Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has put the rest of the NBA on notice, creating his own version of Brooklyn’s Finest.
Let’s be clear: Prokhorov’s version has no affiliations with “Brooklyn’s Finest,” the 2010 crime thriller featuring Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle.
The Nets starting lineup for the 2013-14 season is what fans will be calling Brooklyn’s Finest, a cast that will feature a combined 35 All-Star appearances.
That is the lineup the Nets owner has assembled in just his third year with the franchise and the lineup first-year coach and future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd will be coaching. They cannot be considered the favorites at this point with LeBron James and the Miami Heat on a mission for a three-peat, but on paper they could be Miami’s biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. With most teams trying to form a big three these days, Prokhorov formed a big five. If there was anything to worry about with this lineup though, it would be the average age of the players being close to 32. Health could be an issue obviously and Pierce and Garnett only have a few years left in the league as they are years past their prime.
Prokhorov has taken an immense financial gamble by trading for the veterans Pierce, Garnett and shooting guard Jason Terry and by signing Andrei Kirilenko and Shaun Livingston. The Nets now have a league-high payroll at $101 million and will be committed to paying $82 million in luxury taxes next season. But that is a small amount for Prokhorov to pay, considering the fact that he is worth $13 billion according to Forbes magazine, which Howard Beck of the New York Times highlights.
After getting eliminated in the first round in seven games by the Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose, Prokhorov knew something was missing. Something needed to be done to address his team’s failure in the playoffs. The Nets, led by the talented trio of Williams, Johnson, and Lopez, should have never lost a Game 7 at the Barclays Center.
The franchise added championship pedigree with the acquisition of Pierce, Garnett and Terry, three guys who know how to get it done on the big stage. Pierce and Garnett did it together when they led the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008. Terry hit clutch shot after clutch shot and helped the Dallas Mavericks shock the world when they froze up LeBron and the Heat in the 2011 Finals to capture the title. Brooklyn is hoping these three players are the missing ingredients that will make them a championship team. Prokhorov is betting $183 million on it.
Here is what we can expect from each player in the Nets starting five next season.
C- Brook Lopez
Lopez is coming off his best season as a pro, as he returned successfully from a foot injury that cost him 61 games in 2011-12. He is a finesse center who does not exactly excel when he gets challenged physically but he can still score the ball effective enough, as he shot 52 percent from the floor last season. He has a unique ability to hit erratic shots that will raise eyebrows and he will play soft at times, but most of his work is done in the low post. Lopez is also more than capable of hitting the jumper out to 20 feet.
The biggest criticism of his game is that he needs to attack the boards harder and more often. There are not many championship teams who have a starting center averaging less than seven rebounds a game. As a 7-footer, Lopez’s rebounding numbers should be closer to 10 per game. This is where Garnett comes into play and the Nets are hoping his toughness will rub off onto Lopez, battling with and against him every day. Garnett’s intensity could take Lopez’s game to the next level. Of all the frontcourt players on the roster, Lopez will provide most of the scoring, while the defense and rebounding will come mostly from Garnett, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans. Expect those three to be the glue guys on the interior.
2012-13 Key Stats: 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG
PF- Kevin Garnett
Garnett will slide back to his natural position at power forward. Still one of the elite jump-shooting big men in the game, Garnett is going to do wonders for this team defensively. He’ll provide toughness and an intensity that was missed in the playoffs this past year. At 37, his health and minutes per game could be a concern for the franchise. A few years ago, Charles Barkley jokingly provided the best commentary on aging players and how often they get injured when he stated, “Old people don’t get healthy. They die.” This is something Kidd will have to monitor closely this upcoming season.
Garnett had to be persuaded heavily on the phone by Pierce for close to two hours to waive his no-trade clause and accept the trade to Brooklyn. The bottom line is that he just wants to win again before he retires, maybe in the next year or two, and it was in his best interest to leave the Boston Celtics, a team going in a different direction. He’ll be headed in the right direction with Brooklyn.
2012-13 Key Stats: 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG
SF- Paul Pierce
Pierce’s numbers have been steady for the most part the past few seasons but at 35, he is not always that efficient closer who can carry a team down the stretch. Father Time is undefeated. He will now have a very strong perimeter cast to play with that should create many open looks for him from the outside. In this offense, he may be more of a spot up shooter with Williams and Johnson creating the majority of his shot opportunities off the dribble.
Last year, Pierce was one of the only players on the Celtics capable of creating his own shot from the perimeter and his numbers dipped a bit. They should be a constant with this offense and Nets will have three clutch playmakers in Pierce, Williams, and Johnson.
2012-13 Key Stats: 18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG
SG- Joe Johnson
Johnson had to share the spotlight in the backcourt with Williams last year and he actually played big in big moments. This was something he was not accustomed to doing in Atlanta, and at times he closed games out by himself. There was obviously an adjustment that had to be made in his first season playing with Williams and his stats were down. Nevertheless, he gives the team a player who can score from anywhere on the court.
Johnson needs to embrace the mentality that Garnett will bring to the team and if he does, the team could have a lot of success come playoffs. Any 6-foot-7, 240-pound shooting guard needs to average more than three rebounds a game. Johnson has been abysmal in that regard, but the Nets are expecting Garnett’s infectious type of intensity to spread throughout the roster. Johnson could be the player who benefits the most.
2012-13 Key Stats: 16.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.5 APG
PG- Deron Williams
Williams’ numbers across the board dropped last year. Two or three years ago, he was considered to be arguably the best point guard in the game along with Chris Paul. One down year and it would seem as if Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are getting all the attention as the top point guards. Williams was reportedly ecstatic about getting Pierce and Garnett. Pierce and Garnett may be the vocal leaders of the team, but this is clearly Williams’ team. Being the leader, he’ll also be counted on to step up defensively, especially being one of the more athletic players on the roster.
The Nets desperately need a monumental bounce-back year from him after he signed that five-year, $98 million extension last summer to be the face of the franchise. He’s got to lead this Brooklyn Brotherhood. With more shooters, a more defensive-minded big man and a coach in Kidd with whom he has a great relationship, Williams should have a strong campaign.
2012-23 Key Stats: 18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG