Instead of doing a season preview for every team in the league*, I plan to do a few articles this year on a few teams that I think are going to surprise a lot of folks. Unfortunately, the surprise isn't always going to be a good one. This is going to be the case for the Brooklyn Nets, who have used the words 'contender' and 'championship' a lot. I think those fans/analysts are going to be
Let's take a look at the Nets' roster so far:
This ignores the Nets rookies, who can always radically change the picture. Immediately, I see the Nets have three huge problems:
- Two of their best players, Childress and Evans, won't play heavy minutes.
- The Nets have employed some very terrible veterans.
- Their starting center is, at best, an average offensive talent and defensive sieve, and at worst, a defensive sieve who takes a load of really bad shots and cripples the offense.
Evans won't play much because he's behind Humphries in the rotation, and Childress' minutes will be limited by being behind Gerald Wallace. In other words, although both are good players, they won't produce a lot of wins. And both have a long, long history of being under-utilized by various coaches. It's hard to see Avery "I-don't-need-my-best-rebounder-to-beat-Golden-State" Johnson bucking this trend.
As for the "veterans" this team has added, Stackhouse is ancient, and even when he was young, he wasn't very good (except at taking shots). Blatche may be biologically, emotionally, and mentally young but he's got 7 years of being awful at basketball under his belt -- I have no idea whatsoever why anyone thinks that trend would reverse itself. He may not make it through training camp, but the prospect that he might be kept over one of the rookies should honestly scare the hell out of Nets fans. C.J. Watson's best years were his early ones (where he was average) and the last two have been much worse. Bogans is likely the best in the bunch but he's getting on in years, and sat out a lot of last year.
Finally, we have Lopez, whom I have already written about, at the center position. Here's a funny thing about the NBA: if you want to contend, you usually need a dominant big man. And dominating defensively is often just as important as offensively. Those who have bucked this trend usually had other players who played the role for him (Hello, Dennis Rodman. Hi there, LeBron James). And it's not just that Lopez isn't dominant -- he's actually quite bad at most of the things that centers are supposed to be good at. Ask Toronto how it's worked out for them, playing a guy who can't rebound at the center position. Even if I buy the argument that 2010-11 was an off year, and he'll be better this year, "better" still isn't going to make him "good". And for the record, I don't buy this argument at all; players coming off injuries like this almost always have off years. Why on earth should I believe that Lopez will be better at returning from an injury than, say, Tyson Chandler?
There is also question/problem 3(b), which is: "Which Deron Williams will show up next year?" I kind of expect Williams to return to his all-star levels, but frankly that just isn't going to be enough (and, once again, I'll point out that it is troubling that most people didn't seem to notice that he wasn't very good last year, where he declined in almost every category but point totals). The Nets won at an 82-game pace of 27 games last year. Anyone who expects that these off-season moves were enough to produce 25-30 more wins is frankly just overrating Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and getting a full season from Gerald Wallace.
Instead, I expect the Nets to hover around the 7th-8th seed, and possibly even fight to make the playoffs at all (if Deron Williams does not return to form, they won't). And I wonder if that will be good enough to keep Avery Johnson his job, given the lofty (and unrealistic) expecations around this team. Then again, maybe one of the rookies will be shockingly good! Of course, even if that happens, none of them is likely to take minutes from Lopez so...yeah.
I'm sure Vivek is going to give me some grief about this prediction, but he'll just have to bookmark this post in case I'm wrong so he can wave it at me later. And if you disagree, feel free to post about it here so I can mock you in 6 months!
*Given how often I have been writing lately, you knew that wasn't going to happen anyway, right?