Despite the unsatisfactory ending to the season, the 2012-2013 season was a pretty solid one for your Brooklyn Nets. They were a playoff team for the first time since 2007, developed a solid fanbase in Brooklyn, and look to be a consistent playoff contender for years to come. But as we all know, the Nets didn't get that far as they lost to the Chicago Bulls in seven games. Of course, the Bulls didn't get that far either as they got picked off by the eventual champion Miami Heat in five games. For the Heat, this was their second straight championship and there have been talks of the Heat becoming a dynasty. Of course, there is no hard and fast definition of what a "dynasty" is, so let's see what interpretations of dynasties are out there. First up, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and the mothership speaking about dynasties with relation to the Heat:
But the other piece of this equation is that actually achieving dynastic status is really, really hard. So much can go wrong. Like, whatever happened in the 2011 Finals, or Dwyane Wade's current injury. The San Antonio Spurs know this as well as anyone: despite a crazy run of excellence, they've never won back-to-back titles. Injuries, theLakers and sundry other things have tripped them up in every repeat attempt. If you consider the definition of a sports dynasty as something like "protracted hegemony," then the Spurs have never really had one. (I subscribe to the common belief that three titles in a row is rare enough and awe-inspiring enough to be a dynasty.)
And here's Vincent Smith writing about dynasties for NBA.com in 2009:
A dynasty is a team that wins, at least, three titles with a cast that features, at least, three recurring principal characters (three players or two players and a coach). And if the three titles are spread out, the team has to remain a "power" during the non-title years.
Whatever definition you subscribe to, we can all agree that the Heat are the best team in the sport and they are the team the Nets will have to go through in order to achieve the big boss' goal of a championship by 2015. So can they do it? Let's explore this question and ponder the chances the Nets have of slaying the beast.
One of the ways teams such as Indiana and Chicago have been able to pester Miami over the past three years is through superior glass work. One "problem" Miami has had since LeBron and Bosh came to town has been their lack of a prototypical big man. And by prototypical, I mean the type of big that gobbles up rebounds, can block shots, and make life difficult on elite big men such as Tim Duncan and Roy Hibbert. Basically, a big in the mold of Tyson Chandler. Miami doesn't have a big like Chandler, and that's created a little difficulty for them. The Heat were in the bottom third in team defensive rebounding, and it almost cost them the Conference Finals vs. Indiana (they were outrebounded in every game but Game 7). One of the (few) benefits Reggie Evans gave the Nets was his doggedness on the offensive glass. Evans was the leading offensive rebounder in the league in 2012-2013 and has been one of the better ones over the years. Of course, Evans is no longer here, and along the way, this happened:
Let me look at his numbers real quick -- he had no offensive rebounds, so we did our number on him
Being a great offensive rebounding team isn't a guarantee of success or predictor of failure if you're not prolific at it (just look at the Heat), but it certainly helps. Blatche was one of the better rebounders on the offensive glass, and should continue to contribute on that end. Even if the Nets aren't dominant on the O-glass, their retooled offense should more than make up for it. If I had to guess, I would think that the offense would run through Brook Lopez in the low post. This was his most active year on offense (career high usage rate), and he had one of his more efficient seasons. He had success against Miami as he shot 57 percent, but those games were all blowouts on the wrong side so you can't put too much stock into that.With Gerald Wallace and Evans out of the picture, Williams, Johnson, Lopez, etc. should have much more space on offense to operate. This space should lead to better looks on offense, and more importantly for players like Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Johnson, cleaner looks behind the three point line.
When they're on, Miami is absolutely relentless on defense. Their sharp rotations and pressure lead to them forcing a ton of turnovers. Miami was fourth overall in forcing turnovers, and as a result, they had the third most points off turnovers in the league. When they played Miami, the Nets weren't able to avoid committing turnover problems against the Heat, as they committed more turnovers than they normally did. And as you would expect, they got blown out each time for their troubles.
With the (slight) exception of Deron Williams, the (expected) major players on the Nets didn't have many turnover issues last season. The role Jason Kidd will designate for them matters a lot, and I would expect the offense to primarily run through Lopez and Williams. I expect to see a decline in usage for Johnson and Pierce, and Kevin Garnett doesn't need the offense run through him to contribute. Those three have shown good ball control skills throughout their careers, and that should continue during the Brooklyn experience.
Although the rotations are shortened come playoff time, it never hurts to have depth, especially as you slog through the regular season. Even though the narrative around the Heat is that they're three superstars (these days, just one) and not much else, that actually isn't true. Going by Win Shares, Miami had ten players who were league average and better during the 2012-2013 campaign. Of course, leading the charge for the Champions was LeBron James. As they stand now, the Nets have their Furious Five (Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett, and Lopez), plus Andray Blatche and Jason Terry. As the 2012-2013 Lakers adventure showed us, just having big names isn't a guarantee of success. It's great to have elite players at the top, but if their isn't anything to back them up (especially if those elite players are older), you're in deep trouble. And I have some questions about Blatche and Terry, but that's for another post at another time.
This isn't measurable, but a little bit of luck goes a long way. Sometimes you get unexpected production from unexpected sources, players who are known for their superlative play inexplicably go cold over a seven game series, and injuries pop up at inopportune times.
Can they get past Miami?
I don't see how the Nets can. When they're healthy, Miami has the two best players on the court (and even if Wade isn't at 100 percent, LeBron is more than capable of picking up the slack). They have more depth than they're sometimes given more credit for, and their defense is rock solid. As for the Nets, even with the upgrades, I don't see them as being enough to get by Miami. Miami best three players are/will more than likely continue to be more productive than the Nets' best three, have succeeded playing against a variety of styles and opponents, and, excluding Wade, have been more durable over the past couple of years. The Heat have better three point shooters, better team defense, and if they were to face the Nets in the playoffs, will more than likely have the home court advantage. Of course, I haven't discussed Indiana, Chicago, and New York, and those three teams compare favorably to the new look Nets and have a very good chance of beating the Nets.