1. How did the Nets get here?
Net Income: A lot of luck and some well-placed moves, like trading KG for Young and starting Brown next to D-Will. The combination helped free up the spacing and give Lopez and Williams a chance to earn their keep.
Tom Lorenzo: Really it was thanks to the play of three guys and one major factor: Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic and the lowly Eastern Conference. They received some complementary moments from Deron Williams, but the fact that Lopez was able to dominate, Young was steady, they got big moments from Bogdanovic and they play in the Eastern Conference are the reason why we're here today.
Reed Wallach: Luck, really. The Nets faced tough teams that were not at full strength down the stretch. Did the Nets turn a corner, or was it mere luck that the they beat out the other inferior teams? It doesn't matter because Brooklyn is still in and have Brook Lopez playing the best basketball of his career. Now, if the other two max contract players can get going consistently...
Anthony Puccio: The Eastern Conference; A pretty dominant front court of Brook Lopez & Thaddeus Young; Guys such as Alan Anderson & Bojan Bogdanovic finding their role and purposes with this team. Young guns like Markel have been huge as well. Somewhat changed the structure of this team.
Brian Fleurantin: They're here because the bottom of the Eastern Conference sucks. Mind you, they shouldn't apologize for that but still. I think that winning streak in mid March was key to them getting in. Throughout the year, they couldn't go on an extended winning streak and every time they had a chance to win their third straight game, they lost. The team deserves credit for staying close despite some spectacularly ugly moments, including losing every home game in January. This season could have gotten a lot uglier after January, but they were able to turn it around. If you're looking for a specific moment where you said to yourself "Maybe this team can make the playoffs," I'd go with the win in Indiana. They came off a triple overtime game the night before but still managed to beat the Pacers convincingly on their court.
Daniel LoGiudice: The futility of the Eastern Conference certainly helped. Other than that, the trade for Thaddeus Young was probably the biggest factor in Brooklyn's playoff run. He completely changed the way the Nets played. His athleticism injected some life into the starting rotation, his ability to run the floor helped Deron Williams run the offense and he created more space for Brook Lopez to operate in the paint. His stellar defense and the ability to cause turnovers created a more active Brooklyn D. He was the missing piece, the catalyst, for the Nets' success in the last couple of months.
Ghoti: The Nets got here by not trading away their best players and giving the fans a chance to watch some playoff games before the huge changes that will be coming in the next few years. They could have dismantled the team and saved a lot of money, but they didn't. In fact, they actually acquired a useful player and improved the roster. I don't know if the fans will come out to game three to throw some support behind their team, but I hope they do. It's playoff basketball, and it should be appreciated in whatever form it comes.
Larry Fleisher: Being in the right conference at the right time, playing reasonably well down the stretch (the Chicago and Milwaukee loss not withstanding). Brook Lopez's mostly dominant play, glances of steadiness from Deron Williams and what Thaddeus Young brought here, especially since he's better than I thought and I remember him being pretty good with the 76ers.
Thomas Duffy: A strong finish. They won nine of their last 13, so without that there would’ve been no chance at all. Also, a fortunate game against the Magic on the last night of the year. The team that was really trying to win…won.
2. Who was the regular season MVP?
NI: Other than Timmy Walsh? It had to be Brook Lopez who led the Nets through their late season winning streak. He's the one star on the team deserving of his huge contract.
TL: Brook Lopez was and it wasn't even close. He didn't have a perfect season, but we wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for Lopez and his play in the second half of the season.
RW: Brook Lopez is the clear call, so I'll take this space to talk about Thad Young. His shooting took a dip as the season progressed but that deadline move by Billy King was the best move in Brooklyn Nets history. Young has been able to blend into the Nets offense, one that has put an emphasis on getting into the paint, over the past month and has been a capable three-point shooter throughout. His defense has been welcomed and he loves to push the tempo along with Markel Brown. The Young acquisition turned Brooklyn's season on a dime.
But still, this roundtable doesn't happen without the big fella.
AP: Ya know, Brook Lopez.
BF: I'll go with Thaddeus Young. He came over in what might have been the best trade at the deadline and was a major improvement over Kevin Garnett. His presence was felt immediately and outside of missing those two games at the end of March, was someone the Nets could count on every night. He and Brook Lopez are a solid tag team and could provide some trouble for Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
DL: If Young was the spark, then Brook Lopez was the MVP. It's hard to pick the MVP because nobody truly put it together for a full season (at one point, Brooklyn's best player was Mason Plumlee, who's now a bench player). But during the most critical part of the season, Lopez was dominant and was one of the best players in the conference on a night-to-night basis. Without Lopez, the Nets would be preparing to send their lottery pick to Atlanta right about now.
G: Some contrarian will probably try to be clever and pick someone out of left field. That guy is wrong. It's Brook Lopez.
LF: Brook Lopez. He overcame the slow start, the criticism from Hollins and for the most part was a force down the stretch, especially when the pick-and-roll game was thriving with him and Williams.
TD: Lopez! Easily. He was the driving force behind that final push to get the team over the hump. While Bogdanovic deserves to be carried and fanned with leaves everywhere he goes from now till Sunday, the MVP is BroLo without a doubt.
3. Do the Nets stand any chance against the Hawks?
NI: Hawks are a machine. I think the Nets could steal one or two games, but most likely they go away meekly.
TL: No, not really. The Nets are 0-4 against the Hawks this season with an average margin of victory being 17 points in the Hawks' favor. It's not as if they even played them well in the regular season. Last year we could at least hang our hat on the Nets having swept the Heat in the regular season. Now, I just don't see how they can overcome such a disparity in talent and system in order to stand a chance.
RW: Nah. The Nets may steal a game due to the fact that they have some guys who can get hot real quick, but the Hawks were the best team in the East through early March. Brooklyn can steal a game, but this series won't be that close.
AP: There's always a chance. They have more playoff experience and plenty of talent. It's about living up to the potential and not folding under pressure. They'll have their hands very very full. But hey, ya never know. The rejuvenated Nets only lost by 3 in the last matchup against ATL.
BF: Yeah, I think they have a bit of a chance against the ATL. They're professionals with pride so they're not gonna feel overwhelmed by the moment. Also, you never know with injuries and if someone like Kyle Korver isn't at 100 percent, especially with Thabo out (thanks to the horrendous NYPD), it can swing the series.
DL: Not a snowball's chance in hell.
G: The Nets are a bad team that had a bad season. The Hawks won 60 games and had a dream season. So why would anyone hesitate? Well, because all the pressure is on the Hawks, and they haven't been tested in that position. Playoff pressure does funny things to some teams and it's a lot different being the heavy favorites vs. being the under-the-radar underdog the Hawks have traditionally been. If the Nets can get them off their game early and make them start to doubt themselves, this will become an interesting series. No one expects anything at all from the Nets and they will be loose no matter what the situation (and let's face it - they aren't the most intense team to begin with). So, yes, the Nets have a chance.
LF: They likely won't win but eight seeds have won before. Keep in mind that the only losing team to ever go deep in the postseason was the Seattle Supersonics, who won 39 games were seventh in the West, beat the Mavericks, the Rockets in six before losing to the Lakers. Or just cite to the history of recent years when a 38-win Hawks team took the Pacers to the brink. The differences between that and this is that the Pacers has massively struggled while the Hawks have been steady all season.
TD: Nah. They have a better shot against ATL than LeBron and Cleveland, though. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them win a game or two…
4. What will need to happen for a Nets upset?
NI: A late night team visit to a certain New York nightclub? Lopez will need to his 30-10-3 games of a week or two ago. Williams will have do much the same. Young just needs to be Young and Bogdanovic needs to revert to the Big Shot Bojan mentality that helped him win big games on the big stage in Europe. Do NOT underestimate what he did tonight. He did that in Europe all the time.
TL: Deron Williams and Joe Johnson of five years ago will have to show up instead of Williams and Johnson of today. Those guys can't be the mediocre players that we're seeing and have this team upset the Hawks. It's going to depend on them any life they have left in them in order for the Nets to topple the Hawks.
RW: Where the Nets need to thrive is from beyond the arc. The Nets are the 26 best team in the league shooting the three, and the Hawks are second. If the Nets can match the Hawks outside scoring, these games could come down to the bigs, where the red hot Brook Lopez needs to find a way to stay in front of the versatile Al Horford. Mason Plumlee needs to have a big series off the bench covering a guy like Horford.
AP: Brook Lopez will need to average 20+ points & 8+ rebounds. Nets can't have these 34% shooting nights the way they did against Milwaukee and Chicago most recently. Atlanta will score, and score a lot, so the Nets will need to find ways to defend the perimeter and put up 100+ points in every game in order to win.
BF: Deron Williams has to have the series of his life. I honestly felt that he was gonna have a good season at the beginning of the year, but injuries and his meh play have made me look like a fool. I have to think a little bit more on this, but I might put Bogdanovic in the starting lineup if I were Hollins. The Nets are going to need as much scoring as possible, especially if Williams or Johnson aren't shooting well. I'd keep the same nine man rotation, but I'm making sure Jarrett Jack and Deron Williams aren't on the court at the same time under any circumstances.
DL: Jeff Teague and Al Horford decide their true calling is music and form a hip-hop duo? Kyle Korver's arms spontaneously fall off? The apocalypse? In all seriousness, if the Nets wish to compete, they will need to rely on their defense. Atlanta depends on passing the ball to be successful on the offensive end. If the Nets can consistently disrupt the passing lanes and create turnovers, they could have a shot at an upset, albeit a long shot.
G: The Nets need to split the first two games in Atlanta. If they can do that, and the odds are not terrific that they will, things will seem very scary for the Hawks.
LF: Besides Brook Lopez, Deron Williams will have to play well as will Joe Johnson. The Nets also need to employ the active hands tactics they had under Jason Kidd to stop or interrupt the ball movement of the Hawks. Do that and perhaps they can more in the break than potentially wasting possessions in halfcourt sets.
TD: …But I’ll give them a faint chance if Joe Johnson and Deron Williams take their games to another level and Lopez keeps the S on his chest and Bogdanovic shoots the lights out and another Hawks player breaks a limb.
NI: Hawks in 5.
TL: Hawks in five. Look, I'd love to be able to say that the Nets can knock off the Hawks, but they haven't given me any reason to give them a fighting chance. I hope I'm wrong. More basketball in Brooklyn is a great thing.
RW: Hawks in 5. Don't worry, just be happy they are here.
AP: Hawks in 6. They're just too good on the offensive side and Mike Budenholzer is a phenomenal coach.I do believe the Nets will steal one of the first two in Atlanta.
BF: Hawks in six (I really want this series to go to seven games because the more Sir Foster we get, the better). The Nets will give them a fight for most of the series (they're good for getting blown out of the gym in at least one game tho), but Atlanta is too good to lose even with my fears of picking the Hawks to ever do anything successful. They have a tendency to mess up at inopportune times.
DL: I don't think they'll get swept, but I doubt they'll win more than one game. The Nets came within three points of beating Atlanta last week and proved they can compete with this team. But this is the playoffs, and the Nets have been way too inconsistent to win any series, especially against one of the best teams in the East. Hawks in five.
G:The Nets are not a good team. They aren't well coached. They don't have much leadership. They spent a lot of the season being upset with each other and the coach. Even with all the signs that tell me that this should be a competitive series, it is very hard to visualize these Nets being able to take advantage of those factors and make the Hawks sweat. This series isn't really about how the Nets play. Their ceiling is pretty low. It's about the Hawks. The Nets will have to force them to beat themselves. My guess is they won't.
Hawks in 5.
LF: As much as we'd all want the Nets to win, I think it would be surprising if they did. They won't get swept and could possibly go past five games. So with that in mind, let's go with Hawks in six.
TD: Hawks in 5. A Lopez explosion gives Brooklyn a game or two, but this won’t really be a series.