As the season approaches, Pounding the Rock is running season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature is today's look at the Brooklyn Nets. (Yesterday's preview: Miami Heat)
Brooklyn Nets: Prediction: 7th in the Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 44-38
Coach: Lionel Hollins
Significant Additions: F Bojan Bogdanovic (free agent), G Jarrett Jack (trade), G Sergey Karasev (trade)
Significant Subtractions: F Paul Pierce (free agent), G Shaun Livingston (free agent), F Andray Blatche (free agent), G Marcus Thornton (trade)
Projected Starters: C Brook Lopez, F Kevin Garnett, F Bojan Bogdanovic, G Joe Johnson, G Deron Williams (6/10):
After the departures of four core rotation guys, the Nets will welcome back Lopez and are likely to feature him as their main option, which fits with Hollins' inside-out philosophy that worked well in Memphis. In theory the hi-lo big-big passing game between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph could be duplicated by Garnett and Lopez, though it's by no means a perfect comparison because the former can't play more than 20 minutes a night and the latter is too much of a defensive and rebounding liability to trust for long stretches.
Johnson doesn't excite anyone, but he's one of the more consistent performers in the league and a guy who you can count on to produce at a certain level, which is more than you can say about his backcourt mate Deron Williams. The Nets are paying Williams to be a top-tier point and he's just not that guy anymore. Every year you read stories about him committing to being in better shape, but it never amounts to anything. He's lost too much quickness and can't shake guys like he used to. Even worse, with Livingston gone, he can't get a break defensively either.
Bogdanovic was originally drafted by the Heat in 2011 and his rights were traded twice that night, first to Minnesota and then to the Nets. The Croatian has starred at Fenerbahce the past three years and made the decision to try the NBA as a 25-year-old rookie. He's reportedly impressed enough in camp to win the starting small forward job. He has good size but his stats in Turkey were hardly overwhelming and you have to wonder how he'll adjust to the NBA grind. He played 87 games combined the past three seasons for Fenerbache. Alan Anderson or Andrei Kirilenko might crack his spot in the lineup, and plenty of starts should be available for Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic at the four and the five as well.
Projected Reserves (7/10):
The starters may be old and creaky but there's plenty of quality depth behind them. Plumlee was thrust into a prominent role once Lopez went down early and filled it admirably. He's a better defender and rebounder than Lopez and fairly athletic, but raw offensively. He faded down the stretch as a rookie but fewer minutes this season should help. I can picture Hollins playing him in fourth quarters of tight games over Lopez. Teletovic knocked down 39 percent of his threes as a rookie stretch four and it remains to be seen if he can expand his game much beyond that. With Blatche off to China, he may have a bigger role. Kirilenko was only able to play 45 games last season and at under 20 minutes a pop in those, providing almost nothing. He's probably near the end at 33, but for the Nets to surprise people he has to have a major bounce back to his form with the Jazz. Anderson played a lot last season mostly due to injuries to everyone else, including Kirilenko, but hasn't shown anything in his career to suggest he's worthy of a rotation spot when other people are healthy. They traded for Jack to fill Livingston's spot as the third guard and while he doesn't offer that lanky defensive presence, he can fill it up when he's got it going. The Nets struggle to score, so it may be an upgrade. Marquis Teague came over in a late-season trade with Chicago last season and he'll have the first crack for the backup job behind Williams.
Coach/Front Office (5/10):
There's been no shortage of off-season drama with the Nets. Internal friction between General Manager Billy King and Coach Jason Kidd ended with Kidd fleeing to Milwaukee once a business acquaintance of his wound up buying the Bucks. A hasty coaching search led them to Lionel Hollins, who took last year off after the Grizzlies didn't renew his contract, even though Hollins had guided the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. Hollins has a reputation for being prickly with executives and not at all accommodating to the analytic people, but he may find the Nets more his speed in that regard. He can be abrasive with players too and has already clashed with Lopez, so we'll see how that marriage works out. Also, owner Mikhail Prokhorov is rumored to be looking to sell.
Team Rating: 61 (2.5x Starters Rating + 1.5x Reserves Rating + Coach Rating) x 2 = 61
Did You Know:
Somewhat surprisingly, Kevin Garnett decided to return for his 20th season in the NBA despite only being healthy enough to play 54 games last season and putting up, by far, the worst numbers of his career. When asked if it was at all realistic for Nets fans to expect him to return to All-Star form, Garnett clenched his fists, threw his head back and screamed, "ANYTHING IS POSSSSSSSSSI-" before coughing out a lung and keeling over to the ground.
He is listed as day-to-day.