Sunday, August 26, 2012

How the New-Look Nets Fare in the Eastern Conference


     During the summer, the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the most talked about franchises in the NBA. They re-signed numerous players, most notably superstar point guard Deron Williams. At the start of free agency, the Nets acquired six-time All Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, which was supposedly the reason why Williams stayed with the Nets. They brought in veterans like C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans and Jerry Stackhouse to provide bench depth. They also have young, growing players in Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor. The Nets haven't sniffed the postseason for the last several seasons, but this year their talented roster is primed to seed in the NBA Playoffs. Let's take a look at how the Nets stack up against each team in the East and where they can be logically projected to seed. The teams I'm putting the Nets up against are all teams I project to be in the playoffs for the Eastern Conference.

Nets vs. Miami Heat

Overview: The Nets' starting five is talented enough to at least compete against the Heat. Brook Lopez, known as a very talented offensive center, would have to dominate for the Nets to win against the defending NBA Champions. The difference, though, is between each team's bench. The Nets have some decent players, but the Heat have players like future Hall of Fame member Ray Allen, low-post anchor Udonis Haslem, and solid shooters in Rashard Lewis and Mike Miller.

Advantage: Heat

Nets vs. Boston Celtics

Overview: This will be the first game on Christmas Day, and an exciting one in that. Rajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams is a point guard duel for the ages, and Joe Johnson will look to avenge previous postseason shortcomings with the Hawks against the Celtics with his new-look Nets. This one, again, will be decided by the bench, where the Celtics are in my opinion, the deepest in the league.

Advantage: Celtics

Nets vs. Indiana Pacers

Overview: Had Dwight Howard not been injured for the postseason, I think the Pacers would have lost in the first round last year. The Pacers are a solid team, and built on a bunch of good players similar to the Denver Nuggets. However, they lack a superstar who could push them over the hump. Can Danny Granger return to All Star form? Can Roy Hibbert become an offensive monster? Until this team can get a superstar, they will be continuous early-round exits for a while. But, this team is a collective unit and the Nets are all brand new and have to gel, so I'll give the Pacers the edge for now.

Advantage: Pacers

Nets vs. New York Knicks

Overview: The Battle for New York starts this year with two teams that are looking to make a statement. Expect this rivalry to be bigger than it ever was before and very entertaining to watch. I don't believe the Knicks have as deep a bench as many believe they do, and I think the Nets' bench could actually go toe-to-toe against the Knicks bench. Their starting fives are both star-studded, but I believe the new culture, hype, and talent on the Nets roster will be able to propel them over the Knicks in the East.

Advantage: Nets

Nets vs. Chicago Bulls

Overview: This season will be a very tough pill for Bulls fans to swallow. In the playoffs, an injured Bulls squad was outmached by the Philadelphia 76ers. Chicago must make sure that when MVP point guard Derrick Rose returns, he is fully healthy. They need him more than anyone for a deep playoff run. The Bulls have lost several key bench players like C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik in free agency, but if the current team can stay healthy, they could claim a lower seed in the playoffs. However, with a healthy Rose ready for the playoffs, this team will bloom into a contender once again.

Advantage: Bulls

Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Overview: The 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum, arguably the second best center in the league, in the Dwight Howard megadeal. However, they still have questions. Can Jrue Holiday become an All Star player to get the max contract he wants? Can Evan Turner make that incredible third-year jump to become an All Star now that Andre Iguodala is gone? Can Spencer Hawes stay healthy? And how will the other acquisitions like Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Kwame Brown affect the team? The Sixers have an exceptional coach in Doug Collins, but I'm not banking on everything going right for them. They will be in the playoffs, but right now I think the Nets are just a little bit more talented.

Advantage: Nets

Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks

Overview: I believe, in the aftermath of the Joe Johnson trade, each of these franchises will benefit. The Hawks are now built around All Star caliber players Al Horford and Josh Smith, who will be surrounded with a bevy of shooters including Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins. The Hawks won't have as great a season as last year, unless Smith or Horford can become clutch performers, but GM Danny Ferry is gearing his team for success in the longer term. I expect this team to be decent and sneak in as the #8 seed in the East. The Nets have a more talented starting five and a bench that could, for the most part, match the Hawks bench.

Advantage: Nets

After going through the matchups, here's who I think the Nets are better than and not as good as:

Better than: Knicks, Hawks, Sixers, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, Pistons, Cavaliers, Raptors, Magic

Not as good as: Heat, Celtics, Bulls, Pacers

     If everything stays relatively the same and there are no major injuries involving any Nets players or the best players on each team in the East, I think the complete conference standings will look something like this...

1. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. Philadelphia 76ers
6. New York Knicks
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Milwaukee Bucks
10. Toronto Raptors
11. Washington Wizards
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
13. Detroit Pistons
14. Orlando Magic
15. Charlotte Bobcats

     I think the Nets will be a playoff team who could possibly squeak into the Eastern Conference Finals, but this newly-constructed team will need at least a year to gel. Nets fans have a lot to be excited about this season, as their team can finally make the playoffs again after a six year hiatus. What is your opinion on the new-look Brooklyn Nets? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

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