5 Reasons To Watch The 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets

With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.

Next up, a Nets team that’s thinking nothing but title after a big offseason.

[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]

They won 49 games and were a top-four seed in the playoffs, but for some reason, the Nets’ first season in Brooklyn felt like a disappointment.

After starting the year 11-4, they lost 10 of 13 before (perhaps prematurely) firing head coach Avery Johnson. Under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets won games, but they never felt like a real threat in the East. They couldn’t keep up with the Knicks in the Atlantic Division, and they never had one of those statement victories that all great teams have.

In the playoffs, they lost in seven games to an injury-depleted Bulls team, further proving that there was just something missing from the 2012-13 Nets. They knew they had to make changes in the offseason, and that’s exactly what happened. Brooklyn decided not to bring back Carlesimo, hired Jason Kidd as the new head coach, acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in a blockbuster trade, and signed free agent Andrei Kirilenko to one of the league’s best bargain contracts.

A lot has changed in Brooklyn since last spring, so let’s take a look at five reasons to watch the Nets during the 2013-14 NBA season:

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Can Deron Williams and Joe Johnson Bounce Back?
If there was a single reason the Nets struggled with being consistent last season, it was because Joe Johnson and Deron Williams — their two stars — each had disappointing years. Johnson scored just over 16 PPG, his lowest average since he was in Phoenix. He also shot just 42 percent, his worst mark since becoming a full-time starter in the NBA. Williams, on the other hand, dished out less than eight APG for the first time since his rookie season in Utah.

If the Nets want to really compete with the Heat, Pacers and Bulls, both Williams and Johnson need to have bounce back seasons. To me, the real concern lies more so with Johnson and less with D-Will. After the All-Star break last season, Williams was one of the best point guards in the league: in 27 games of regular action, he averaged 23.4 PPG and 8.3 APG while shooting 48 percent from the field. If he can do that for a full year, this season would be the best of his career.

Unlike Williams, Johnson didn’t have an impressive second half of the season, and his post All-Star weekend numbers were actually far worse than his numbers before the break. Johnson scored just 13.3 PPG in March and just 14.9 per in April, and his performance in the Chicago series wasn’t much better. Despite that, I’m still inclined to believe he will have a much better 2013-14 season, especially with Pierce and Garnett taking some of the scoring pressure away. For a guy who consistently scored 20 points a game in Atlanta, he’s too good not to.

Jason Kidd’s Rookie Coaching Season
At 40 years of age, Jason Kidd is the fourth-youngest (Brad Stevens, Jacque Vaughan and Frank Vogel are all younger) head coach in the NBA and doesn’t have an ounce of experience as a coach. He’s never been an assistant, and just last season he was playing for the Knicks. Sure, he always had one of the top basketball IQ’s in the league, but I’m still skeptical about the hire. At some point, Kidd will make a great head coach, but this season isn’t going to be a walk in the park for him.

Can he somehow convince Paul Pierce to be O.K. with Joe Johnson being the team’s go-to-guy in last shot situations? Can he successfully manage the minutes of Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Can he keep the always moody Deron Williams happy? Can he really have authority over guys he was playing against just a few months ago?

We’ll see how it all pans out for Kidd. One thing’s for sure: watching it all unfold will be fun.

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Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
It’s going to be really, really weird seeing Garnett and Pierce in something other than Celtic green. These guys were two of the greatest players in the storied franchise’s history, and now they’re going to be playing for a division rival. They aren’t the same players they were four years ago, but they’re both champions and they’re both still motivated to win a second title, even if they can’t do it in Boston.

They shouldn’t be playing more than 25 minutes on any given night, but when they do play, Pierce and Garnett are going to give the Nets their best. Pierce is still one of the great clutch shooters in basketball and Garnett is still a top-five power forward. And even if they won’t admit it, KG and Paul know that their time is running out. This is a two-year championship window. The Ticket and The Truth are going to give it everything they have left in the tank.

Nets-Knicks Rivalry
For 12 long seasons, from 2001 until 2012, professional basketball in New York City was depressing. The Knicks were pathetic and didn’t win a single playoff series during that timespan, and for some reason, there still wasn’t a second NBA team in the city. But now, with the Knicks’ resurgence to relevancy and the Nets move from Newark to Brooklyn, New York has two very good teams with championship aspirations.

The two teams have been taking jabs at each other throughout the offseason, and it couldn’t be better for the NBA and basketball in New York City. Both the Nets and Knicks want to rule the most populous city in America, and both have improved since the conclusion of last season. It seemed like an impossible scenario just a couple of years ago, but the buzz around the world’s greatest hoop city isn’t just exciting, it’s legitimate.

Maybe the Best Starting Five In Basketball
There isn’t a single player on the Nets that has MVP potential or even All-NBA First Team potential, but from top to bottom, Brooklyn has the best starting five in the NBA. In fact, each member of the five projected starters has made at least one All-Star game in the past two seasons.

They have Deron Williams at point guard, and although he had a down season last year, he’s still a top ten point guard in a point guard-driven league. Williams’ partner in the backcourt, Joe Johnson, also struggled during the 2012-13 season. But other than Kobe, Dwyane Wade, and James Harden, what shooting guard is better than Big Shot Joe? I don’t think there is one.

The Brooklyn frontcourt consists of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. If Kidd carefully manages the minutes that Pierce and KG play, both of them should have productive seasons. Lopez, meanwhile, is one of the league’s most underrated players at any position. He struggles on the defensive end at times, but he’s the most offensively gifted big man in the NBA.

On paper, it’s the best starting five in basketball. But that’s on paper. What still remains to be seen, of course, is just how well the newly-assembled pieces will fit with the old ones. Whether it fails completely or they mesh perfectly, I’ll be intrigued to watch.

What do you think?

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