2012-13 W-L: 49-33
New Faces: Jason Kidd (Head Coach, New York), Alan Anderson, Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry
New Places: P.J.Carlesimo (Interim Coach), Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace (Boston), C.J. Watson (Indiana), D.J. White (waived)
Drafted: Mason Plumlee (22)
Brooklyn made a few minor moves this summer, I guess. It fortified its bench by picking up Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston to replace the departed Keith Boga —
Alright, seriously. The Nets certainly had the most eventful summer of any team this side of Houston, and maybe even including Houston. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that P.J Carlesimo wouldn’t be brought back once his charges fell to a shorthanded Bulls team in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Hiring Jason Kidd to replace him, though, was a pretty big surprise. We all know how much Mikhail Prokorov loves to needle that team across the
river bridge, and hiring New York’s big VETERAN LEADERSHIP free agent signing from last summer as his new head coach is only the most recent thorn-in-the-side gesture.
Kidd will have plenty of help on the bench with Lawrence Frank and approximately 49 other assistant coaches, and while I’m not sold that his lack of head coaching experience will be too much of a detriment, it’s certainly possible that the awkward transition from player to coach could prove, well, awkward. Kidd will be coaching players he was very recently playing against, many of whom have been in the league for a long, long time. Kidd has been one of the most respected basketball minds in the league pretty much since he entered it, but playing with Deron Williams on Team USA is a lot different than coaching him.
Luckily, Kidd and Williams are good friends. They even have a bit of a mentor-mentee relationship, if you believe the stuff you read. Kidd has already made it known that he wants Williams to get back to averaging double-digit assists, which seems a fairly silly benchmark to set considering how much pace and teammate tendencies factor into assist numbers (and how the age of the roster seems to beg for a slow-paced system which would artificially depress counting stats), but it’s also not an outlandish one. Williams has so many weapons at his disposal now that it seems almost impossible for his assist numbers not to be gaudier than they were his last few seasons with the Nets.
The firepower on this team is SERIOUS. The Nets sported a top-10 offense last season even with black holes like Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace soaking up a ton of minutes; they should easily do the same this year, and could vault into the top-5 or even threaten the top spot overall. Williams will run the show, of course, but the low post play of Lopez, the defense-stretching jumper of Garnett, the herky-jerky all-around game of Pierce (and Kirilenko) and Joe Johnson-ness of Joe Johnson should prove too much for even the staunchest defensive units to slow down on most nights.
The problems for Brooklyn last year were on the defensive end, where it ranked 18th in points allowed per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. The addition of Garnett alone should change that. KG is basically a top 5-10 defense by himself, as he proved throughout his tenure in Boston, where the Celtics were an average of more than 5.0 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than off. Kirilenko is another fantastic defender to add to the mix, and he will also serve as the swing guy between small and big lineups depending on who he’s spelling at any particular time. Play him at small forward with Garnett and Lopez in the front court, and that’s a very big, very strong defensive unit. Play him at the four with Lopez or Garnett, and both Pierce and Johnson, and that’s a lithe, versatile unit that can still defend and has better offensive spacing.
The other bench guys – Livingston, Terry, Anderson – leave something to be desired on the defensive end, but they all have their draws. Livingston is a solid, if unspectacular backup point guard. Terry is annoying, but he’s hit some big shots in his day, and he’s liable to do it again, even if he struggled last year. Anderson has never met a shot he didn’t like, but he did shoot 39% from three the year before last and topped 40% once before (also, Raptors fans like him wayyyyy too much).
What the Nets’ season will ultimately come down to, in all likelihood, is whether or not they can stay healthy and who they get matched up against in the playoffs. KG, Pierce, Terry and Kirilenko are getting up there in age, so it’ll be important to manage their minute loads to keep them fresh for the stretch run. Brooklyn mortgaged a lot of its future to bring the Boston guys to town, but like the Nets themselves, we’ll worry about that at a later date. For now, this is a team that has likely vaulted itself into serious contenderdom, and that’s a hell of a way to spend your summer.