In an offseason filled with wheeling and dealing, the Brooklyn Nets have placed themselves in position to contend for a world championship.
And for a city whose last sporting championship came in an era in which the majority of us probably weren’t even in existence, the time is now for a title to be brought home to Brooklyn.
The road to the finish line will not be an easy journey.
The Eastern Conference is filled with a bevy of teams who hope to mount a title challenge themselves.
Really, one does not have to look any further than the borough just north of Brooklyn in Manhattan, where the New York Knicks reside.
Although it is premature to state who will come out atop the division, it is safe to assert that it is highly likely that the Atlantic Division crown will, in the end, belong to either the Knicks or the Nets.
Seriously, though, if you believe the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics or the Toronto Raptors will be in the thick of it come April, think before you put that out in the open. Hey, it’s just a suggestion.
Now, when looking at the Knicks and the Nets, both have had fantastic offseasons, regardless of what the naysayers may say.
Acquiring guys like Andrea Bargnani, Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace has contorted the identity of the Knicks for the better.
Adding them to the fold not only bolsters their already-lethal perimeter shooting, but it adds a bit of toughness to them, too.
Yes, it would have been ideal for the Knicks to add a post presence, seeing as they shot 43.1 percent in post-up situations, per Synergy Sports (subscription required), and their lone threat in the post is Carmelo Anthony.
In addition, it's worth noting that the Knicks have yet again failed to address an area that has time and again hit them where it hurts—rebounding.
Last season, the Knicks averaged a pathetic 40.6 boards per game.
And if a person thinks that adding Bargnani—a guy who is best described as a perimeter-dwelling player and whose career rebounding average is 4.8—will mend the Knicks’ rebounding woes, that person may need to get his/her head examined.
Nonetheless, in a league that has transitioned from a physical brand of ball to a perimeter-oriented style of play, adding players who can fill it up from the outside and occasionally work around the basket isn't all that bad.
Add that to the nucleus the Knicks already have and they're pretty legit.
The point is that this will not be an easy journey.
Although the Nets were already a veteran-heavy squad that did not have to worry about any of the distractions that young teams are usually wrapped up in, owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King realized that a season-defining acquisition had to be made this summer.
After the slugfest they had with the depleted Bulls in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, it was evident that reinforcements had to be brought in.
Excellent. Three players who have been to the top of the mountain and won a title.
Now, ask yourself: Will those additions be enough?
Well, when peering into the extremities that exist in a now-loaded Eastern Conference, those additions, plus the core already in place, may have been enough to make it to, say, the conference semis.
Seriously, though, the Eastern Conference is tough.
The Bulls will finally have their hometown paragon, Derrick Rose, ready to guide the team in their ascension to the top of the mountain.
Possessing a grit-and-grind mentality, the blue-collar Pacers should vastly improve upon a year in which they just fell short of an NBA Finals berth.
Sure, they're young, and not all of their players are the most seasoned vets.
Nonetheless, both possess depth in every area one could think of, and they have worked strenuously for years to begin their climb from the pit of nonexistence to potential playoff hopefuls by excellence in regards to building rosters stacked with young talent and veterans, who at one time or another, have drank from the fountain of prosperity and success.
See where I'm going?
Yes, the trade with Boston was a mega move.
Yet, the sad truth is that it would not be enough.
Shipping away the reckless-yet-reliable Gerald Wallace in the Pierce-Garnett-Terry deal tore the heart out of the team—in terms of their overall defensive prowess—simply because he was the game changer on that end.
Don't think so? Take a look at the video below highlighting his defensive superiority in a contest against the Bulls last season:
Sure, Wallace’s 7.7 points per game will not be missed. However, the 39.6 percent shooting he limited opponents to will.
Plus, according to 82games.com, he held opposing small forwards to a player efficiency rating (PER) of 12.4.
Hence, failing to address that area of concern would have led them to incur serious problems on that end throughout the season.
That's why it was critically important that the team go out and get Andrei Kirilenko.
Honestly, having been able to convince him to take a little bit over $3 million may have been the best front-office execution from an NBA team in quite some time.
Also, when one thinks about the regression of Paul Pierce, athleticism-wise that is, one can acutely assert that he will not be playing 35-plus minutes on a nightly basis. The same goes for Kevin Garnett.
Relying on the three former Celtics to ball out every game is asking too much of players who are way past the twilight of their respective careers.
If you don't agree, think about the beat down Anthony and his Knicks put on the Celtics throughout the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
Hence, being able to seize hold of Kirilenko, as well as fellow addition, Alan Anderson, is huge. Both players are capable shooters who have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Also, some may not know who Anderson is, that is, unless you watch the improved-yet-not-quite-there-yet Toronto Raptors religiously.
So, let's take a second to get acquainted with the guy, shall we?
He possesses deft touch from mid-range on out to three-point territory.
Although he shot a head-hanging 38 percent from the field overall, that number should drastically improve due to the wide array of scorers who he will be surrounded by.
Now, defensively, Anderson sticks to opponents like glue, as evident by the 36.9 percent shooting he limited opponents to when guarding in isolation situations.
While he has his share of limitations, Anderson and the Nets have a secret weapon who can single-handedly change a game in his team's favor.
If I'm confusing you to a certain degree, I'm talking about the man known as the "AK-47," Andrei Kirilenko.
He is a bonafide hustler on that end, sticking to players like a mosquito and showing up at the rim out of nowhere, similar to Dikembe Mutombo in that silly Geico commercial. (Come on, though, you know you love watching it.)
Back to the point at hand, on a Minnesota Timberwolves squad, who as a collective frequently looked as if they were allergic to playing defense, Kirilenko was the shining spot, having held opponents to a mind-boggling 38.8 percent shooting, per Synergy Sports.
Adding Kirilenko instantly catapults the Nets—who might I add ranked sixth in the NBA in points allowed last season—to the forefront of the conversation regarding the best defensive squads in the NBA.
Couple the additions of Anderson, the three former Celtics and rookie 4-man Mason Plumlee with a second unit that still features the delicate shooting stroke of Andray Blatche and one of the most ferocious rebounders the league has had in the past decade in Reggie Evans, the Nets have a bench who together can carry a great deal of the load throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.
Adding on, last season, the bench only contributed 30 points a game (per HoopsStats.com), which points to the fact that change was needed.
See, a team without depth can only get so far.
A variety of inevitable circumstances like injuries, cold streaks and other situations will show face. They're all a part of the game.
That's why it is of massive importance that teams should not only attempt to load up at every position, but bring in players who—if called upon due to an unfortunate circumstance—can step in and perform as if nothing happened.
That's the beauty of the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets. They seem to have every avenue covered.
Although none of us have a clue who will be playing in June, the Nets will be sitting pretty along the upper portion of the East come April.
Brooklynites, New Jerseyans, residents of the Tri-state area and abroad—strive to support this team. For this campaign has the potential to be something very, very special.
Note: The bulk of the statistics used in this piece are by way of Synergy Sports (subscription required), unless stated otherwise.
Hit me up on Twitter @WhoisEricGuy.
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