coach's intuition and if Kidd decides to limit their playing time during the season, it shouldn't become too big of a story.
Jason Kidd Adapting to the Sidelines
Although Kidd has no formal coaching experience, he's been a coach on the court for the majority of his career. He's proven throughout the preseason to have a solid offensive plan in place that can be executed easily, and with Lawrence Frank on his bench, Kidd has the defensive mastermind needed to prepare for the opposition.
There might be a couple of roadblocks that come Kidd's way, but with the roster he has at his disposal, the transition into coaching should be seamless.
|2013-14 Depth Chart|
|PG||Deron Williams||Shaun Livingston||Tyshawn Taylor||Jorge Gutierrez|
|SG||Joe Johnson||Jason Terry||Alan Anderson||Chris Johnson|
|SF||Paul Pierce||Andrei Kirilenko||Tornike Shengelia||Adonis Thomas|
|PF||Kevin Garnett||Reggie Evans||Mirza Teletovic|
|C||Brook Lopez||Andray Blatche||Mason Plumlee|
Point Guard: A
In Williams and Livingston, the Nets have two point guards that can be relied upon to run the offense and distribute the ball. Both are tremendous passers and play solid defense. Livingston is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams because of his size, checking in at 6'7", and his long arms have proven to be pesky on the perimeter.
Taylor has been shaky in the preseason, but he shouldn't see much playing time for the Nets and is likely to have a couple of D-League stints.
Shooting Guard: B+
With Johnson, Terry and Anderson, Brooklyn has three guards capable of scoring consistently. Johnson is obviously the flashiest of the three. He has the ability to shoot the Nets into games, as well as distribute the ball and create for his teammates.
Terry can still be an explosive scorer off of the bench for the Nets, and like Johnson he can create for others when necessary. Anderson is the weaker of the three, but can still produce off of the dribble.
Small Forward: A-
Brooklyn has plenty of talent at the 3.
With Pierce and Kirilenko, the Nets have two talented players that can start on most of the teams around the league. Pierce, even at this point in his career, is still capable of dominating games, and Kirilenko could always be counted upon to fill the stat sheet and impact games with his versatility. Tornike Shengelia could be a sleeper for the Nets once he's 100 percent healthy.
Power Forward: A
Garnett and Evans will be pillars defensively this season. They'll grab rebounds, intimidate opposing players, block off the paint and finish around the rim. Garnett will do more offensively, he can score with regularity from within 18 feet, and will be a valuable pick-and-pop asset.
Mirza Teletovic could emerge as an important role player for the Nets with his range. He could see a few plays ran for him to get some easy looks from beyond the arc.
Lopez, Blatche and Plumlee can be trusted to compete and produce.
Lopez is coming into his own as a player, finding his role as the Nets' No. 1 scorer. Blatche has displayed his talent, showing his ability to score off of the dribble and in the post, as well as defending and rebounding competently.
Plumlee, although raw, has the potential to evolve into a solid big man off of the bench, using his athleticism to block shots, run the floor and finish around the rim.
For more on the Brooklyn Nets' roster overview and power rankings, click here.
Breakout Player Prediction: Brook Lopez
Lopez could emerge this season as the best scoring big man in the NBA. Since Brooklyn has so much talent offensively, Lopez will have less defensive pressure thrown at him which should allow him to score more easily. With facing fewer double teams and traps, he'll have more room to operate on the block where he can use his good footwork to clear space between the defender and himself.
Team MVP Prediction: Deron Williams
Williams is the perfect fit for this Nets team and the type of offense Jason Kidd wants to run. With his ability to create off of the dribble, and his expertise shooting from the perimeter, Williams will have plenty of chances to set up his teammates and score easily himself. Williams averaged 7.7 APG last season with a less talented roster, he should exceed that average in 2013-14.
Most Disappointing Player Prediction: Jason Terry
Terry had a difficult season with the Boston Celtics in 2012-13, and the trend may continue this year. A good portion of Terry's game is predicated on speed, and the JET may be running low in that department at this point in his career. It might not be far fetched to expect Terry to shoot less than 43 percent from the field and average around seven or eight points per game.
Player Most Likely to be Traded: Tyshawn Taylor
Taylor's a candidate to be traded thanks to his youth and erratic style of play. While he's energetic on the court, he could be careless with the ball and take bad shots. Since Livingston's had a history of injury issues and Terry and Williams have been banged up in recent years, it may be wise to send Taylor out of town in exchange for a veteran point guard that can be depended upon.
Biggest Rivalry: New York Knicks
The Nets and the New York Knicks will be vying all season long for first place in the Atlantic Division, and the right to be the best team in New York. The match ups between these two teams at the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden should be hard-fought and accompanied by rambunctious crowds rooting passionately.
Nets Best-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Winning a championship is still a possibility with this Brooklyn squad.
Throughout the preseason thus far, the Nets have looked strong offensively, sans a few careless turnovers that could be attributed to rust and team chemistry developing. Brooklyn has been solid defensively, as well, with guys like Kirilenko and Evans doing the little things to force turnovers and maintain possession.
Nets Worst-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Kidd has done his job thus far, preparing his players well and managing their minutes in a manner that maintains their effectiveness, but he hasn't necessarily been faced with many coaching challenges yet.
He hasn't had to adjust his game plan and draw up crucial plays. How he handles those moments of adversity could make or break the Nets' season, and if he struggles adapting to his opponent's adjustments, the season could become a disappointment.
Brooklyn should finish at the top of the east and if their stars stay healthy, and Jason Kidd excels as a head coach, the 2013-14 season could feature a deep and rewarding playoff run.
55-27 record, No. 2 seed in the East, lose in the NBA Finals.