Brooklyn Nets Offseason Recap and Season Preview
Last year’s team:
Deron Wiliams / CJ Watson / TayShawn Taylor
Joe Johnson / Jerry Stackhouse / MarShon Brooks
Gerlad Wallace / Keith Bogans / Toko Shegelia / Kris Joseph
Reggie Evans / Kris Humphries / Mirza Teletovic
Brook Lopez / Andray Blatche
Coach: Avery Johnson -> PJ Carelisemo
Assistants: Mario Elie, Popeye Jones, Doug Overton
Playoffs: Lost 1st round to Bulls 3-4
After a hot start in November (11-4) and COM award things were looking good for Avery and the Nets. Then, Lopez (their MVP last year and 1st time/only AS) got injured. While out, the team went from an early top 10 D, to bottom 10 going 2-5 in his absence. After horrible showings on Christmas day to the Celtics and then to the Bucks, Avery was fired and the man more famous for being Sprewell’s new squeeze toy, or beard, or surprise Seton Hall Finals in the NCAA than his terribly poor coaching record (3rd worst all time) PJC was promoted with an interim coach label.
While Gerald Wallace never knew his role, Brooks begged for any role and Teletovic rolled his eyes, one player took off along with his hire.. Deron Williams. After nearly two years of extremely sub standard, lackadaisical play, Deron put up some of the best PG stats in the league under PJC. (23/8 on 48/42/86 post ASG)
However, 2 and ½ men (Deron, Brook and JJ) couldn’t quite carry the Nets to 50 wins as they earned 49. It was still modest success as most pegged them a mid 40’s win team, and as many predicted, including yours truly, the Nets lost in 7 to a team that was missing… well, their team.
It was clear what the team lacked. Coaching, for one. Ask fans or announcers like Kerr who questioned right away what on earth Wallace and Evans were doing starting together and killing the team’s spacing. Fans wondered why it took until late in the playoffs to realize Lopez and Blatche could play together… play dominantly together as they helped the Nets nearly double the offensive output of Chicago when they were on the court together through the 1st 5 games of the PO (91-53 in 36 minutes). Just 2 of many examples of what PJ did do and did not do. But perhaps more importantly, the team lacked experience and heart. It was clear Chicago knew how to win a series from many years of playoff battles, while Brooklyn looked lost playing game 7 at home. They also looked complacent. No one cared or cared to take the last shot. Chicago’s bench on the other hand showed more emotion than the entire arena. Something had to be done.
Shortly after the disappointment of game 7, changes began.
PJC was unceremoniously not re-signed.
Despite some thinking he overachieved, it was known to 90% of Net fans he was on his way out. Not only did he cost the Nets plenty of critical wins, he failed to develop the young players (a big deal as they were one of the few ways the team can improve) and worse, failed to give them a chance.
The search began for his replacement and lasted much longer than most anticipated.
Names like Hollins, Shaw, Jackson, Van Gundy, Larry Brown all floated around at one point or another. It seemed the common theme was leadership. Not experience necessarily. Finally a recently retired ex Knick walked from millions of dollars to interview with King and convinces King he was man. Yes, this was Kidd’s idea. With Russia’s backing and wide spread organizational approval, the Nets decided they need to take a major gamble and hire Jason Kidd. Part of the reason was obvious…the best coaches these days are the young fresh minds and Kidd one of the greatest minds of the game. Another part was easily the marketing and appeal. (I’d call that more of a perk.) But the underlying reason was that the Nets had little roster flexibility and needed to make major moves where they can. Many thought Jason Kidd would and could be their single biggest off-season move. Or, so they thought…. To make up for Kidd’s inexperience, former Net and Kidd coach, who Kidd "hired" right before they won 14 straight, Lawrence Frank was brought in as the highest paid assistant in the league. As was George Karl’s right hand man John Welch, Eric Hughes from Toronto, Roy Rogers (Brook’s early big man coach when he actually averaged over 8rpg), Joe Prunty (18 years with SAS), an analytics guy (Charles Klask) and Doug Overton kept. All in all the bench looks much stronger than it had bench in some time. But there linger concerns.
Can Kidd stay out the clubs?
Will he cross the line with any of his players?
Will his friendship/relationship with Deron work?
Will the supporting cast be able to compensate for the rookie mistakes Kidd will make as coach?
No one knows how good Kidd will be, of course, but most players, coaches, analysts think he’ll do well.. I do too. He hasn’t failed at much.. in the game of basketball that is.
The next order of business for the team was the draft. They selected the somewhat fallen (because of his age) Dukie (King connection as some Net fans expected) Mason Plumlee. Automatically Plumlee becomes the most athletic Net as he showed in a strong SL performance. His rebounding and finishing was NBA ready to a certain extent. But no one expects him to see serious time, unless things get ugly.
Around the draft, rumors of PP and KG coming to BK were leaked. After it looked like Doc and KG were going to the Clippers earlier and then blocked, this seemed a possibility. Originally the deal was rumored to be PP for Hump + ’16 #1 (they wanted Hump, Teletovic and 2 #1 at the trade deadline) But King wanted to go for KG as well and ultimately KG waived his no trade clause to join PP on the journey. Apparently, Toko Shengelia (a Nets message board favorite) was to be included as well, but MarShon Brooks asked if he could move on as he knew he was never finding a role on this team. Both sides obliged and Toko stayed.
Ultimately the following trade happened:
K.Humphries, Bogans, Joseph, Brooks, G.Wallace, 3 #1, ’17 picks swap
KG, PP, Terry
The Nets knew all along they were moving Humphries. He was signed to match salary for Dwight (or anyone else worth it) and his media persona was not wanted around the team for some time. They didn’t know, nor did anyone think they could move Gerald Wallace and his 3/30 left after his abysmal season. They held on to Bogans bird right’s who is making about $5m for saying "yes, I’ll sit in Boson" and Kris Joseph has since been waived. They traded every last pick they could. They don’t expect the ‘14#1 to be much better than a mid 20’s pick and should be past 20 in 2016 as well. They will bank on using Proky’s $3m to get a pick in those ranges, but the real risk is 2018 when no one knows how good they can be…. But they also lined up their contracts so that they have 3 more seasons before unrestricted FAs could include Dwight, LBJ, Durant, Love, Bosh, Hibbert, Noah, Batum, Lopez etc. in the summer of 2016 when all but Deron is on the books.
The deal was agreed to on draft night but had to wait to July 9th to consummate.
Meanwhile, the Nets signed their own FA Andray Blatche who, as an amnesty victim, could turn down larger offers from other teams and not be as impacted. And he did.
Shaun Livingston signed on next as the Nets found a pass first, long PG to run the 2nd unit and complement Terry. Livingston apparently was a priority of both King and Kidd as they both love his IQ and decision making.
Then, a signing that caused quite the controversy: Andrei Kirilenko. Despite having a $10m deal in place, AK wanted more years from someone. According to him, Minny was that someone and he was expecting 3/30 from them, perhaps Kahn. But Saunders offered him less. He looked elsewhere and had an $8m offer from SAS if Minny would work a sign and trade, they would not. Left to perhaps the full MLE or playing for teams he did not want to play for, AK signed with the Nets for the tax MLE of $3.2 with a player option for next season.
After thinking the team was done, the team spent about $5m in salary and tax for their 15th roster spot: Alan Anderson who they hope to be their 3+D guy. The fact AA had two big games against the Knicks didn’t hurt either.
After adding 3 players in trade, 3 in free agency and 1 in the draft, the Nets managed to return 4 of their starters and their 6th man from last season. (Blatche)
Finally the roster was assembled:
Deron Williams / Shaun Livingston / TyShawn Taylor
Joe Johnson / Jason Terry / Allan Anderson
Paul Pierce / Andrei Krilienko / Toko Shegelia
Kevin Garnett / Reggie Evans / Mirza Teletovic
Brook Lopez / Andray Blatche / Mason Plumlee
Coach: Jason Kidd
Lead Assistant: Lawrence Frank
Payroll ~ $102m
Bojan Bogadnovic - a high end SG/SF prospect who was ever so close to coming over for the tax MLE pre-AK…whew!
Ilkan Karman – a bruising PF with modest range, but rather raw. He may not ever be an NBA player but he has the tattoos to be one.
If I had to guess the minutes:
D.Will (34) / Livingston (14)
JJ (30) / Terry (14) / AA (4)
Pierce (28) / AK (14) / AA (6)
Garnett (14) / Blatche (12) / AK (10) / Teletovic or Evans (12)
Lopez (30) / Garnett (10) / Blatche (8)
D.Will - 34
Lopez - 30
JJ - 30
Pierce - 28
Garnett - 24
AK - 24
Blatche - 20
Livingston - 14
Terry - 14
Teletovic or Evans - 12/DNP
Anderson - 10
Taylor - DNP
Toko - DNP
Plumlee - DNP
11 man rotation most nights. Kind of a mess especially at PF and C, but that is because of the versatility of the team. Most players can play more than 1 position. Plus, Blatche and Lopez were so successful late in the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of that this year and KG at back up C as he's played mostly center for some time.
On the surface each position looks improved.
At PG, Deron was so much better the 2nd of half of last season and looks to continue his return to form. Livingston adds a pass first component they did not have, while Taylor should improve from his rookie season. But more importantly, all these Point guards are playing for one of the best point guards of all time. That should help.
At SG, JJ may enjoy playing with the more dynamic Pierce and be a more efficient player this season, while Jason Terry and Allan Anderson are much better players than MarShon Brooks and Jerry Stackhouse were last year. Anderson actually can play D, while Terry can actually shoot.
At SF, Paul Pierce played like a top 5 SF for much of last season (one of 3 players to average 18/6/4) and while that isn’t expected again, he is a massive upgrade from the Gerald Wallace the Nets saw camped by the 3 point line last season and who could not make a lay-up. AK is also a huge improvement over Keith Bogans who was so bad PJ took him out of the rotation all together the last month or so of the season in favor of Jerry Stackhouse. Toko Sheneglia may not play much, but he did well in limited opportunities last year.
At PF, going from Reggie Evans to KG as your starting PF is one of the biggest leaps a team can take. He brings needed defense and leadership the team sorely lacked. Reggie, hate him or love him, is still here, but he should play a much smaller role this year which is good. The FO still has big hopes for Mirza Teletovic, but no one is sure he will even get a chance with the depth the Nets have. He can shoot, he can pass and he seems a smart defender but his lack of rebounding or speed hurts. He has had a nice summer playing in international ball and is eager for a chance.
At C, Lopez is coming off a huge year (AS, #5 in PER, #7 in blocks) but he’s also coming off having a bigger titanium screw put into his foot to replace the old one, which was bending. Offensively, there may be none better, but it was his ability to help the team defensively that led people to realize he helped a team win. He turned 25 in April so the best is still ahead for him. He is backed up by another efficient player, Blatche (top 15 PER, 1 of only 9 players ever to get 10/5 in under 20mpg). Plumlee will the emergency back-up behind these guys and KG.
Who they lost:
Kris Humphries - finally!
Keith Bogans - can still play some D, but nothing else.
Jerry Stackhouse - had a handful of good games..but probably should have retired ages ago.
MarShon Brooks - the most polarizing Net last season. I still have faith in the guy. The Nets did not.
Gerald Wallace - he looked better in the playoffs, but one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA last year.
Kris Joseph - a late season 10 day signing that led to a contract.
CJ Watson - he didn't sign for much more in Indy, but word is the Nets preferred a pass first PG like Livingston than a SG in PG's body. He had a solid season as a Net, but sadly he will be remembered for blowing a lay-up against the Bulls.
While most Net fans are for once optimistic about their team, there are reasons to be pessimistic.
Chemistry - This team does have 7 new faces, including 2 new starters. Chemistry may not happen overnight, but there seems to be so much experience between the players themselves, this may not be an issue. JT, PP and KG bring experience from the C’s, AK has played with Deron plus D. Will and PP have already organized player workouts in LA. Also, players like KG and PP were brought in for their leadership. Gone is the Humphries media circus, Wallace’s trash talk to reporters, Stackhouse’s over the top comments and M. Brooks’ pouting.
Jason Kidd - It looks on the surface this move could have been a publicity stunt, and considering the public scrutiny Kidd has gone through, this may not have been a great idea. But, the staff has been bolstered so deeply that it will be hard for him to fail, unless he really sucks.
How many miles do they have left? The Nets are the third oldest team and have 3 starters over 30. However they have the depth to keep their minutes down and have a coach that can relate. Also, the two oldest teams in the league last season (Miami and NY) had pretty good regular seasons. And if you look at the top 10 oldest teams this year, it seems age is a good thing. Also, their 2 best players are either in their prime (Deron) or only 25 (Lopez). Sure PP and KG are old, but they also are now role players.
They lack athleticism. Their most athletic big man is a white rookie/3rd string Center and their most athletic wing may be their 3rd string SG.
They have injury concerns. Some are age related, but others like D. Will, Lopez are not. Those are the two they cannot sustain an injury to as the team still goes as far as they do.
What will their defense be like?
The Nets were slightly below average defensively last season, and surely will improve with the additions of Garnett, AK, Anderson and continued growth of Lopez who as Quinn Buchner (Indy's color commentator) said last season is "every bit as big as Hibbert" (not quite, but close). But how much can they improve, given the age and slowness of their perimeter starters? They also don't have much defense on the bench at PF or C other than AK when he moves to PF. Evans, Teletovic, Plumlee, Blatche are not exactly known for their defense. Overall, I think their interior D will actually be fine given their size and depth, but I worry about the perimeter D. Deron has been a sieve since a Net, JJ and PP are pretty good, but long in the tooth and heavy. Terry and Livingston don't inspire much fear in opponents.
Can they keep up their rebounding?
Last year the Nets had essentially the 2nd best rebound differential along with Memphis and were #2 in total rebound percentage. Most of that was because of Evans and their overall size at each position. Evans is still on the team, but KG who is not the rebounder he once was will be playing next to Lopez, who is very good at boxing out and creating space but became accustomed to players like Evans and Hump there to gobble up the rebounds, often uncontested. KG won't be running those down, someone has to actually grab them.
If all goes well (healthy, happy players) the team has 60+ win potential.
But, never does everything go well (other than their offseason)
If things are disastrous (injured, unhappy players), the team still has so much depth and talent that 50 wins seems a safe floor.
So what really happens?
There will be injuries, players will play limited minutes and have time off (for example KG will not play in both games of back to backs of which the Nets have 20, so automatically he’s out 10 games), but the goal is the off-season. The team should win around 55 games. If they can win 49 year 1 in Brooklyn, with 9 new players, two bad coaches and two even worse starting forwards, it’s very hard for me to see them not winning more games...unless injuries hit hard (specifically to D.Will and Lopez), which is not out of the question.
Being the playoffs are all about match-ups, it’s very hard to say what happens here.
I can see them beating any of the bottom 3 seeds (assuming it’s Miami, BK, Indy, Chicago, NYK top 5).
Otherwise, they match up very well with Indy (3-0 last year, including 1 game without Deron) and took 2 of 4 from NY. Miami pretty much destroyed them each time and Chicago took 7 out of 11 overall.
Anything short of the ECF would be a disappointment for the organization and their fans, as would losing to any team not named Miami in the East. Losing to the Knicks would probably lead to a mass (or very small scale) suicide led by Comrade Prokhorov.
Only time will tell how good this team can be, but time may also tell us this year is as good as it gets for this group. King has done his job and assembled the talent that seems to fit, now it's up to Kidd and the players to show exactly what money can buy. - See more at: http://forums.realgm.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1271621#sthash.yrTR5NeA.dpuf