From 2011-13, Lionel Hollins‘ Memphis Grizzlies made the playoffs three straight years.
Memphis wasn’t expected to make as much noise as they did after either of those regular seasons, making their playoff runs somewhat unlikely. But there’s no doubt that Lionel Hollins’ teams are at their best when it counts the most: in the postseason.
However, in order to make playoff magic…you gotta get to the playoffs, first.
Thus, I pose this question: What does coach Hollins have to do to lead the Brooklyn Nets to the postseason for the third straight year?
The most basic question that needs to be answered in order to address these challenges is: What is the starting lineup?
You see, the Nets most successful lineup in terms of wins last year had Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and rookie Mason Plumlee seeing the most playing time, according to basketball-reference.com.
So the way I approached it was to look for our Shaun Livingston and Paul Pierce replacements.
Shaun Livingston is an easy one: Jarrett Jack.
Jack and Livingston put up almost identical numbers last year. What Brooklyn lost in length and steals with Livingston, they’ll gain in points and 3-pt shooting with Jack.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce’s replacement could essentially be Brook Lopez. When Lopez was healthy a season ago, he averaged just under 21 points per game. That can more than make up for Paul Pierce’s 13ppg, provided Lopez can avoid injury.
Finally, Mason Plumlee‘s development will be a major factor in filling the shoes of Blatche leaving and Garnett getting older. Plumlee was the best rookie big man in the league last year, and he’s looking to improve.
With that being said, here is my projected starting lineup for the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets:
What’s interesting is that Brooklyn’s 2013-2014 campaign was salvaged when they started playing small ball. Correction, they didn’t just go small; they went tiny. It became their identity, and it worked. But…the above-mentioned lineup is not small.
I think Lionel Hollins and the Brooklyn Nets’ best hope is to pray for Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez to become just that–a powerful one-two punch down low whom the Nets can run their offense through and rely on to protect the rim.
We’ll have to see whether Hollins and Brooklyn is a personnel mismatch, or if the new head coach is just what the Nets needed to learn how to play some hard-nosed inside-out basketball and take advantage of their talented bigs–a style that bodes well in the postseason.
It will be difficult to make the playoffs with all the Brooklyn Nets have to overcome. But if they can sneak in, with Lionel Hollins at the helm, and especially play a young team in the first-round like they did last season…