When the then New Jersey Nets traded for point guard Deron Williams nearly two years ago, they made a bold statement to their neighbors in the league, the New York Knicks. Having already finalized plans to move the franchise to the newly constructed Barclays Center in Brooklyn, securing the All-NBA point guard also secured future relevancy for the organization. Of course they still needed to clear the hurdle of signing him to a long term contract, which they did, but it opened the door for other players to see the Nets as a desirable place to play. Fast forward to today and the Nets have continued to cause chaos for their inter-borough rival. Hosting NCAA games, mega concerts, the MTV Music Awards, and even luring the NBA Draft away from Madison Square Garden are all prime examples of how the Nets have become a real thorn in the Knicks side. Throw in the recent off-season transactions they have made, and this becomes one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. But have they leap frogged the Knicks in terms of Championship contention is the real question. Arguments for both sides can be made, and this is a look into why Brooklyn fans have reason to celebrate. This is how I grade the off-season moves of the Brooklyn Nets.
Inexperienced Coach, or Over-experienced Leader?
When Jason Kidd announced his playing days were over, no one expected him to be a main factor for the 2013-14 season. His curiosity into the vacant Nets head coaching position appeared more fantasy than anything else. But hours later there he was, the former Knick, at a press conference being announced as the new head coach of the Nets. Many have argued he is too inexperienced, too irresponsible, and not the right fit. If high moral standards were always kept in sports, we wouldn’t recognize them as watchable entertainment. Kidd’s off the court issues have never affected him when it comes to games, in any capacity. He has been a winner everywhere he has gone, transforming all of those around him into better players. You can argue that not being on the court will affect his ability to continue this trend, however, it was his placement of players and instructions that led to success. That is what coaching is. He has also proved to be fearless and a tireless worker throughout his career, which has won him the respect of his peers. His resume may not include head coaching experience, but he does have what it will take to lead this team to victories.
Determination: Solid move by the Nets that will pay dividends.
Stars Past Their Prime, or Still With Something To Prove?
The buzz on Draft night, that the Nets were on the verge of trading for forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce of the Celtics, was almost incomprehensible. The two have been the face of the Celtics, sworn enemies, and are both potential Hall of Famers. For the Nets to be able to acquire them without sacrificing any of their core was astounding. The dismantling of Boston’s NBA team almost assures they will not be in playoff contention for years to come. In essence, the Nets killed two birds with one stone by improving their own club and weakening a competitor. While Garnett and Pierce both played extremely well last season, most notably in the playoffs, both are considered to be aging and near the end of their careers. In Brooklyn, they will not need to be what they were for the Celtics. They can be complimentary pieces to a line-up that already includes Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, yet they have the potential to carry the load on any given night. More importantly, they have tons of playoff experience and both want to finish their careers with a companion for the lone ring they won with the Celtics. There will be some turbulence during the regular season, but that is not what they were brought here for and they will thrive in the playoffs.
Determination: Giving two first round draft picks to obtain two future Hall of Famers is never a bad idea.
Talent At The Top, But The Bench Bottoms Out?
Most agree that the Nets have a dynamic starting five, which has led to questions about their bench. The talent level has been questioned, but mostly its depth. Also included in the trade with Boston was former NBA champion Jason Terry. The combo guard can handle duties at the point, as well as stretch the floor with his three point shooting ability. Veteran do-it-all forward Andrei Kirilenko also was signed, for the mini mid-level exception. His size, versatility, and relentlessness may prove to be invaluable, especially in potential playoff matchups against LeBron James. Power forward/center Andray Blatche gave solid production off the bench last season, teamed with forward Reggie Evans, and both remain in the mix. Rookie forward Mason Plumlee, of Duke, has the potential to shock many people and go down as the steal of the draft. His hustle, athleticism, ability to rebound, block shots, and penchant for the highlight reel dunk, will be electric. In my opinion, he strongly resembles what David Lee was coming out of college, only he is a better defender. These players alone give the Nets a ten man rotation, and that’s not including point guard Shaun Livingston who has resurrected his career in recent years. You could argue that the Nets second unit alone may be better than some other starting fives. All this will provide quality competition as playing time will have to be earned.
Determination: One of the deepest benches in the league, consisting of savvy veterans and an explosive rookie.
My overall view for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2013-14 season is that they will fall one game short of reaching the NBA Finals. In recent memory we have seen collections of talent fail in their first years together, across all sports. The NBA East is loaded this year, so reaching the Conference Finals should be seen as a success. I think Jason Kidd will finish in the top three for Coach of the Year votes, as he will lead the team to the number two seed. I also expect Mason Plumlee to challenge for Rookie of the Year honors, but will fall short since he will not receive starters minutes. The team standing in their way will once again be the Chicago Bulls, and they will bury their rival Knicks in tabloid headlines. There is a long way to go between now and then, but there is a lot to be excited about in Brooklyn.
Andy ‘Peoplez’ Singleton works as a Firefighter for the City of New York, and writes sports commentary in his spare time. As a former Division 1 college basketball player, AAU basketball coach in Brooklyn, and NYC night club promoter, he has seen more than the average eye. Catch his unique take on the sports world every Sunday at MajorLeagueFantasySports.com and follow him on Twitter @PeoplezPen