NBA Roundtable

2012 Team Previews: Brooklyn Nets

In Season Previews on October 10, 2012 at 8:00 am

Brooklyn Nets

Starters

  • PG – Deron Williams
  • SG – Joe Johnson
  • SF – Gerald Wallace
  • PF – Kris Humphries
  • C  –  Brook Lopez

One of the best backcourts in the league with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Each respectively a top five player at their positions. A borderline top ten small forward in Gerald Wallace. In Brook Lopez, they have a very good starting center. Their power forward position is a weak point however.

Deron Williams it the most well-rounded point guard in the league. He is good to very good at every skill you want your point guard to have. He has very good size at 6-3 205lbs too. Joe Johnson is a power based two guard at 6-8 240lbs giving Brooklyn a physically intimidating backcourt. A really good defensive player, a good rebounder, a very good ball-handler and passer and a very capable scorer too. Joe Johnson is also an extremely well rounded big two guard. Johnson is capable of playing minutes at SF also but loses his size advantage and becomes a sub-par possession creator there. Deron Williams, due to his size, can also play some two guard in small backcourts.

At the forward slots, Brooklyn has Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. Humphries doesn’t offer enough as a defender or offensive threat to play starter’s minutes (30+mpg) in the NBA. He is a weak point for the lineup despite his strong rebounding numbers. Gerald Wallace is a very good defensive SF and strong possession creator. He is a solid but unexceptional / streaky offensive player. His ability to function both as a power three and as an undersized quick power forward gives Brooklyn good lineup versatility.

Brook Lopez is a highly skilled offensively orientated center who possesses a strong inside and outside game. He is a poor defender/rebounder but has enough physical talent to become a solid defensive center. Brook Lopez rebounded the ball better his first two years in the league. Below par but serviceable. He needs to get back to that level after an abysmal showing on the glass recently.

As a defensive lineup, the perimeter trio of Deron Williams + Joe Johnson + Gerald Wallace should be one of the best perimeter defenses in the league. All three are well above average defensive players with Wallace a high level one. Each player also possesses excellent size and good quickness/mobility. They’ll cause problems for teams. However, Humphries and Brook Lopez leave a lot to be desired as interior defenders. This will be a weak point for the team and likey cost them a chance at a title.

As a rebounding lineup, one through four (PG, SG, SF, PF) the Nets are very strong but are weak at center. Their combined strength in those four positions should allow them to be a good rebounding team.

Offensively speaking, the Nets have three high level offensive weapons in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. A great foundation to build an offense around. They also have a capable player in Gerald Wallace albeit a weak one in Kris Humphries. A strong foundation offensively.

Bench

  • PG – CJ Watson, TyShawn Taylor
  • SG – MarShon Brooks, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans
  • SF – Mirza Teletovic, Josh Childress
  • PF – Reggie Evans
  • C  – Andray Blatche

Mirza Teletovic figures to be the main man here. I haven’t seen him play but I hear very good things. Apparently, Teletovic is quite similar to a younger Linas Kleiza. A very skilled offensive weapon. A strong jump-shot and also has a post game. Capable shot-creator. Middle of the pack to below average as a defender/rebounder though. Still, his offensive threat makes him the leading candidate as a game-changer for Brooklyn off the bench.

I expect Teletovic to help form Brooklyn’s best lineup when he comes in to replace Humphries (with G-Wallace sliding to PF and Teletovic at SF) in a smaller quicker and highly talented offensive lineup. I also this lineup to be Brooklyn’s closing lineup more often than not.

CJ Watson is a good backup point guard. A little above average. A solid defender/rebounder and scorer. Less of a passer. Watson will provide solid relief for Deron Williams as he did for Derrick Rose in Chicago. Watson will also be able to play in the same backcourt as Deron Williams if Avery Johnson wishes.

MarShon Brooks is an out and out shooting guard. A one position player. A gunner at that. A solid bench scorer. A limited player in non-scoring areas (defense, rebounding, passing). If he shows some improvement heading into his second year, Brooks should be a middle of the pack backup two guard.

Reggie Evans is an extremely limited offensive player and defensive player. His stellar rebounding does not make up for his negative contributions on offense and on defense. A weak backup power forward.

Andray Blatche is a highly skilled backup center who can also play some time at power forward. When Brooklyn plays bigger frontlines, I could see them using Blatche and Brook Lopez together instead of Kris Humphries. Get that extra length and defense on the floor (well, if Blatche is putting in enough effort that is). Blatche is capable of being one of the best backup centers in the league. Still, not the most reliable player in the league. Bit of an unknown.

Josh Childress gives them a garbage man on the wing. An average defender. A good possession creator. A very limited offensive player who lacks range on his jump-shot and is a limited creator. This is a better situation for him than Phoenix but still not a good one. Not with Gerald Wallace and Mirza Teletovic ahead of him. I don’t expect Childress to play much.

Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse provide additional relief on the wing. Bogans is a solid shooter, defender and rebounder. He is their best backup wing behind Brooks and Teletovic and could take Brooks’ minutes from him if Brooks fails to show improvement. Stackhouse is an end of the roster player at this stage in his career. Capable of decent minutes in short bursts. Useful.

TyShawn Taylor is too error-prone to be trust worthy this season. He is a nice talent though. Good size, athleticism. Defensive talent. Can rebound his position. Can shoot and score. Just needs to shore up decision making. Improve that shot-selection, cut down on those turnovers and do a better job of moving the basketball (misses too many passing opportunities).

I would like to see more depth behind Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche. A little too vulnerable to injury right now. They have some training camp invites there but I don’t know enough about them to comment. I would like to see someone more proven / reliable there.

Glaring Need

The main issue that stands out is the lack of interior defense and unbalanced nature of their big man rotation as a whole. Their starters and their main reserves.

The Nets desperately need a high quality interior defensive player. Someone who can tie up those holes and organize everyone else. Be a vocal communicator. A leader (defensively).

More than anyone else, I think Brook Lopez would benefit from greatly from getting to play alongside such a player. He is capable of doing more defensively but is clearly struggling to make that improvement by himself. Having someone alongside him who can take some pressure of his shoulders and show him the way … I think that could do wonders for his impact defensively.

As an aside – I have long likened Brook Lopez to a Rik Smits or Zydrunas Ilgauskas type center. These players greatly benefited from playing alongside a specific type of power forward; a high level defender/rebounder albeit limited offensive threat.

Their (Big Z, Rik Smits, Brook Lopez) high skill-level offensively allowed their teams to play limited offensive threats at the PF position (Dale Davis, Anderson Varejao) without hurting the team’s spacing offensively. Their center’s jump-shooting ability allowed their team to maintain proper balance offensively. Instead of a skilled PF and a limited center, they went the opposite route. And because none of those centers where high level interior defenders themselves, they needed more help defensively alongside them. So they were able to combine very well with that sort of power forward whereas most other centers (with less jump-shooting range / less skilled offensively) weren’t able to work as well with as limited an offensive threat as Dale Davis / Anderson Varejao was/are.

For the last two years, since Zydrunas Ilgauskas left Cleveland, I have hoping that Brooklyn would target Anderson Varejao in a trade. I believe he’d be an excellent running partner for Brook Lopez and that one another would bring the best out of each other.

Overall

A really good basketball team but one step below being a title contender. A team that is capable of winning a playoff series or two. A mid-tier playoff squad in the East.

I do, however, believe that they are only one move away from putting a Championship caliber team on the floor. It’s probably not even a huge move (All-Star caliber talent). Just an above average starter who is a high level defender (like Varejao). I think a piece like that could put Brooklyn right in that mix for an NBA title.

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