The Brooklyn Nets head into the 2013-14 season with a starting lineup consisting of five All-Stars. Lost amid the hoopla surrounding the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade was that the Nets also assembled one of the deepest benches in the NBA.
Not only does Brooklyn have a strong backup at every position, they have players at the end of their roster capable of providing solid minutes in the event of an injury.
The upgrades to the bench made by general manager Billy King were particularly impressive because the Nets were over the salary cap and had few exceptions to work with.
Rookie coach Jason Kidd will rely heavily on his depth in an attempt to keep Pierce and Garnett fresh for the postseason. Expect Brooklyn's bench to improve on its 12th-ranked efficiency differential (1.2), which is the gap between a team's offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency.
The biggest strength of Kidd’s second unit is size. Andray Blatche resurrected his career with the Nets last season and should continue to mature under Garnett’s tutelage.
The former Washington Wizard averaged an impressive 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocked shots and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes, while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
In one of the more interesting sagas of the offseason, Andrei Kirilenko signed a one-year, $3.2 million deal with the Nets after turning down a $10.2 million option with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
AK47 is an excellent passer who can play both forward spots and does not require plays to be run for him—an important attribute on a team with several scoring options.
Shaun Livingston will replace C.J. Watson as the team's backup point guard. As you can see from the 2012-13 comparison below, Livingston is not a three-point threat like Watson. In fact, Livingston did not make a three-point attempt all season. He is more of a traditional point guard who looks to set up his teammates first, which makes him a nice fit for this team.
The wild card of the Nets' second unit is Jason Terry. JET never settled in with the Boston Celtics last season, turning in the lowest player efficiency rating (12.8) of his career.
Brooklyn hopes that Boston was a bad fit for Terry and he will revert back to the high-volume scorer he was for the Dallas Mavericks. Yet he turns 36 in September, and his struggles in Boston could have been the beginning of a steady decline.
What separates the Nets from several of the other deeper teams in the league are the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th players on the roster. Alan Anderson is a rugged defender, who at 6'6'' matches up well against athletic wings. He started 14 games for the Toronto Raptors over the past two seasons and shot 39 percent from downtown in 2011-12.
The Nets selected big man Mason Plumlee out of Duke University with the 22nd pick in the draft. Plumlee is a legitimate 7-footer with great athleticism for his size. He had a strong showing during summer league and could step into the rotation if one of the Nets' big men goes down.
Mirza Teletovic failed to impress in a limited role with the Nets last season, though it can take foreign players a year or two to adjust to the pace and style of play in the NBA. The Bosnian forward connected on 34 percent of his three-point attempts and should improve upon that this season.
Tyshawn Taylor is another second-year player who could be ready for a larger role after paying his dues in the D-League. Taylor is an exceptional athlete, though he still has to work on his shooting and decision-making.
Some other teams can make a strong claim for the deepest roster, including the Nets' cross-town rival, the New York Knicks.
The Knicks bench had the fourth-highest efficiency differential last season. Like the Nets, they added solid bench players this summer despite being well over the salary cap.
The Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, signed Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih and drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. They also re-signed free agents Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin and reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith to go along with six-time All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire.
It is not clear who the Knicks' fifth starter will be, though their offseason acquisitions provide them with plenty of flexibility. World Peace can guard multiple positions, and Udrih allows head coach Mike Woodson to use the two-point guard lineup that was so effective last season.
The Mavericks, who led the league in bench scoring at 41.5 points per game should have a solid second unit once again in 2013-14. Vince Carter was the leading scorer off the bench at 13.4 points per game and shot over 40 percent from behind the arc.
Dallas re-signed Brandan Wright and picked up former San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair to minimize the loss of Elton Brand. Rick Carlisle's squad also added two speedsters to its backcourt in Devin Harris and first-round pick Shane Larkin.
One often overlooked bench is that of the two-time defending champions. The Miami Heat have a great defender and three-point threat in Shane Battier and the all-time leader in three-pointers in Ray Allen. Norris Cole came on strong in his second season, and Chris "Birdman" Andersen proved to be a valuable midseason addition.
Greg Oden could be a difference-maker on the defensive end if healthy, and Joel Anthony is another defensive standout with playoff experience. If one of Miami’s shooters goes down, they can turn to veterans Rashard Lewis and James Jones.
The Mavs, Knicks and Heat may all have more impressive second units than the Nets, though no team is as talented six through 15 as Brooklyn.
With all the talk centering around the Nets' starting five, it could be their bench that carries them deep into the playoffs.