Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Nets
2012-13 Record: 49-33; lost to Bulls in Eastern Conference first round
Coach: Jason Kidd (first season with Nets)
Everything has to go right for them, but they're not too old to win a championship. I've got that much faith in Kevin Garnett. Because of him, there will be a different mind-set that each game is important, a peer pressure to step up or shut up, whether Garnett is playing that night or not. And they have the talent to step up.
Deron Williams is the key guy. He has to make the biggest change in his attitude and his game in order to pull everybody together. He has to pull his pants up and play, instead of pointing fingers and complaining.
Williams didn't like where he was in Utah with Jerry Sloan, and when he got to Brooklyn, he didn't like it any better with Avery Johnson. When it happens twice, you have to hold yourself to account. With Jason Kidd and Garnett there, he can't get away with that again.
I used to get excited to watch Utah and New Orleans play a few years ago to see Williams and Chris Paul go head to head. It would go back and forth between them, but for the most part I preferred Williams. But he got a little fat, and he became more of a half-court player instead of pushing it up and attacking. He wasn't getting past people like he used to, and he was settling too much for his jump shot.
Williams is still pretty darn good, but the fact that he has better players around him doesn't mean he's all of a sudden going to go back to the way he was when a lot of people like me thought he was the best point guard in the NBA. But Garnett can help him. That's what Garnett did with Rajon Rondo. It was like he said, I'm following Rondo, so everybody is following Rondo. That will happen with Williams, too, if he buys in to what they're doing.
Recently Joe Johnson has been putting the ball on the floor a little too much when he would be better off with a catch-and-shoot. He gets into this dribble, dribble, spin, dribble, dribble -- forced shot. Sometimes the ball can stop with him. But his shooting is still there. Having him out there with Paul Pierce should spread the floor for Williams. They have a legitimate center in Brook Lopez, a jump-shooting power forward in Garnett, two professional shooters on the wings in Pierce and Johnson, and then Williams. In the last 10 seconds of a one-point game, what are you going to do defensively against them? You can't leave Pierce or Johnson. Lopez is going to be at the rim, so you have to stay there. Then there's Garnett and Williams. Are you leaving Garnett open to help elsewhere? Are you forcing Williams to beat you? It's going to be difficult for defenses.
Pierce can still score. He can post up. As far as a mid-range game, he is near the top of the league. He's not explosive, but with his body positioning, he's sure of where he can get to on the floor and get his shot off. He looked 40 years old defensively in some games last year. He's not going to be in those positions as much this year, and they can focus on using him for his offense.
Garnett is still one of the top big men in the league. He doesn't have the back-to-the basket game that he used to possess. He's more of a perimeter shooter now. He still has the presence defensively in directing teammates and making sure everything is covered. He's very good at it. He's a great teammate and he buys in completely, and execution is at the forefront of every possession with him.
Lopez can score in the post and he can shoot. He's big enough to defend straight up. You don't have to double-team and rotate to deal with an opposing big man. He's going to be a better defensive player just by playing with Garnett, too.
Think about their size. They can bring in Andrei Kirilenko and go 6-9, 6-11, 7-foot across the front line with Garnett and Lopez, and then have Pierce or Johnson at the 2 -- they're huge. But I don't think they're necessarily going to be slow, especially if Williams is in shape.
Kirilenko is extremely versatile. He's not a great perimeter shooter, but he can put the ball on the floor, attack the basket, pass off the dribble and play in the open floor. He can play the 3 or 4, which means they could go with Garnett at the 5 alongside Kirilenko. He isn't quite what he used to be defensively anymore, but he hasn't lost everything.
Jason Terry gives them another jump shooter. If you put him out there with Pierce, Johnson, Kirilenko and Garnett, that really spreads the floor. Terry won't have a huge role, but he'll be professional enough that he'll always have himself ready. He's dropped off the last two years, but all he has to do in Brooklyn is come in and tee it up.
Everywhere Reggie Evans plays, he earns minutes. He'll rebound and be happy to unleash his six fouls. The fact that he's on a contending team will help him fall right into his role and excel at it.
Andray Blatche's versatility as a big man earned him a place in the Nets' rotation last season. With the seriousness of this team this season, he's not going to be able to mess around like he did in Washington.
Tornike Shengelia is a very athletic, quick 4 who can handle the ball a little bit. Mirza Teletovic does everything for his teams when he plays in Europe, but I don't know if he'll ever get the ball enough with this team to play that way.
I'd love to have Alan Anderson on my team. He doesn't do anything great, but he can handle the ball, shoot and hold his own defensively at multiple positions. He should get some minutes when Pierce isn't playing.
Kidd's being a rookie coach isn't going to matter. With [assistant and former head coach] Lawrence Frank beside him, everything will be taken care of. They'll have the minutes for players planned out to the second, which is important with an older team. They'll be very prepared. They'll have sound defensive schemes.
Offensively, Kidd will have a lot of ideas to choose from after playing in so many different styles. The ball is going to move around with this team. That was Kidd's thing as a player: You share the ball and you find the open man. My guess is that they'll play in the flow as much as possible and go at favorable matchups because that is something these experienced players recognize very quickly.
This is one of those travel-with-the-Beatles teams. They'll be a big draw around the league.