Who has been the MVP for the Nets so far?
Net Income: It's hard to go with an MVP on a team that has been so disappointing ... despite the recent successes. So I'm going with the MVP of 2014 and that's Shaun Livingston. With the exception of a week or so, Livingston has been the team's most consistent player. He has played well with or without Deron Williams on the court. He can't shoot but all his other skills have been on display. He was Kidd's choice and he has justified it.
Tom Lorenzo: This feels like an impossible question. The MVPs seem to come and go. Garnett has had his moments, while Joe Johnson is an All-Star and had one heck of a stretch in January. Paul Pierce has won a few games for the Nets, while Deron Williams has been, well, I guess not Williams. I suppose you have to say that Andrei Kirilenko is the MVP, though, when he plays. This team is 15-7 with him in the lineup. He's been important on both sides of the floor, while not necessarily putting up gaudy numbers. Overall, when healthy, he's been the most valuable of the bunch.
Reed Wallach: With how inconsistent this team has been this season, the MVP goes to the guy who has been as steady as anyone. I would say Andrei Kirilenko, but he missed too much of the season already. The guy who has kept the Nets afloat, though, is Shaun Livingston. Livingston has been the Nets top facilitator this season and has had the task of guarding top-flight wings such as Paul George and Kevin Durant. Livingston has played so well that he has played his way into a starting role and is a matchup nightmare for small point guards.
Brian Fleurantin: Hmm, I would say the team's most valuable player in the first half has been Shaun Livingston. Going into the season, I wasn't expecting that much out of him, but he's been much better than I anticipated. He did a real good job running the offense while Williams was out and can do a decent job covering the opponent's best perimeter player.
Ghoti: The team is 15-7 with Andrei Kirilenko in the lineup and 12-3 when he plays more than 15 minutes. That's 9-20 when he doesn't play and 12-24 when he plays under 15 minutes. Does that mean Kirilenko is a superstar? No. But the coaching staff figured out how to get the maximum out of him in regards to making everyone else on the team more effective. On a team with no star player, that's as good criteria for MVP status as any.
Anthony Puccio: As much as I admire what Livingston has done for this team, it's undeniable that Joe Johnson has been our best player. His game winner against OKC in my opinion was the game that saved this season. Joe's great play and humble character landed him in his 7th career All-Star game. With the positive things he's done for this team, it's safe to say Joe's a true Net, and the teams 1st half MVP.
Larry Fleisher: It's hard to put any of the big guys as MVP since they've had their good and bad stretches, so I'll also go with Shaun Livingston simply for continuing his redemption path from the injuries, playing in every game and being better than anyone might have anticipated.
Who has been the biggest letdown for the Nets at this point in the season?
NI: The biggest letdown in 2013 was Kevin Garnett, but that hasn't held true over the past month and a half. I'd have to go with Jason Terry. I had hopes that the fourth most prolific deep shooter in NBA history, behind only Allen, Miller and Kidd, would bring SOMETHING. He hasn't. With another $5+ million year on his contract after this one (and a trade kicker!), his contract is virtually untradeable. Great guy, but there are few NBA players getting this many minutes with so little return.
TL: Deron Williams has been the LVP. It's not that he's been the worst player on the team, but when you are the franchise player and most nights you aren't the second, third or sometimes fourth best player on the team, well, then you're doing something wrong. He needs to, especially with Brook Lopez out, be the most valuable player on this team and he hasn't been. He's been, for his stature and salary, pretty bad.
RW: There have been several this season, but only one has failed to reach his expectation all season long and that is Deron Williams. DWill has battled ankle injuries once again this season and it doesn't seem that the cortisone shots are doing the trick this time around. This is not the man the Nets built their team around, and the Nets will go as far as he can take them.
BF: I'll go with Kevin Garnett. When he came in, he was expected to anchor the defense along with Brook Lopez and hit the occasional jumper from the high post. He's certainly improved his (and the team's performance) since he moved back to the Center position and ought to carry it through the rest of the season. But his play in November and December was so amazingly bad that he earns this "honor." I do wonder how he and Brook Lopez will play together once Brook gets back.
G: The team is not a contender to win the NBA Championship. That's because Deron Williams isn't healthy. Calling him the "LVP" is not really accurate - but like I said before the season, if he isn't the clear MVP of the team it doesn't matter what else happens because the team will not be a serious title contender.
AP: Deron Williams. Yes, injuries I know, he hasn't been playing healthy all season, and I hate to put the blame on him as much as the next guy. With that said, any player getting paid over $18 million, while averaging 13 points per game and 7 assists is certainly a letdown. It wouldn't be an issue if the team had a winning record. Jason Kidd averaged 15 & 10 in the 2001-2002 season, but was no question the leader of the team AND the reason for success. Considering the expectations on him and this team, of course this has been the biggest let down. After all, he is the face of our franchise, and supposedly the leader of this team. Luckily, we saw what he did in the second half of last season. I continue to say, if he gets back to that Deron Williams (the one who earned that meaty contract), this team is very dangerous.
LF: I hate to pile on the guy but to me it's Deron Williams. Unlike last year and the year before when he played in the Olympics and Turkey during a lockout, Williams had all summer off and still began hurt and his whole fragile ankle injury narrative is frustrating for everyone involved including him, especially being the player with the max contract.
Which team are we more likely to see in the final stretch of the season, the team in January or the team in December?
NI: If you could give me a list of active players the rest of the season, I'd feel better answering this question. Injuries have defined this team more than anything else. The lack of chemistry was a function of the wave of injuries that struck and overwhelmed the team. Assuming a reasonable health report, I'm going with January and here's the reason: the defense in January and February has been, for the most part, consistently excellent.
TL: January team, I think. I don't expect them to win 80 percent of their games each month, but they are not as bad overall as they were in December. So, yeah, maybe not exactly like the January team, but definitely closer to January than December.
RW: January team seems more likely. Something clicked during that hot stretch last month. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett found their shot and the bench started chipping in. Jason Kidd has managed his veteran's minutes very well thus far, so I think that as the season progresses, the Nets will get better.
BF: Can I cheat and say somewhere in between? No? Well okay. I think the way they played in January is the more likely scenario. With the new lineup and Deron Williams (hopefully) rounding back into shape, the Nets shouldn't be as bad as they were in December. There are a few tricky spots in the second half schedule, but they're better equipped to handle them now as compared to earlier in the season.
G: January team. Continuity is important. Cohesiveness is important. Each player knowing his role is important. The coaching staff knowing how to get the most out of each player is important. Those things get better with time, not worse.
AP: Despite having 18 games on the road of the remaining 31, only 14 of the 31 teams have winning records. If they win the games that they're supposed to win, along with grinding out victories against good teams, I expect a good ending to this season. Remember, the team is just in 7th place with Lopez out and Deron Williams playing injured early in the season. The way the chemistry is forming, and if Williams gets his ankles healthy, it shouldn't matter who this team plays. So, January.
Final Record Prediction: 43-39.
LF: I think the most likely outcome is January. The road trip is tricky but the Nets went 5-3 on a similar trip last season with a team that on paper is worse than this one. I don't know if there's another 10-1 stretch in them but another 14-6 period especially with a bunch of home games in March shouldn't be too unreasonable.
After what we have seen this season, what is a realistic goal for the Nets this season?
NI: A realistic goal is winning the second round and getting to the conference finals. One team official told me he believes that "this team could be dangerous in the playoffs," which I'd have to agree with. KG and Pierce have played something like 250 games post-season. Terry, Joe Johnson, D-Will and Andrei Kirilenko all have extensive experience.
TL: Call me crazy, but I still think winning the Atlantic and getting the third seed in the East is a realistic goal. I'm not quite ready to say they're "right there" with Miami and Indiana, but I still think they can finish third in the East.
RW: Catching the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division and making it to the second round of the playoffs. The Nets should be a fine playoff team with their experience and depth, and I think their schedule gets easy enough for them to make up the 3.5 games that separate them from the Raptors. From there, beating the Heat or Pacers is a tough task, but anything is possible.
BF: Knowing what we know, a realistic goal for Brooklyn is winning the Atlantic Division title. Although they're down in the season series, they've played Toronto tough and are well within striking distance. Of course, the Nets path to the Division title could be made easier if the Raptors decide to move Kyle Lowry. It certainly won't be easy as they've got six straight games on the road to start the second half and a tough five game stretch starting against the Raptors in mid March.
G: Unless you are reporting live from Deron Williams' ankles, there's no way to know. With the current Deron, they might match last year's team and win a round in the playoffs - but it's no lock.
AP: With all the injuries, chemistry problems, rookie coaching, etc. -- this team has nothing to show that they can get out of the East. Remember when Paul Pierce said he "didn't even want to see the division banner"? Yeah, right now everybody is killing for that. For these next two seasons, I see a 2nd round exit to either Miami or Indiana. Do I think Brooklyn can upset one of them? Definitely, if anybody it's the Nets, but after being swept easy by Indiana in the regular season, along with constant trouble with athletic teams; it's tough to be confident on how far this team is bound to go.
LF: The Atlantic Division even with the last two results against the Raptors should still be the goal but first things first and that's focusing on getting past seventh or eighth to avoid facing Miami and Indiana. Sure the Nets have succeeded against Miami in two regular season games but do we really want to risk that in a first-round series of seven games. Of course trying to avoid facing Chicago in the first-round should be a priority and the team should have a sense of urgency to avoid that after what happened last season.
With the trade deadline on Thursday, do you see the Nets making any moves? If so, how big and who would be included?
NI: I doubt they do anything big at the deadline, but then I opined last June that they wouldn't do much on Draft Night!! Their best assets are two players, Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee and the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic. I don't see a lot of fans saying trade Mirza and Mason. The Raptors reportedly do like Bogdanovic but I can't see the Nets giving up Teletovic or Plumlee in a deal for Kyle Lowry and I don't see the Raptors giving Lowry up for Jason Terry, Reggie Evans and Bogdanovic's rights. Things develop fast in the days before the deadline and the Nets have a history of keeping things quiet until just before a deal gets done. Brook Lopez or Deron Williams gone? Doubt it. Both are at the low point of their value and Mikhail Prokhorov didn't get superrich by selling low and buying high. On draft night, maybe. Now, don't think so.
TL: I think if they make a move it should be a "minor deal." Well, maybe something like getting Kyle Lowry isn't minor, but I think that's the ceiling of deals. If I'm the Nets I only consider moving Bogdanovic to get a good young player, or I move Pierce to get several players on teams looking to clear salaries, that can help this team win now. I don't see them trading Brook Lopez or Deron Williams, which would mean a huge deal is likely out of question.
RW: Jason Terry and Reggie Evans have become the new Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks trade package and moving them would rid the Nets of some dead weight, but I think the Nets should stand pat. The team has been building chemistry as of late and it would be wrong for the front office to ruin that. The only asset that the Nets should look to acquire is a first-round pick. If that doesn't come to fruition, then don't make a move.
BF: Nah, I think they should stay still. I don't think there's really anyone out there within reach that can improve the team in a major way. If they end up doing something, a small move like the Evans-Terry-Anderson for Fredette-Landry offer (http://www.slcdunk.com/2014/2/10/5393992/trades-that-should-happen-the-eastern-conference-edition) the crew at SLC Dunk proposed would be ok.
G: There isn't much they can do. They need their players to be healthy to win, and that won't happen this season no matter what they do. If they still want to give it a try with this roster - and they sure invested a lot to tear it down now - they should probably stay pat and try to keep the roster as stable as possible. I'm sure everyone in the organization wants to see what the team looks like after a year of playing together and with a healthy Deron and Lopez. Patience is really the only option with the situation they made for themselves.
AP: I don't think there should be any panic to make a trade. First off, I would love to hear them shoot down all Brook Lopez rumors, being that while he's injured there's no way the Nets get a fair deal. If anything, I would say trade the rights to Bojan Bogdonavic & Reggie Evans for a guy like Kyle Lowry or if possible, look for a first round pick. Of course, it's easier said than done, but we all know what Billy King is capable of. Like I said above, I don't think they NEED to make a trade-- just for the case of making a trade. With the chemistry continuing to evolve, this team may force people to forget the team they were back in December.
LF: They seemed to find their footing chemistry-wise so a major move might not be necessary. If they can get another rebounder for cheap since they don't play Reggie Evans that might worth looking into.