Playoff Result: Lost in First Round
Key Additions: Paul Pierce (trade), Kevin Garnett (trade), Jason Terry (trade), Andrei Kirilenko (signed), Andray Blatche (re-signed)
Key Losses: Gerald Wallace (trade), C.J. Watson (free agency), financial flexibility
Projected 2013-14 Record: 54-28 (3rd in East)
What to Expect: The Nets are a collection of superb on-paper talent with a first-time head coach who trumped this team on the court last year. Alongside newly-appointed head coach Jason Kidd is enough assistant coaches to split between 3 teams, and it’ll be their job collectively to take Brooklyn’s post-prime superstars to the promised land – or at the very least past the first few rounds of the Playoffs.
GM Billy King left the NBA world dazed for a good amount of time when he traded for Boston’s Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for Gerald Wallace, who regressed rather drastically this past season, Kris Humphries, who underwhelmed as well, Kris Joseph and a trio of draft picks. On top of this blockbuster, King also managed to somehow sign Andrei Kirilenko for just a measly $3 million a year when a $10 million per offer was on the table in Minnesota. A quick glance over the roster and you’ll notice a now-healthy All-Star caliber point guard in Deron Williams, a former perennial All-Star at the two in Joe Johnson, a couple of aging former superstars who will likely end up in the Hall-of-Fame but can still make a significant impact in Pierce and KG, a budding center who just made his first All-Star game in Brook Lopez and finally one of the best all-around players in the league who would be starting on most other teams in Kirilenko.
Now, can we expect this team to mold together and maximize the talent they have?
Some issues are hard to ignore, such as how Johnson will fit into the offense being such an iso-centric scorer, or how Garnett will be able to carry the Nets’ sub-par defense with limited playing time and games being sat out. These will be questions Brooklyn’s abnormally large coaching staff will have to decipher and answer, but with all of the manpower they have it’s hard to imagine it won’t happen.
Past the focal points of the team, Brooklyn’s assembled a solid group of bench help. Andray Blatche re-signed, Reggie Evans still remains on the team and the Nets also picked up Shaun Livingston.
The biggest issue in trying to predict how well the Nets will play this season is the cloud of uncertainty revolving around the squad. Health concerns remain, being as the average age of the Nets starters is 31.6 and some of these players are relatively injury prone. Even well healthy, we’ve yet to see how Coach Kidd will command this team both scheme-wise and as a leader. It is safe to say however that with the players this team has collected, and all of the coaches that will be in charge of making this team a success, this team is miles ahead of the Brooklyn team we saw last year and could very well find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Matchup with the Hawks: The Hawks split the season series with the Nets last year – but this was before Atlanta got worse and Brooklyn got better over the summer.
It definitely doesn’t help that Brooklyn’s biggest additions are Hawk-killer extraordinaires. Garnett’s true shooting percentage spiked 4.1% against Atlanta last season compared to his season mark, and Pierce maintained his efficiency while making much bigger contributions on the boards and distributing the basketball when playing the Hawks. The days of taking advantage of Brook Lopez’s mediocre pick and roll defense easily are over with Garnett’s defensive presence, and he will also likely hamper the offense of either Horford or Millsap.
Even with optimism galore regarding what Spurs-ian schemes Mike Budenholzer will bring to Atlanta, Brooklyn’s tremendous edge in the talent category will likely be enough to take the season series – and quite possibly with ease.
*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team