NBA Season Preview: Brooklyn Nets Team Preview

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2014-15 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST

Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors |Division Preview
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Hornets | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview

Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview

Top 10 by Position: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Top 10 Lists: Sixth Men | Sophomores | X-Factors | Rookies | Games to Watch | Comeback | Contenders | Breakouts

Articles: Assessing the Cavaliers Trio | Important Season for James Harden | Return of Paul George? | Trading Rajon Rondo | Are the Nuggets This Season’s Suns? | NBA’s Best Starting Five | NBA’s Worst Starting Five

Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 PGs | Top 10 SGs | Top 10 SFs | Top 10 PFs | Top 10 Cs | Sleepers, Studs, and Sinkholes | Analyzing the Schedule | BMF Mock Draft | Cavs and Cav-Nots | Like A Bosh | Rajon Injury Impact

Media Day: Clippers | Hawks | Kings | Knicks | Magic | Mavericks | Nets

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

BMF-BKN

Baller Mind Frame is collaborating with SB Nation’s NBA Previews! Look out for links for every team from some of the best blogs out there that SB Nation offers. This first part is Baller Mind Frame’s preview, but below that, you’ll see our answers to questions put forth by SB Nation.

Most Important Player: Deron Williams
D-Will has been under non-stop scrutiny as signing a high-level contract is wont to bring. Arguably, when Williams joined the (then-New Jersey) Brooklyn Nets, he was one of the best point guards in the league, if not the top point guard because of questions regarding Chris Paul‘s durability. However, now the tables have turned with Deron coming off ankle surgeries, which will hopefully stave off anymore time off the court, a ringing reminder of how his time with the Brooklyn Nets has not exactly been as many wanted, including D-Will himself.

Even at age 30, Williams still has time to produce in his prime years and get back to being one of the more dominant lead guards in the Association, of which there are now many. If health allows, D-Will can stand out above the crowd, especially if reports are correct in head coach Lionel Hollins checking with what works best for his star point guard, and implementing some of the offensive sets from the Utah Jazz that D-Will ran with stellar proficiency. At the Brooklyn Nets Media Day, D-Will was in good spirits and looked determined to get back to his former ways of performance. If his ankles agree, Deron Williams could not only be an NBA All-Star again, but one of the leaders for a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.

X-Factor: Brook Lopez
Last season, Lopez’s time on the hardwood was severely limited because of lingering foot issues. This offseason, Bropez had reconstructive surgery so that pressure is alleviated from the outside of his foot. There’s no telling how successful the surgery was until he actually gets on the court against real opponents where Lopez is not restricted in any way. But, if he is healthy (the first X-factor here with Brook), how will he fit in with the Nets’ current personnel?

When he went down last season, the Nets had to change their offense since there was no longer a consistent and real post threat. So, Brooklyn became a slashing sort of team that attacked the rim as much as possible, as well as a hustling team that created turnovers hoping to bank on that change of possession. After the turn of the calendar year, it worked. Really well. Naturally, being in the media capital of the world, as well as possessing a hardcore group of Brooklyn Nets fans, the question came up in regards to how Lopez would have fit in with the team, and that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that he wasn’t on the floor. Even calls for a trade when Brook proved that he could play again rose from this brimming stew of wanting to improve and fulfill owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s vow to win a title in five years from when he first took control. However, considering his youth, scoring ability, and, being honest, lesser value in light of his injuries, you don’t trade Brook Lopez.

Lopez returns with many questions, but it’s highly possible that his play in the post, his mere presence, and willingness to adjust and learn, will provide all the right answers the Nets and Nets fans are looking for.

Rotations: At Media Day, Coach Hollins said that his fifth starter would likely be a guard. Williams will be at the 1, Kevin Garnett at the 4, Lopez at the 5, and what had many reporters raising their eyebrows, Joe Johnson at the three. There was chatter that there is a good possibility that the newly-signed Bojan Bogdanovic could be that fifth starter, which would be somewhat of a surprise when you consider his non-existent NBA experience, but the organization does think very highly of him.

Jarrett Jack could be a great possibility here as well, but his experience and ability to lead a team could be more maximized coming off the bench, as his recent success had him more of a sixth man role. If there is a switch in plan regarding Johnson being at the 3, if he’s actually put at the 2-spot, it seems like a common sense move to then have Andrei Kirilenko starting at the small forward position and be that “glue guy” every team needs. Plus it seems that Kirilenko wants to play more, especially compared to last season, and his skill set and years of playing in the NBA and Europe have certainly earned him that spot if given to him. However, he’ll also need to make sure his nagging back issues are manageable.

What Needs To Go Right: Health and buying into Hollins’ coaching style. The first one is pretty much up in the air as it is for every NBA team, but particularly for the Nets. The second one seems like it’s basically a done deal, but we’re still at the beginning of Hollins’ tenure.

For the Nets, their potential health issues reside in two of their core three members with Williams coming off ankle surgery and Lopez, foot surgery. At Media Day, both looked really good and in shape as they have been rehabbing and attacking that aspect of their comebacks in a very serious manner. Lopez looks like he’s lost a lot of weight without sacrificing too much muscle, which should bode well for any foot pressure the daily grind of being an NBA player brings. Williams seems to have this steeliness to get back to doing what he knows, and dare anyone to knock the chip off his shoulder. However, it’s imperative for both to stay healthy to produce as they once did and become a threat from their respective positions.

It’s almost a guarantee that Hollins will be a quote machine, especially in the New York market where things are translated and molded in different degrees and manner. At Media Day, he came off as candid and was well-received by the media. It appears to be the same with his players. Hollins seems willing (maybe almost wanting?) to adjust. The only consistent thing that he will demand from his players is effort. To grind hard, much like his days with the Memphis Grizzlies. And, to be honest, this approach is something that every Brooklynite, in particular, understands and wants from their team. Under Hollins, that should happen. And, if there is this harmony of Grit and Grind, the North version, the Nets will be more successful than previous iterations of this Brooklyn team.

It’s Really Bad If: Both D-Will and Bropez can’t stay healthy, Garnett shows his age more significantly this season, Mason Plumlee plateaus in his development, the new head coach causes conflict, of the bad kind, on and off the court, and the new shooters, Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev, can’t get perimeter makes consistently.

Bold Prediction: The Brooklyn Nets earn a top-four seed. As mentioned in our Nets Media Day post, the team is feeling less pressure relative to last season’s expectations and big trade splashes. They seem a lot looser, but more focused on trying to figure out how all the pieces will fit in Hollins’ approach, which has been flexible in regards to what type of offensive system will be played, but never the type of effort that should be given. There’s a solid core of players and a mix of youth and experience. There are enough stars and role players that the Nets will perform past general expectations and get home court advantage in the postseason, as well as take a series or two.

PLAYER PROFILES

Alan Anderson, SG
Strengths: Very good defender and perimeter shooter; a “3D” player that should excel for Hollins.
Weaknesses: Can overcommit on defense, a streaky shooter.
Season Prediction: If anyone can fit the Grit and Grind mold, it’s going to be Anderson. Tony Allen Lite?

Bojan Bogdanovic, SG/SF
Strengths: Ability to score and proving as much in his small sample size versus NBA teams during exhibitions. Experienced with a decade of professional basketball and only 25 years old.
Weaknesses: Obviously, Bogdanovic has never played in the NBA where the game is a lot faster and a whole different level when you consider the number of games and travel.
Season Prediction: Will get his opportunity to burn, both playing on the hardwood and scorching nets. He’ll struggle in the beginning, but begin to get into a flow towards the end of the season.

Markel Brown, PG/SG
Strengths: Can jump out of the gym! Excellent athleticism.
Weaknesses: Ball handling and creating for others, which is kind of needed as a point guard.
Season Prediction: Will stay on the bench, only getting up during blowouts.

Kevin Garnett, PF/C
Strengths: Experience and wisdom in plentiful amounts. Tangible determination to improve from last season’s obvious decline in production.
Weaknesses: All of the above also means that Garnett is getting too old in basketball years, but that’s obvious.
Season Prediction: A shot of rejuvenation.

Jorge Gutierrez, PG
Strength: Solid all-around player with good BBIQ.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t excel at any one thing and there may not be a place for him if the Nets like a player on waivers better, and could be used in a trade because of his particular contract.
Season Prediction: Will move on to another team and do well enough to stick in the NBA, something I think he’ll do for years.

Jarrett Jack, PG/SG
Strength: Can create for others, as well as for himself. Able to make the right decision. The veteran every team wants.
Weaknesses: Not necessarily a starter, even though he has starter ability. For some reason, he just excels off the bench.
Season Prediction: Becomes a strong Sixth Man of the Year candidate once again.

Cory Jefferson, PF
Strength: Lean, athletic, and can stick jumpers with a bit of range to the three-point line.
Weaknesses: Needs more muscle to bang down low in the NBA.
Season Prediction: Will soak up playing with all of the Nets bigs and could be a rotation player … just not this season.

Joe Johnson, SG/SF
Strengths: Able to create his own shot, hit clutch buckets, and stick triples. Also able to make that extra pass when necessary.
Weaknesses: Do people still bring up his contract? Is that still a thing? If it is, well, then that. But, I don’t know that anyone cares anymore since it’s nearing its end soon enough.
Season Prediction: Will at least match last season’s production and that’s only going to help. It’ll be interesting to see just how well he does with a healthy Brook Lopez making defenses play down in the post, creating opportunities for Joe Jesus!

Sergey Karasev, SG
Strengths: Making it rain with jumpers. Youth with solid international experience.
Weaknesses: Needs more muscle. At Media Day, Kirilenko said that Karasev’s upside is Manu Ginobili. Well, Karasev better get to work non-stop on that.
Season Prediction: Will get some spot minutes each game. He’ll show some flashes of offensive proficiency.

Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF
Strengths: Versatility, BBIQ, and ability to defend on the perimeter and post.
Weaknesses: Seems a step slower with all of the nagging injuries, and it’s tough to judge his morale since he wants to be on the court, and justifiably so. Will he just sit back like he did last season when he was injured if he stays healthy?
Season Prediction: Will get more playing time than last season and be a valuable sixth or seventh man in the rotation.

Brook Lopez, C
Strengths: Low-post scoring, desire to get better, ability to hit from the perimeter, and improved rim protection.
Weaknesses: Rebounding. Helping too much on defense that takes him out of the post area where he should be. Health is a concern.
Season Prediction: Bropez will stay relatively healthy and make the NBA All-Star team, as well as finish as a 20/8/2 blocks player.

Mason Plumlee, PF
Strengths: Athleticism, leaping ability, FIBA World Cup experience, desire to get better, and having Garnett around to teach him.
Weaknesses: Limited offensively, although Hollins said that Plums will work on post moves, as well as his free throws in anticipation of drawing fouls.
Season Prediction: Plumlee continues his development and becomes a significant rotation player.

Marquis Teague, PG
Strengths: Speed.
Weaknesses: Just hasn’t quite found his niche in the NBA. While his speed is valuable, it only makes him one-dimensional if he doesn’t get up to speed with his playmaking ability.
Season Prediction: Teague will do exactly the same as he did last season—sit a lot.

Mirza Teletovic, SF/PF
Strengths: Hitting jumpers from everywhere, playing the stretch-4 role perfectly. Constant effort. Trolling LeBron James.
Weaknesses: Not great at anything else other than shooting, but because of said effort, he’s at least decent at other things.
Season Prediction: Excellent role player, able to perform and produce more if necessary, for example, in case of injury to someone else where Mirza would need to start.

Deron Williams, PG
Strengths: Still in his prime, albeit the tail end of it. Has shown the ability to dominate when healthy.
Weaknesses: Coming back from ankle surgery. Clearly has a chip on his shoulder to prove his doubters wrong, but unfortunately, he may be one of them.
Season Prediction: Stays healthy and performs at a high level with an established selfless coach that does it old school, something that he hasn’t had since Jerry Sloan.

SB NATION BROOKLYN NETS CONTRIBUTION

Last Year’s Record: 44-38
Key Losses: Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche
Key Additions: Bojan Bogdanovic, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
Finally getting Bogdanovic to come over to play in the NBA. After years of teasing, Nets fans will finally get to see if all of the hype will come close in production. It looks like he’ll get the opportunity to start, so if he can come meet even 70 percent of relatively high expectations, it’ll be a good thing. Another solid move was acquiring Jarrett Jack, who could help down the stretch of games and the season. He’s a gritty veteran with heart. Hiring Lionel Hollins, an established coach that doesn’t take any crap, should prove to be a great thing for this nice mix of veterans and youth.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
A solid core three of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, who will be around each other for another season. I say “be around” because both D-Will and Bropez have been out for significant enough time during the trio’s tenure together in Brooklyn. There are also some really excellent players coming off the bench like Jack, Mirza Teletovic, Mason Plumlee, and Andrei Kirilenko. There’s solid depth here in Brooklyn.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Health issues. Possibly rebounding, but Hollins will have the team focusing on getting boards as a part of the Grit and Grind attitude he’ll surely bring with him from Memphis. But, mostly, the Nets’ enemy will be any health issues, both to a small degree and one that impacts the whole season.

4. What are the goals for this team?
Stay healthy, figure out an offensive scheme that works to everyone’s strengths, and stay healthy.

Check out SB Nation blog, NetsDaily’s Nets season preview.

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Dennis Velasco (AKA DV) has contributed a lot of content throughout the Internet over the past several years - SB Nation, ESPN/TrueHoop, SI, SLAM, Yahoo! Sports, BuzzFeed and The New York Times Company among others. He is also an award-winning short film producer, as well as a screenwriter. DV is the Publisher of The BMF.
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