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How good are the Nets? Coach admits not a contender.

Sep 5, 2012, 3:02 PM EDT

Deron Williams AP

The Brooklyn Nets are going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch come together next season.

They were awful, injury plagued and seemingly unmotivated last season in Jersey, but now they have a new home in Brooklyn and a new roster — Joe Johnson has been added to a re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. That’s a lineup that should score points and be entertaining to watch.

But how good are they? Coach Avery Johnson put it in perspective speaking to the Dallas Morning News (via the Hang Time blog).

“Deron was a big key to the whole puzzle,’’ Avery Johnson said. “To be able to acquire some other talent through free agency or trades or re-signing some of our own guys, it’s pretty exciting for us. We’re not there yet. We’re not a championship team. We got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had the last two years.

“We’re much more versatile than we’ve ever been. Right now, we look good on paper. Now we got to take it from looking good on paper and apply the work to go (forward).’’

They are not contenders. But they are good. That versatility the coach speaks of comes at a price — the Nets have the second highest payroll in the league and I would be worried about it in a couple of years when Johnson is older and more expensive while Lopez and Williams are still on the books. The future could be a mess.

But the present is going to be pretty good. They are going to put up points if they can stay healthy — Wallace, Lopez and Johnson playing off Williams is a serious set of threats. The measuring stick will be their defense and rebounding. They are not going to be very good at that end, but if Johnson can get them to average on defense they will win a lot of games.

To me the Nets, Knicks and Sixers are all kind of in the same place, likely the middle of the pack in the Eastern conference playoff group (from three to six or so). Health and that work to come together Johnson talks about will be what separates those sides and sets up playoff seedings. Boston could be better than this group during the regular season with their depth but where the Celtics are really dangerous is in the playoffs. The Bulls are hard to read without Derrick Rose for much of the year, but expect them in the middle also.

The Atlantic Division is going to be the toughest division in the NBA next season, with four teams (Boston, Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia) potentially able to win it and the bottom team in Toronto being dangerous and improved. No division is going to be deeper. Which should make for a fun season.

  1. biasedhomer - Sep 5, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    I expect at max a 10 win jump from last season, which will make them close to the 8th seed. Not a bad one year improvement.

    You can’t go expect them to go from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best, though, like many Nets fans are assuming.

    • passerby23 - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      I don’t see why Brooklyn can’t make a dramatic improvement. Different team, different players, different city. The Celtics improved by 42 games from the 06-07 season to the 07-08 season with the arrival of the Big 3. I’m not saying they are Boston, but they will do a lot better than a 10 win improvement. They won 22 games last year in a shortened season with a depleted roster in a city no one wanted to be in. This year. I could see them winning another 20-25 games.

      Rankings:
      1. Miami
      2. Boston
      3. Indiana
      4. New York
      5. Brooklyn
      6. Philadelphia
      7. Chicago
      8. Atlanta

  2. eventhorizon04 - Sep 5, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    “Avery Johnson said. “We’re not there yet. We’re not a championship team. We got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had the last two years.”

    I’m not sure he meant – “We’re not contenders this year.” I think he meant, “We’re not a championship team yet, we have a lot of work to do to get there.”

    To be clear – I’m not picking the Nets as the most likely 2013 NBA Champions – I’m just saying it’s *unlikely* their coach has ruled his own team out as contenders.

    • eventhorizon04 - Sep 5, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      “To me the Nets, Knicks and Sixers are all kind of in the same place, likely the middle of the pack in the Eastern conference playoff group (from three to six or so).”

      Agreed, but I see the Nets and Knicks as higher than the Sixers. I’m not completely sold on Bynum as “The Guy Who Can Carry a Team to a 4th Seed” – yet. He could be eventually, but I’d say Nets and Knicks in the mix for 4 and 5 seeds, with the Sixers as the likely 7th seed.

      “Boston could be better than this group during the regular season with their depth but where the Celtics are really dangerous is in the playoffs.”

      Boston is a likely 2-seed, at worst a 3-seed. Doc Rivers knows better than to take the regular season too seriously – he’d rather rest Garnett and Pierce and have them healthy for the playoffs than make a late-season push for the 1-seed.

      “The Bulls are hard to read without Derrick Rose for much of the year, but expect them in the middle also.”
      Agreed on the Bulls being in the middle. I’d guess 6th seed, behind Nets and Knicks, since it’ll take a little time for their new bench to gel. Their old bench kept them competitive without Rose in part because they had a lot of experience in Thibodeau’s system – it will take time for the new guys to learn.

      • biasedhomer - Sep 5, 2012 at 4:35 PM

        Just like you are not sold on the Sixers, more people are not sold on the Nets.

        The way I see it, the Celtics, SIxers, and Knicks will be fighting for the division.

        The Nets and Raptors (very overlooked team) will be two teams that were horrible last year, but now have reached late playoff seed potential, most likely first round exits, but still an improvement.

      • qwertify - Sep 6, 2012 at 2:24 AM

        @biasedhomer

        “Nets and Raptors, most likely first round exits..”

        First round exit? Isn’t that a Knicks thing? Yet you pick them to be fighting for the division. Now I know why you chose that username lol

  3. jerseyfinatic - Sep 5, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    Avery is right, this coming from a Nets fan. This team will lose some VERY winnable games and win some games that they would have been predicted to lose (Ex, Heat, Lakers, Thunder etc.)….BUT, come playoff time, if this team can gel together and play solid defense (Avery’s job throughout the season), they are a title contender. A sleeper in the media’s eyes, but a serious threat, ONLY if the chemistry is sky high <=====Which it has the potential to be.

  4. dysraw1 - Sep 5, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    being a Knick fan the Nets scare the crap out of me, their talent is scary. a lot depends on how they gel as a team, which is something Avery is good at.

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