Jul 18, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; From left Paul Pierce , Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry during a press conference to introduce them as the newest members of the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets: Are They Championship Contenders?


 

It’s hard to believe that despite the fact that the Brooklyn Nets only entered the NBA last year, they were still capable of being competitive against division opponents in the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.  While the Brooklyn Nets had an underwhelming post-season existence against an injury ridden Chicago Bulls roster, it was clear that this team needed more pieces to truly reach its potential.  Although Brooklyn relinquished several key players such as Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace along with giving up several future first round draft picks, what they got in return for their sacrifices should suffice.  When all was said and done, the Nets received several proven veterans that they believe will help them become kings of their division.  The acquisitions of small forward Paul Pierce and shooting guard Jason Terry should provide the Nets with a more fluid offense that is capable of moving the ball effectively while conveying a form of level headed consistency. However, while these players are exceptional at playing their individual positions, the Nets received one more iconic athlete that could make them a defensive force to be reckoned with.

While it can’t be denied that Kevin Garnett has already been through his best years, he has still proven to be a physically dominant force on the court that can both score accurately and play the glass effectively to garner crucial rebounds.  Although Kris Humphries proved to be a solid defensive player in his own right, his lack of a consistent offensive skill set is what separates him from Garnett.  During the regular season, Humphries was an adequate rebounder (5.6 rebounds per game) and an average shooter (44.8% during the regular season).  Although Humphries’ improved slightly to 45.2% shooting during the post season, his overall effectiveness and physical presence became obsolete as he struggled to garner rebounds (3.3 rebounds during post season) while his already underwhelming offensive poise slowly began to deteriorate (4.4 PPG in the post season).

Yet, in Garnett’s case, his numbers and innate drive only improved as the regular season progressed into the playoffs.  During the regular season, Garnett was a balanced power forward that could both score consistently in even the most high pressure of game time situations (14.8 PPG in regular season) while also attacking the paint with a steely eyed focused determination in order to garner important rebounds (7.8 RPG during the regular season).  Even though Garnett’s numbers pale in comparison to how he played in his prime, his accuracy (49.6% shooting in the regular season) and dominant physical presence, especially in the playoffs, give him a substantial leg up over other forwards that lack the championship resume to uplift their team to a new level.

Even with the Nets newfound veteran core that is more than capable of taking this team to new heights within their conference, they still have to contend with younger and more physically adept teams that are looking to make a splash themselves.  Between the youthfulness of the Indiana Pacers and the deep, balanced bench of the Miami Heat, the Nets have an arduous journey ahead of them that could give them some trouble especially in the second half of the regular season.  Although Pierce, Terry and Garnett are proven champions who can rise above harsh criticisms, the longevity of the their careers could prove to be a double edged sword.  On the one hand, their combined experience allows them to utilize a more strategic and methodical approach that emphasizes precise ball movement over high octane shooting.  However, at the same time, what the Nets now have in experience they lose in endurance and stamina.  If the Nets want to compete at an exuberantly high level, they’ll need to have a solid bench that can provide a temporary yet reliable relief to their aging veterans.

While the Nets may not be the favorites to win in the NBA Finals come this season, their newly acquired star-studded squad definitely allows them to effectively regroup while they flesh out their roster with younger players allowing them to create a more secure legacy.  Until then, the Nets have an intriguing short term plan which should further help the Eastern Conference become much more competitive than it has been in some time.    

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