1. How many wins are the Nets going to have this season?
Net Income: 62-20, 10 more than the franchise record of 52, 13 more than the Brooklyn "record" of 49.
Tom Lorenzo: I'll put them at 52 wins. I think the most important thing for the Nets is to head into the playoffs healthy, as opposed to chasing any regular season win-total records. So, we'll see some guys rest down the stretch, which may result in the team not ending up as the top seed in the East.
Reed Wallach: 55 sounds like a good number, which will give them the number 3 seed in the East, behind the Heat and Bulls. I think if it weren’t for some chemistry issues in the beginning, or the team folding a few games on back-to-backs, the number would be closer to 60.
Dexter Henry: I think the Nets will start of slow this season as all the new pieces get acclimated with each other and Deron Williams gets more comfortable with the health of his ankles. With that being said I believe the team will be playing their best basketball towards the end of the season winning 53 games.
Ghoti: 56. Conventional wisdom is that the Nets will go the Spurs route and limit the minutes of older players to keep everyone fresh for the playoffs. Well, I remember the last time Kidd and Frank were around and they did no such thing. Kidd refused to play reduced minutes and Frank coached every game like a playoff game. I didn't like it then, and I don't think it's what should happen now - but that's who Kidd is and I think it will lead to an inflated win total. I'd have this number at 60+, but I am leery of injuries and hopeful that there will be a change of attitude around April when the reality of running out of gas in the playoffs starts to creep into the coach's mind.
Romy Nehme: 55. On paper, this team would turn last year's roster into an origami bird and chew it alive, but as with any team that outfits their training facility with cryogenic chambers, docking a few regular season wins in favor of post-season stamina is a no-brainer.
Dennis Velasco: Considering that this is a team that won 49 games last season and the new guys as a whole are significantly better than the crew of players leaving, I'll go with 55 wins with an upside of up to 60 victories. And, that's me assuming the chemistry takes a couple of months to tangibly reveal itself. If they do it from the get-go, which I don't think is realistic, this could be a special team. The pieces just fit so well, particularly with the starting five.
GMJigga: Inconsistent swings through November and December, undefined player roles, inconsistent rotations, and a dubious isolation offense will get you 49 wins. I've seen enough in preseason to believe that the amount of ulcers I suffer from nonsensical rotations will subside. There's enough veteran leadership here to figure out how to play together quickly. All the mental barriers that afflicted this team have seemingly been resolved, and this is before we talk about adding shooters to our SF and PF positions. I expect nothing less than 60 wins, and will hard-commit to 61 in case any other Nets Daily writer tries to match that, Price Is Right -style.
Brian Fleurantin: I have the Nets at 57 wins. The only real rough patch I foresee is the stretch from February 13 to March 7. They have a seven game road trip that starts in Chicago and ends in Milwaukee. West Coast trips are always hell on Eastern teams and when they come back to Brooklyn, they play Chicago and Memphis, two of the most physical teams in the league. I see them capturing the Atlantic Division and 3 seed, trailing (1) Miami and (2) Indiana.
2. Who will be the MVP of this team?
NI: Paul Pierce. The surprise of the season. Steadiness, professionalism, leadership and big numbers win out..
TL: Deron Williams will be the MVP. If he stays healthy, he'll be the motor that moves this team. That's not to say that this team can't win without him, but they are not a title contender if he's injured. You can't really say that about anyone else on this team, though maybe with Brook Lopez. I just think Williams is far too important to this team, which to me would mean he's the MVP when all is said and done. That, or, he's injured and we're all in group therapy together.
RW: Deron Williams. I think DWill is motivated after being such a mediocre player since coming to New Jersey/Brooklyn and his second half last season was just a preview of more to come. I think he finishes with about 18 points and 10 assists and returns to elite point guard status.
DH: The MVP of this team will be Kevin Garnett. His leadership, passion and defensive intensity will help transform the culture and identity of this team. No longer will the Nets be labeled a "soft" team and the #1 reason for that will be the impact of The Big Ticket.
G: If it's not Deron Williams, then it doesn't matter.
RN: The public-facing MVP of this team is Deron. It wasn't long ago that Williams said his vertical was leveling out at, oh, 3 inches. A couple of days later, he comes out and casually unloads three threes before anyone could count to three. I've felt good about the prospect of Williams returning to his pre-Swampland form every since he did a spinning flip off a diving board, looking as trim as ever and flashing two thumbs up to his Instagram fans.
But everyone knows that KG is the agent of change. A championship team always has one guy outside of the coach that every person on the team is afraid of disappointing, but who doesn't demean teammates into submission. In KG We Trust.
DV: On and off the court, it's going to be Kevin Garnett, a proven team culture changer. However, I'm going to be a bit different here and focus on results on the court, solely. That said, I think Andrei Kirilenko could end up being the most valuable because of his skill set. He's an excellent defender that you can put on the opposite team's best offensive player because of his length and ability to stick on the perimeter. And, unlike most defensive specialist, he can actually do a lot of things on offense really well. If he's healthy, particularly during the postseason, he'll be that ninja for the team - silent in regards to praise, but as sharp and important as anyone else on the team.
GJ: Can I say Lawrence Frank? Well, if I'm picking a player, it's got to be KG. Forget about what his stats say, it's Brook and Deron who will be filling up the boxscores. Rather, look at how Kevin has already revamped the culture of the team. Players are accountable, egos are in check, and everyone is playing smarter basketball so far.
BF: I'll say Kevin Garnett. In addition to all the savvy, experience, toughness, and whatever else you want to say about him, his effect on defense will be the most beneficial for the Nets. Even as Rondo and Bradley missed significant amounts of time, Garnett was able to anchor the Celtics defense and keep them afloat. Most impressively, Boston was 8 points better defensively per 100 possessions with Garnett in the game. He's still a great jump shooter and when you combine his defensive excellence with quality offensive production, he'll help the Nets be one of the op teams in the East.
3. Who will lead the team in scoring this season?
NI: Brook Lopez, more than 20 ppg and hopefully a few rebounds too.
TL: Good question. I think it's a tough choice between Williams, Paul Pierce and Brook Lopez. If I had to choose one, I'd pick Lopez. I just think he's going to be a beast in the paint now that the Nets will have four other guys on the court capable of keeping the defense honest. Plus, I expect Deron Williams to lead the league in assist, so I envision him focusing more on playmaking than scoring buckets.
RW: Brook Lopez will lead the team in scoring and be in the top 5 league-wide as well. It is clear that him weighing 290 pounds will make it nearly impossible for anyone to stop him coming down the lane. Kevin Garnett will open up the paint for Lopez and it will only lead to more easy buckets.
DH: Brook Lopez took a tremendous leap last season when he was named an All-Star. One can argue that he is the best Center in the Eastern Conference as there are very few Centers that can defend him. With Lopez able to score easily inside and out and Nets featuring his skill-set even more this season I see him leading the team in scoring.
G: Brook Lopez, and it won't be close.
RN: Can I add a per 36min asterisk to the question? No? Fine. Brook Lopez. As good as Deron is going to be, Lopez is the biggest beneficiary of this offseason's luxurious re-upholstering. Let's be honest, the man is an automaton, and given the way the ball was moving in the pre-season, Paul Pierce's track record for finding his big men and KG's knack for luring large bodies towards the perimeter, I expect Lopez' shooting chart to take on larger swaths of poppy red fall foliage colors.
DV: Brook Lopez. The motion offense should find him with a lot of opportunities in the post, especially since teams won't be able to double-down, or even triple-down, on Bropez - he's become that effective on offense. It's scary to think that his ceiling hasn't been reached and he could actually get a lot better because he'll have more open looks, relative to the personnel around him.
GJ: Deron and Joe no longer have to carry the load for their perimeter cohort, be it the starters or bench. I expect line up combinations with AK and Pierce to dilute their scoring, which has been the plan since Kidd gave his "10 assist" directive to Deron Williams. Meanwhile, Brook is undoubtedly the top-dog amongst the low post scorers, which isn't to say that KG won't get his touches away from the basket, but his work on defense and rebounding is a security blanket to allow Big Brook to do what he does best. No, not cookie dance, the other thing. Yes, score.
BF: Brook Lopez. He led the team in usage rate last season and was very, very successful on the inside (66 percent inside the restricted area). We should also remember he played over 900 minutes with Gerald Wallace & Reggie Evans, two offensive sinkholes that helped to limit Brooklyn's floor spacing. With the upgrades across the roster and with Kidd looking to speed the pace up (compared to last season) and with capable passers in the starting lineup, Brook should average over 20 points per game with highly efficient shooting to go along with it.
4. Which top Eastern Conference team will prose the biggest threat to the Nets?
NI: The Heat of course, but the Bulls are looking mean and snorting.
TL: Miami and Indiana. I know, I named two teams, but I think they're both right up there. The Heat will challenge the Nets because, well, LeBron, while the Pacers will be a tough out for the Nets because they have the size to counter Brooklyn. No other team in the East has that, which makes the Pacers dangerous.
RW: It’s close between Chicago and Miami, but I’ll take the prior. Chicago caused the Nets fits last May, and it will get only more difficult with Derrick Rose back. Despite the fact that the Nets got better, so did the Bulls, I still have nightmares about Joakim Noah nearly ripping his jersey off with the veins in his neck popping out after beating the Nets in game 7.
DH: Miami. The defending champs are a problem for any team in the NBA as they are top defensive team and tough to guard on the perimeter. They are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and with Brooklyn focused on winning a championship there is no doubt Miami is their biggest challenge this season.
G: The Heat are the obvious pick and the Pacers are the pick de rigueur amongst the hoops geek crowd, but I'm going with another hard-headed, ultra-competitive coach who wants to win every game at all costs. I'll go with the Chicago Bulls as the #1 seed in the East.
RN: The Bulls were a dormant beast least season; depleted, yet unrelenting, but ultimately toothless. This year is different. Rose has re-emerged from his rehabilitation tank, and the Bulls front office actually bothered with rounding out the roster after dumping all its ancillary assets last year (a blatant salary shedding move that betrayed the organization's bleak appraisal of the team's chances without Rose at the helm). They now have size, Rose, defense, Rose, and a counterpunch for every one of the Nets' strengths except for depth ... which we know hasn't stopped Thibs in the past.
DV: The Miami Heat. They're the champions. The two preseason blowouts mean zip, zero, zilch, nothing. They're one of the top teams in creating turnovers and turning them into fast break opportunities. If the Nets can limit turnovers, a tough order for a re-hauled team still attempting to build chemistry, they'll have a great opportunity to win against the Heat. However, you can never sleep on champions and LeBron James.
GJ: I'm going to venture out and say Chicago. Nets fans know they have a complete team and are well coached. Derrick Rose is a freak of nature who impresses me enough to fear them rather than the Miami Lebrons.
BF: Without any hesitation, the Miami Heat. Indiana, Chicago, and New York are all contenders too, but they aren't Miami. The Nets haven't beaten the Heat in a regular season game in 4 years and a LeBron James led team in five. Even though you could make the case that Brooklyn matches up favorably against the Heat, James is so dominant that he'd erase any advantage the Nets might have.
5. Where will the Nets finish this season?
TL: If I have to pick, right now, I'll say Eastern Conference Finals...but I can change my mind later, right? Right?! Anything other than an ECF appearance will be a disappointment.
RW: It’s too early to say championship, but if all breaks right it could happen, so I think they lose to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I think that as deep as the Nets are this year, LeBron James is still the best player on the planet and will be for the next several years. I’m not ruling out the championship, though, but I need to see if there is substance to all the hype.
DH: The Nets have the talent to get as far as the Eastern Conference finals this season. However, age and injuries are a huge concern for this team. Sure the roster is deep but will they be able to sustain health with their older players over the course of a season and into the playoffs. I am not on the championship bandwagon yet and it wouldn't shock me if they went to the ECF but I see a tough second round exit for this team.
G: I'll say they make it to the ECF and lose but leave a positive impression on everyone and are the favorites to win it all in 2015.
RN: Finals or nothing, baby.
DV: I'll drink the Brooklyn Kool-Aid and be as optimistic as possible and say, NBA title. However, if I abstained from drinking and form an opinion not under the influence of inebriation, I'll say they can beat the Heat for the Eastern Conference crown, but considering how much of a dogfight that would be physically and emotionally, they won't be able to beat whomever they face from the Western Conference and lose the championship series, ending up as runner-ups, which is the same as being the best loser. Who wants that?
GJ: A couple weeks ago I'd say ECF, but they've already come together so well, that I believe they can bring a trophy back to Brooklyn. Even if Deron Williams, KG, and Pierce go down with injuries, we'll still be able to float on a roster of Livingston, Terry/Anderson, Joe, AK, and Brook to maintain a high seeding. Come playoff time, we've got the advantage to last over a 7 game series. Hang on for the ride.
BF: I think the Nets make it to the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out to Miami. I'm not too concerned with the bottom of the Eastern Conference, so Round One should be relatively easy. After that, Indiana will give them a very physical series, but I see the Nets outlasting them in seven games. However, I don't see them making it past five games against the Heat.