The Nets’ first season in Brooklyn finished in disappointment as the team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs in a seven-game battle with Chicago but, considering how bad they were in New Jersey, it was a sparkling success. Their .598 W% wasn’t quite good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division but it’s a massive leap from their .333 in 2011, .293 in 2010, and .146 in 2009.
So what did the Nets do? Cleaned house and imported half a team worth of aging stars while firing the coach who led them to the playoffs and hiring a Knicks point guard with zero coaching experience.
The Nets are obviously trying to win a ring this season and have a stacked roster but not one without its questions. Age is a major factor. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Evans, and Alan Anderson are all over 30 and newly acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry are all 36 or older. Williams, Kirilenko, and Brook Lopez also have their injury problems and Williams is currently recovering from a knee injury.
There is plenty of hope for the Nets in their second season in Barclays Center but there’s plenty to be concern about as well. Let’s take a look at how the Nets are shaping up for the coming season.
Points Per Game: 17th
Points Allowed Per Game: 6th
Rebounds Per Game: 10th
Notable Additions: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson
Point Guards: Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Tyshawn Taylor – Grade: B+
Although he was expected to carry the team in their inaugural season, Williams saw slight regression in most of his stats. His 21 PPG in 2011-12 dropped to 18.9 last season. His 10.3 APG in 2010-11 dropped to 8.7 in 2011-12 and to 7.7 last season. His FGA dropped from 17.5 in 2011-12 to 14.4 last season. The only area where he saw improvement was his turnover rate, down to 2.8 per game from 4.0 the season before but still problematic.
Are these the signs of impending decline for the 29-year-old guard? Perhaps, but the additions on the team should take a lot of the pressure off his shoulders. His assists should improve with three more shooters on the team but his scoring is likely to plateau or drop with more guys able to score.
Livingston is a long-tome journeyman guard and a solid choice to spell Williams. He shot an impressive .480 from the floor last season and averaged 6.3 PPG, 3.3 APG, and 2.4 RPG. He’s nothing special but he’s a reliable veteran backup.
Taylor only averaged 5.8 MPG last season and, with Jason Terry and Alan Anderson coming over, he doesn’t figure to be in the picture.
Shooting Guards: Joe Johnson, Jason Terry, Alan Anderson – Grade: B-
Johnson was a bit of a disappointment last season, making just 42% of his shots (45.4% in 2011-12), 82% of his free throws, and averaging 16.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG. He had his moments but the numbers don’t make you jump out of your seat. He’s a solid role player and will continue to produce points in the teens on offense but he gets paid like a superstar at $21.4 million. That’s more than LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose. He’s arguably the most overpaid player in the league.
At 36, Terry is no longer a starting caliber player but he can be a useful weapon off the bench. He averaged 10.1 PPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.6 3PPG while playing about 27 MPG for Boston. That’s down significantly from his 15.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, and 2.2 3PPG a year before so we have to watch for further decline but he still has the ability to put up double-digit points and a few assists off the bench.
Anderson is not a very good player. Although his 10.7 PPG last season and 9.6 PPG the season before are passable for a guy who only plays about 25 minutes per game, his .383 FG% last season and .387 the season before is just dreadful. He can nail a three but he’ll miss three others, I wouldn’t expect much from him.
Small Forwards: Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko – Grade: B+
Although he’s 36, Pierce has shot a steady 18-20 PPG over his last six seasons. It’s not the 27 PPG guy we saw in his twenties but he’s still a good shooting forward. Last season he averaged 18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.9 3PPG, and shot .443 from the floor. That’s right around the norm for him and, assuming zero regression, we should see that again in 2013.
Kirilenko was a good get. He averaged a very solid 12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.0 BPG over 32 MPG and shot a very impressive .507 from the floor. That’s a career high for him at 31-years-old. He’s a smart veteran and a reliable contributor who should see plenty of court time despite the depth of this team.
Power Forwards: Kevin Garnett, Reggie Evans, Mirza Teletovic – Grade: B-
At 37-years-old, Garnett is only three years younger than the Nets’ coach and is a far cry from the dominant player he was in the late-90s and early-2000s. His 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG, and .496 FG% are all still solid but he’s only able to play about 30 MPG tops and will sit out second halves of back-to-backs to avoid further wear and tear. I expect another season around 14 PPG, 7-8 RPG, and about one steal and one block per game but that’s hardly enough to be the difference maker in a championship hunt.
Evans isn’t much of a shooter but he dominates the glass. Averaging just 24.6 MPG, Evans pulled down 11.1 RPG. That’s a rate of 16.3 per 36 minutes. Despite his 4.5 PPG, he shot a strong .479 from the floor and is a very good role player to have with rebounds one of the most underrated stats in the game. It’ll be interesting to watch how the Nets use Evans this season with so many players deserving of playing time.
Teletovic is a sleeper but I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to translate to the NBA. A former Euroleague star, Teletovic averaged a 21.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and shot .437 from the floor in 2011-12 in Europe before being signed by the Nets. He managed just 9.4 MPG last season, limited greatly by his paltry .384 shooting. His .431 3P% in Europe is the reason the Nets liked him in the first place, his .343 last season isn’t going to cut it if he wants to crack this rotation.
Centers: Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche, Mason Plumlee – Grade: A
Lopez is a strong shooter and a very good shot blocker but a bad rebounder and free throw shooter. His 19.4 PPG, .521 FG% and 2.1 BPG are all very strong but his 6.9 RPG are hardly what you’d expect from a center. Ultimately, even with all the new additions on the team, Lopez is probably their best player and at 25, he’s one of the youngest.
Blatche is a very solid bench center who averaged 10.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 1.0 SPG over 19 MPG last season. His career-high .512 shooting was a massive improvement from his .380 FG% in 2011-12 but he’ll need to keep it at that level to stay in the rotation.
Plumlee was the Nets’ first-round pick out of Duke and is a very good looking prospect. He averaged a phenomenal 17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG in his senior year. We’ll see how that translates to the pros and how the Nets decide to use him.
Coach: Jason Kidd – Grade: Who Knows?
For a team that is going all-in with personnel, looking to win a championship immediately, they sure gambled on their coach. Kidd just retired after playing for the Knicks last season and while he was always a good court general, he has no coaching experience on a team filled with big names and bigger egos. He’s a wild card and he will ultimately be the difference in whether the Nets go all the way or fail like last season.
Team Grade: B+