Early Predictions for Brooklyn Nets' Starting Lineup Next Season
Well, apparently everyone did.
Brooklyn rebounded from an embarrassing 10-21 start last year and managed to finish with a 44-38 record, earning the sixth seed in a weak Eastern conference.
Would that be considered a failure for most teams? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But this was a franchise that put forth the most expensive roster in league history, one that expected a championship.
Expectations are significantly lower this time around, and rightfully so. This is a much different roster than Brooklyn had heading into 2013-14.
The following slides outline an early prediction for the Nets' starting lineup in the fall. Don’t expect this crew to be on any magazine covers.
Point Guard: Deron Williams
The overpriced and underachieving Deron Williams will start at point guard next season. Sigh.
Williams is certainly not the superstar that he used to be, mainly thanks to recurring ankle injuries.
“I just want to get healthy again, man,” Williams told ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk in February. “If I get healthy, I know what can happen. It’s been a frustrating two years for me injury-wise. It’s something I can’t really control. Hopefully I can figure it out this summer and then go from there.”
Brooklyn announced on May 27 that the 30-year-old D-Will “underwent successful surgery…on both ankles.”
According to Martin O’Malley, the team’s foot and ankle specialist who performed the surgeries, Williams is expected to “make a speedy recovery and be ready for the beginning of training camp.”
Williams was sidelined for 16 games last season thanks to his rickety ankles, but he managed to put up 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game.
The Nets bolstered their depth with the addition of Jarrett Jack over the summer, but he’s better suited in a bench role than starting at the 2.
If Williams can remain healthy, watch out. But that seems like a far-fetched notion at this point. Though his ankles kept him out of only 16 games last season, he was noticeably hampered in many others.
Williams won’t make good on his contract and probably won’t earn his fourth All-Star nod.
But if his ankles hold strong for 82 games, Williams could wind up as Brooklyn’s second-best player behind Joe Johnson.
Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson
In Kanye West’s “So Appalled," former Nets owner and rap superstar Jay Z asks an important question: Would you rather be underpaid or overrated?
Johnson doesn’t have to worry about being either of those things.
Iso Joe is exactly the opposite—while he’s grossly overpaid, Johnson has quietly become one of the NBA’s most underrated players.
The 14-year veteran was, without any shadow of a doubt, Brooklyn’s brightest star last season. And after averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game a year ago, he will again be the top dog in 2014-15.
But this time around, he’ll be playing shooting guard.
Hollins is known for being a traditional, old school kind of coach. In today’s NBA, which is often void of set positions, his brand of basketball is a dying breed. Sometimes, weird lineups work—the frontcourt of Johnson, Paul Pierce and Mason Plumlee proved to be pretty productive last season, for example.
Just because inserting Livingston into the starting lineup and playing small-ball worked for Kidd, don’t expect Hollins to automatically throw Jack into the first five.
While that’s certainly a possibility, the Nets are better off with Jack in the second unit and Johnson at the 2, where it will be easier for the team to run its offense through No. 7.
Livingston’s game includes a little bit of everything—scoring (despite his poor long-range jumper), playmaking, rebounding and defending. Jack, however, is a shoot-first guard who is most effective in transition.
Brooklyn’s optimal rotation should include Jack backing up Williams, and Johnson in his natural shooting guard slot.
Small Forward: Alan Anderson
If Brooklyn’s small forward rotation were a swimming pool, the water would be up to Nate Robinson’s knees.
Translation: It ain't deep.
The Truth played a lot of power forward last season, but the hole that he has left the Nets with is at the 3.
While Kirilenko’s craftiness and Teletovic’s long-range shooting could bring value to the starting lineup, those skills would be more impactful in off-the-bench roles.
Anderson is the top option for Hollins. It’s not the sexiest move, but it’s the best one.
Think about what Brooklyn’s starting five is already going to look like. Williams, Johnson, Lopez—all gunners.
Where will the perimeter defense, the dive-on-the-floor hustle or the dirty work come from? Not from Kirilenko or Teletovic, that’s for sure.
Anderson saw 26 starts for the Nets in 2013-14 and averaged 8.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in those games.
Despite his 6’6” frame, “Double-A” is a sound defender that brings a sense of grittiness to the floor each time he hits the hardwood. He wouldn’t start on most NBA teams, but the Nets need his scrappiness.
Power Forward: Mason Plumlee
It has come to this.
Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game, doesn’t deserve to be an NBA starter anymore.
Last season, KG was dreadful. The 19-year veteran averaged career-lows in scoring (6.5 points), shooting percentage (44.1 percent) and assists (1.5). His 6.6 boards were also the worst rebounding numbers since his rookie year.
It’s hard to imagine the Big Ticket being that bad again. A bounce-back year from the 38-year-old won’t be too shocking.
But Hollins needs to relegate Garnett to a full-time bench role for the first time in his career.
Outside of his rookie season, KG has started every single game he’s played, so it might be tough for Hollins to sell him on dropping from the starting five. But it has to be done, one way or another.
When talking about all-time greats, don’t mention Plumlee in the same sentence as Garnett unless you want to get hit with a barrage of tomatoes.
At this stage of their respective careers, though, Plumlee is the better player.
Last season, the 24-year-old Duke product gave Brooklyn 7.4 points per game on 65.9 percent shooting. He shocked the basketball world with an impressive rookie campaign in which he was wildly efficient and electrifying.
Plumlee was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team last season. And according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, he was also invited to Las Vegas and given the chance to work out with the USA Basketball Team.
The 6'11" forward was later given a spot on the Select Team roster, which will scrimmage against Team USA.
It’s possible that Garnett recovers from a nightmare of a season and comes back stronger in 2014-15.
But Plumlee is quickly emerging into one of the league’s best young big men, and he deserves to break into Brooklyn's starting lineup.
Center: Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez can score in a variety ways, defend the paint and hit the glass hard on both ends. He just can’t stay healthy.
When he’s at 100 percent, Lopez is one of the best centers in the NBA. But last season, he broke his foot after playing just 17 games. That marked three surgeries on the same foot in the past two years—Lopez was forced to play just five games in 2011-12.
In a small sampling last season, the Stanford product gave Brooklyn 20.7 points and six boards a night. If he’s healthy next year, he’ll battle Johnson as the Nets’ top scorer.
Per Newsday’s Rod Boone:
There's a lot of different styles that are conducive to Brook. We had Zach and Marc, who are both post-up players, so that was their style. Brook will certainly get his touches in the paint, he'll be out on the court at the elbow, he'll be in pick-and-rolls. It's just the nature of the way the game is changing and shaping.
But certainly, if we need to go inside, we're going inside and he'll be one of the main guys that gets the ball.
He's a good post-up player, a good shooter at the elbows and on the baseline. Obviously, he can play on the elbow. He obviously is smart enough and knows the game well enough. So there's a lot of different things we can do with him as we incorporate whatever system we put in.
Lopez is the best big man that Brooklyn has, and he will shoulder quite a load on both ends of the floor.
But, as always, health will be the deciding factor in the outcome of his 2014-15 campaign.
All stats are accurate courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.