With the recent signings of Gerald Wallace, Deron Williams and the proposed trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets now find themselves heading into next season with hefty expectations.
Expectations that they may never live up too….
The Nets are clearly a better team now than they were in 2011-12. After finishing the year with only 22 victories and sitting dead last in the Atlantic Division, the team can only move up from here.
However, even with all of these major signings and trades, the Brooklyn Nets are still not a championship team.
Are they a playoff team? Absolutely.
Are they a top-four team in the East? Perhaps.
Are they Eastern Conference championship contenders?
Don’t push your luck.
Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Nets will likely put out a starting line-up of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries (if re-signed) and Brook Lopez. The newly signed Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic (leading scorer in the Euroleague) will come off the bench, but the Nets gave up considerable depth in order to trade for Johnson and it remains to be seen how Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will round out the rest of this roster.
The Miami Heat just won an NBA Championship with three superstars in Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, but it was the teams depth (Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem) that came through in the clutch and helped lift their “Big Three” over the proverbial hump. Even so, the Heat have a far greater talent pool than Brooklyn and it still took them a solid year of playing together before championship glory was achieved.
This experiment in Brooklyn is going to need time to get its legs off the ground. We still don’t know if a backcourt of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams will work. They are both highly skilled, all-star caliber players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can play well off of one another. Joe Johnson showed during his stint with Atlanta that he is most effective when he has the ball in his hands. He didn’t have a domineering point guard who could control the tempo of the offense on his own like he has now with Williams.
Will that become an issue when he heads over to Brooklyn? It’s wait and see at this point.
In a league where “defense wins championships“, the Nets will be hard-pressed to improve on a year where they were 7th from the bottom in points allowed at 99.1 a game. Williams and Johnson have never been known as defensive specialists before. They won’t find scoring the basketball to be a difficult task, but if they want to seriously contend in the Eastern Conference where teams like the Heat and Bulls thrive on that side of the ball, they’ll have to collectively improve their defense as well as that of their teammates who also struggle in that aspect of the game (Brook Lopez anyone?)
Of course, I’m evaluating this team as if Dwight Howard weren’t on his way to town. Rumor has it that the Nets aren’t exactly out of the “Superman Sweepstakes” just yet….
Nets, Magic in talks that would send Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks & three first round picks (13′ 15′ 17′) for Dwight Howard.
— Legion Sports (@MySportsLegion) July 3, 2012
If this team were to acquire the services of Howard, the entire landscape of the Eastern Conference would change. A core of Williams/Johnson/Wallace is nice and all, but Dwight Howard would be that missing ingredient to move the Nets up the ladder into championship contention. The team would be terribly depleted in the depth department, but it wouldn’t be hard to convince a few veterans here and there to take the bare minimum for a chance at a title.
For the sake of Nets ownership and fans around Brooklyn and even New Jersey, they better have faith that this will all work out in the end. They now have over $240 million dollars invested in just 3 players. That doesn’t even include the potential contract they will have to offer Lopez to keep him around.
These Nets will no longer be a laughing stock along with the Bobcats and Wizards over in the East. They are a real threat.
Just not for an NBA championship…..
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports