Essay: What Are The Brooklyn Nets?
Editor’s Note: This article is Jun Pang’s first for Shaky Ankles.
This summer held the most exciting NBA offseason since 2010, and one of the biggest changes took place in Brooklyn, where the Nets arrived with a completely revamped roster. Gone is 73% of the 22-44 2011-12 New Jersey Nets, with only Deron Williams, Keith Bogans, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, and Kris Humphries remaining. New additions include Joe Johnson, Reggie Evans, and Andray Blatche.
The Nets have a lot of new strengths and weaknesses, and coach Avery Johnson seems like he’ll finally have some talent that can work the system he wants to install. The Nets are as enigmatic as any team in the league, with a ceiling that could reach the Eastern Conference Finals and a basement that ends with a first-round exit. They should definitely be on your “teams to watch” list next year.
One thing the Nets should not have a problem with is scoring the ball. They seem like they’ll be a good half-court team, a good fast break team, and also a good shooting team. The variety of personnel that Brooklyn has put together makes a very intriguing formula. The Nets have one of the best half-court PGs in the game with Williams, who headed some very efficient offenses in Utah (regularly in the top 10 in offensive rating); a very skilled big man in Brook Lopez, who can both post up and hit the outside shot; and Joe Johnson, an excellent shooter who can also put it on the floor and drive.
Add in an All-World cutter in Wallace and a big who can pop out and space the floor in Humphries, and you have a lot of options and plays the team can utilize in the half-court. With good spacing, a post presence, and good off ball movement, this team will be hard to defend when the pace slows.
If the game quickens, the Nets offense should still be effective. Williams and Johnson have experience in fast-paced offenses and Wallace is one of the best fastbreak players in the league with his athleticism. The Nets will run, and they have the ability to finish on the break. One of the most important parts of their offense will be their shooting ability, especially from the three-point line. The Nets have a bevy of good shooters, especially off of the bench.
An important thing about the Nets is that even when its offensively-talented starters sit, it has several spark plugs off of the bench in Watson and Brooks, and shooters in Teletovic and Bogans. The bench isn’t especially talented, but it will definitely be looking to gun.
One of Brooklyn’s main problems this year comes on the other side of the ball. The Nets don’t have talented defenders, both in their starting lineup and their bench. But while it is a problem, their man-to-man defense on the perimeter is not what will make or break their effectiveness. What will be the most important factor is their man in the middle: Brook Lopez.
Big men are some of the largest determining factors in anchoring a team defense, with their responsibility to clean up the mistakes on the perimeter, and their importance in guarding the pick and roll. The problem here obviously arises with Lopez. He isn’t a terrible defender—he can block shots and isn’t bad in the post—but his slow feet inhibit him from being great on help defense and he’s a liability in the pick and roll. Their interior defense problems are also there because the man next to Lopez, Kris Humphries, isn’t a very good defender himself.
Humphries is limited by the fact that he’s not very athletic or tall, so while he tries hard, consistently great defense every night just isn’t realistic. The Nets will be limited by their defense, and their defense will be determined by their big men. It’s up to Lopez and Humphries to show us if they’ve improved from previous years, but if history stays the course, the Nets interior defense will be detrimental to the team.
One time Coach of the Year winner Avery Johnson is the man in charge of this new look Nets team. He brings with him a history both good and bad, with great regular season records, but also a Finals loss that came with his team blowing a two game lead, and a first-round exit as the top seed in the west. One of the top things he has been criticized for is his inability to make adjustments. He also limited some of the more creative players he’s coached (Jason Kidd) by taking the ball out of their hands too much.
Johnson will have a lot of options in his offensive system, a system based around ball movement and quick decisions, and I don’t think he’ll have a problem on that end. He’s a decent coach, but it’s still to be seen whether he can coach this team to the best of its abilities.
The Brooklyn Nets have a lot of question marks this season, and only time will tell whether or not they will be able to solve them. Lots of factors will determine their success, and it’ll be an exciting journey to the finish line.