No team in the league made a bigger splash than Brooklyn did this offseason. The trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry started the market off with a bang and completely changed the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn now has a collection of talent — and the expectations that come with it — that most around the NBA would salivate over. They also have a new head coach in Jason Kidd, who the Nets hope can transfer his cerebral nature on the court to the bench. There’s only one measure of success for Brooklyn this season, and that’s a championship, but not every “super-team” comes out on top. The Nets will need to learn how to fit these pieces to remove Miami as the reigning kings in the East.
Deron Williams re-signed with Brooklyn two seasons ago because they convinced him that they could put a championship caliber roster around him. The Nets have made good, and now it’s up to Williams. While his tenure in Brooklyn has been impressive, he hasn’t been the all-world point guard fans witnessed a few years back in Utah. Williams can score and distribute with the best ones in the league, and while an elite supporting cast may take down some of his PPG, his ability to run the offense will be crucial for a team that can win just about any game if he can get the ball in the right place at the right time to the Nets plethora of offensive weapons.
Backing up Williams will be Shaun Livingston, a solid distributor who should be able to feed Brooklyn’s well armed second unit. A former high draft pick whose career has been beset by injuries, Livingston fits well as a playmaker off the bench.
Second-year man Tyshawn Taylor is a talented, but unrefined project the Nets have the luxury of bringing along slowly.
Joe Johnson’s numbers took a dip after coming from Atlanta, where he was the primary offensive option, but that’s to be expected coming to a Nets team with more punch. Thus far this season, with Pierce and co. coming in, Johnson’s average could take another step back. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the most effective off-guards around. Johnson can score from a variety of locations and provides a well-rounded game that could flourish if Brooklyn can establish an offensive pecking order early on.
Age may be catching up with Terry a little, but he remains one of the NBA’s most potent “instant offense” players around. Terry will get to utilize his strengths with Brooklyn, coming off the pine and attacking defenses already tired from guarding a virtual all-star unit of starters.
The Nets further bolstered their depth with the addition of journeyman Alan Anderson. Anderson can play both the wing positions, is a solid defender, and competent from the beyond the arc. His presence will help a Nets team that is old, particularly on the wings, brace through nagging injuries and provide necessary rest for its veterans.
It will be interesting to see how Paul Pierce adjusts after a long career of being the obvious number one option on his team. Even while being part of some significantly talented Celtics rosters, Pierce has never been part of an arsenal like this. Even in his mid-30s, he is still one of the top small forwards in the game and could be the Nets first option at the end of games. Pierce will also be an upgrade with his defensive and rebounding abilities.
The signing of Andrei Kirilenko raised some eyebrows around the league, not because he isn’t a great pickup for the team, but because he turned down major money and a starting role in Minnesota only to take a lot less to come off the bench for Brooklyn. Whatever the reason, Kirilenko is here, and he forms a formidable duo with Terry in leading a Nets bench that’s chock full of talent. Kirilenko is a well-rounded forward, capable on both ends of the floor, and doesn’t need to be too involved in the offensive game plan to be effective. With Pierce getting up in years, expect him to play early and often in the Brooklyn rotation.
European import Tornike Shengelia has some intriguing talent, but may not get much of a chance to display it unless injuries hit.
Garnett may not be the overwhelming force he was a few years back, but he is definitely still a player to be reckoned with. One of the game’s toughest and most versatile big men, Garnett can make opponents pay with his elite defense, ability to score in a variety of ways, and veteran savvy that few in the game can match. In his late 30s, the Nets have to be leery about playing him too many minutes, but with such a deep rotation, it should not be a significant issue.
Reggie Evans’ abilities as a rebounder and defender allowed him to take minutes, and eventually the staring power forward spot, away from incumbent Kris Humphries last year. The arrival of Garnett pushes Evans back to the bench, but he’ll remain an important component.
The Nets had hoped that Mirza Teletovic would give the team a stretch four off the bench last season, but he saw little playing time. With Garnett and Evans logging most of the minutes this year, it’s hard to see how Teletovic’s opportunities will increase.
Brook Lopez elevated himself to one the league’s top offensive centers last season. The new arrivals from Boston may cut into his points a bit, but the Nets would be lax to not continue feeding Lopez in the post for high percentage shots. The knock of Lopez’ game is his lack of rebounding, though Garnett should help in that area. His defense isn’t great, but it has made improvements.
Brooklyn had a real find last year with amnesty casualty Andray Blatche. Blatche averaged double figures in limited minutes last season, and though his defensive prowess is no better than Lopez, the two give the Nets a scoring element at the five that almost no team in the league can match.
Rookie Mason Plumlee could be a wise pickup from draft day this season. He may not earn a lot of time early with a clogged roster of veterans, but he has both the skill and polish that could allow him to develop into a sound post player.
Looking at the roster the Nets have assembled, the sky is the limit. But it will take time for this collection of marquee players to jell and not every team turns out as good on court as they are on paper. Brooklyn has the firepower to take the East from the Heat this year, whether they do or not will come down to continuity and injuries.