After a lackluster week, with two wins and two losses, both heart-breakers but both to good teams, the Nets remain in the power rankers top 10 or very close. The Nets were comfortably in the top 10 last week and top five the week before. The basic point of the power rankers is that Joe Johnson is picking up, Brook Lopez is healthy again and hey, Deron Williams will get there, right? Right!?
In the early rankings, John Schuhmann of NBA.com and Seth Rosenthal of SB Nation has them at No. 10; Marc Stein of ESPN at No. 11; and his (former) colleague John Hollinger has them them at No. 13 in what we can hope is his last power rankings before he trundles off to Memphis. In rankings written up before the weekend, Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News had them at No. 12 and Matt Dolllinger of Sports Illustrated had them at No. 10.
What has also been creeping into the rankings is criticism of Avery Johnson and Williams. Here's a summary:
John Schuhmann, NBA.com (10)
Playing the Pistons, Raptors and Bulls has probably helped the Nets' defense -- which held all three opponents under a point per possession -- more than Brook Lopez's return. Offensively, Joe Johnson is finding a rhythm, averaging 19.1 points on 47 percent shooting over the last nine games and hitting the game-winner against Detroit. Now, if only Deron Williams could really get going.
Marc Stein, ESPN (11)
Forget the game-winning J that beat Detroit and all of Joe Johnson's struggles before that. The trade, for all of the crowing out about how much better Atlanta is without him, is working out for the Nets, too. Have to draw that conclusion if JJ's arrival indeed helped convince D-Will to stay.
Seth Rosenthal, SB Nation (10)
The Nets broke their slide and Brook Lopez is working his way back into heavy minutes and mighty contributions (18 and 10 in just 25 minutes in his second game back), but it's a little alarming for a team that features Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to be stumbling so regularly in crunch-time situations.
Mitch Lawrence, NY Daily News (12) ... published Saturday
You know what's pretty much killed all the buzz about Brooklyn - aside from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson not playing up to their contracts and their recent five-game losing streak? What the Knicks have been doing, night in and night out.
Matt Dollinger, Sports Illustrated (11) ... published Friday
The Nets are plodding down the court these days -- and that's with 7-foot center Brook Lopez sidelined. Brooklyn is second to last in pace (90.9 possessions per 48 minutes) and averaging the third-fewest fast-break points. Part of the reason is the Nets don't gamble very often on defense, producing the fifth-fewest turnovers (14.1). On offense, coach Avery Johnson leans on post-ups and isolations. No one will ever call the Nets free-flowing, but they make every possession count, scoring at the seventh-most-efficient rate in the league.