Russian billionaire and Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is so desperate for a championship that if his team doesn't win one soon, he's said he'll "punish" himself by finally getting married. Take that for what it's worth, but Prokhorov is not unlike other owners trying to escape the NBA's middle.
By trading away three future first-round draft picks on draft night in June, he brought next year’s team a star-studded roster. It's also the league's oldest starting lineup, and he's possibly mortgaged the Nets' future. But then this is a win-now league.
Let us examine how Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez will fare being flanked by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- and, of course, how recently minted head coach Jason Kidd fits in as well.
1. There are five stars and one ball.
One of the trickiest things for Kidd to consider through an 82-game season will be how to generate enough offensive opportunities for five guys who all love to score and who all can go for 25-plus. Williams -- if he finally comes into camp in shape -- should benefit the most from Kidd, who has already discussed how excited he is to work with the mercurial point guard. Remember, the two played together on Team USA. Garnett should be OK deferring to Lopez, but both Johnson and Pierce are ball hawks fueled by the chance to score. Both took over 14 shots per game last season, and both are at the point in their careers when getting to the rim consistently is simply not an option anymore. This brings us back to Williams, who will need to approach the new roster with a true facilitating mindset for the first time in a long time.
2. Marked-down minutes?
How does Kidd limit minutes and how does he maximize his roster's robust offensive talent? Will guys like KG and Pierce respect him enough if he keeps them around the 30-minute mark? Kidd's inexperience is a vital concern, but I think this is where he will actually have the greatest advantage. Just last year as a reserve for the New York Knicks, Kidd -- a former world champion and first-ballot Hall of Fame point guard -- found himself in a significantly reduced role. If I am wrong, however, things will get dicey in a hurry.
3. Where do the Nets stack up in the East?
Brooklyn will be better, but then again, so will Indiana (more experienced, picked up Chris Copeland, Danny Granger is back), Chicago (Derrick Rose is healthy), and Miami (the same core guys yet again). My biggest fear for the Nets focuses on their defensive identity, or lack thereof, because ultimately, this team will score points. Lopez and Garnett should provide not just length but sound front-court defense, while rookie Mason Plumlee can chip in as well. The issues here are a severe dearth of perimeter quickness and no real lockdown defender. What do the three other elite Eastern Conference teams all have? At least one elite wing defender. The Pacers feature Paul George and Lance Stephenson, the Bulls have Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler, and the Heat has LeBron James. We saw firsthand in the playoffs what happens when you cannot control dribble penetration. All in all, the Nets will be better and most likely more exciting, but still not a true contender.
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