The Brooklyn Nets open their 2014-2015 season on Oct. 7 with six preseason games, including three home games and two that are played in China.
The Nets open their preseason against 2014 Euroleague champions Maccabi Tel Aviv in Brooklyn, then proceed to China where they will play the Sacramento Kings in Shanghai and Beijing. Brooklyn returns to the U.S. to face Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, at home before closing out the preseason in Boston.
After a season that ended with a coaching change, and a few key departures, this year’s Nets team looks significantly different. The team added defensive-minded head coach Lionel Hollins, and rookies Markel Brown, Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson – to go along with the acquisition of Jarrett Jack.
Championship expectations that shackled Brooklyn a year ago are no longer with the team. Some might agree that last year’s team reached their ceiling after a 4-1 series loss versus the Heat; especially without All-Star center Brook Lopez. With Lopez and Deron Williams back considerably healthy, Hollins’ next step is to put a supporting cast around his two elite performers after the loss of veterans Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston.
It has been a productive summer for Hollins’ ball club. Brooklyn saw rookie standout Mason Plumlee make an impression on the USA Select team before being called up to Team USA by his former coach at Duke Mike Krzyzewski. Draft picks Brown and Jefferson also had a significant impact.
The pair played the first and third most minutes out of all players on the Nets’ Orlando Summer League roster. Brown shot 53 percent from the field, while Jefferson shot a staggering 70 percent.
With all the talk about losses and injuries surrounding the team, Brooklyn appears to possess many more positives than negatives heading into the season.
Hollins is a coach with a proven track record that knows how to get the best out of his players. The former Memphis Grizzlies coach led Memphis to three straight playoff appearances, including a Western Conference Finals appearance. But he also has been able to to get the most out of his players, like Mike Conley Jr., Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Randolph and Gasol have made three All-Star appearances combined with Gasol, the team’s defensive anchor, also winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013.
Out of all additions this offseason, Jack has the most to prove. Jack’s credentials are known, he’s a former Sixth Man of the Year candidate that can play both guard positions. He’s also an above average defender.
With the impressive play of Brown this summer, Jack is going to need to prove the Nets made the right decision to acquire him from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year on Cleveland, Jack posted near career-lows in shooting percentage and three-point percentage. His assist average dipped as well. This perhaps was a result of Jack starting 31 games and assuming a more prominent role in Cleveland’s offense, with All-Star Kyrie Irving missing 13 games.
Brooklyn will need Jack’s versatility in the lineup, especially early on with Williams coming off of surgery and Joe Johnson a year older.
The Nets have a plethora of guards on the roster and the odd man out might be Marquis Teague. Teague was acquired by Brooklyn earlier this year in January and saw very limited playing time the rest of the season. The 21-year-old averaged 10 points and six assists per game in Summer League action.
The arrival of Brown does not bode well for Teague’s chances of making Brooklyn’s season opening roster. The pair are nearly identical clones of each other in terms of size and ability. Both Teague and Brown are quick, explosive point guards who can get to the rim and shoot with decent accuracy.
They’re both active on the defensive end as well. Teague needs to continue his productive play in preseason if he expects any chance of staying put in Brooklyn.
Mirza Teletovic saw his playing time double from his rookie season to last year. Teletovic played both forward positions backing up Pierce and Andray Blatche. The Bosnian is small but mobile enough to guard both forward spots and can also stretch the floor. Teletovic shot 39 percent from the three-point line.
Teletovic is also a capable ball handler who can also play comfortably with his back to the basket.
With Pierce and Blatche out of the fold, Teletovic has much to gain. Teletovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev are all in position to fight for playing time at small forward. Kirilenko, being the veteran of the group, appears to have the inside track, but with a strong preseason Teletovic could prove that his future is bright.
On paper, Brooklyn appears to have lost more than it gained. Last year, the team had high expectations and look where they landed. Point being, things aren’t always as they seem. With a healthy core, the rise of Mason Plumlee and the additions of Jack, Brown and Jefferson, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that the Nets aren’t going anywhere.
Has anyone heard the term “addition by subtraction”?