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Brooklyn Film Festival: A Lesson in Poor Pick-and-Roll Defense

The box score from Wednesday night’s season opener will tell you the Nets shot 49% from the floor and 37% from beyond the arc. It will say they took more free throws than the Celtics and made more, and at a better rate, that they out-rebounded Boston and that their bench poured in 46 points.

It might be hard to imagine those snapshot numbers accompanying a game in which the Nets were convincingly blown out and needed a prolific-but-meaningless garbage-time final frame to avoid losing by 30 points. Unless, of course, you had the distinct misfortune of watching them play what I suppose we will charitably refer to as defense, even while it much more apparently resembled a conveyor belt.

Holy cow, they were a train wreck.

The Celtics are, for now, exactly no one’s idea of an offensive juggernaut, but Brad Stevens’ playbook plus several lineups capable of playing a frisky-if-ultimately-underpowered five-out style will keep them performing above their talent-level. This should not be understood to mean that what happened last night can be attributed to much of what the Celtics did. To the naked eye they seemed to be content working the ball to whoever was open, the popularly-lauded taking of whatever the defense gave them. Of course, in this case, the Nets defense was in a profoundly giving mood.

Here’s an example, from the portion of last night’s game that was actually competitive:

Incoherent Defense 1

Rajon Rondo handles the ball at the top, Kevin Garnett is playing Jared Sullinger tight, and Mason Plumlee is following Kelly Olynyk as he moves to set a pick on Deron Williams. No big deal.

Incoherent Defense 2

Olynyk sets the pick to Rondo’s right, and this is where things get screwy. Plumlee shows hard on the pick, allowing Olynyk a clean run to the rim and requiring that someone help down. Garnett is the obvious candidate, as the only other rim protector on the floor and the man closest to the basket.

Incoherent Defense 3

Garnett slid down to pick up Olynyk on the block and Williams stayed on Rondo, but Plumlee is in no man’s land. Joe Johnson could either rotate over to Sullinger and force a skip pass, flash to Sullinger just for show, or just kinda hang out and do nothing. One way or another, someone needs to find their way to Sullinger, or else…

Incoherent Defense 4

The word you’re looking for here is [gulp].

Johnson contests way too late and Plumlee manages to find his way to the furthest point from any Celtics player on that entire half of the court.

Because Olynyk and Sullinger are willing and capable three-point-shooters, it behooves opposing defenses to keep their defenders engaged up high against the pick-and-roll, but executing that strategy will require a level of organization and communication that was not evident in Brooklyn’s defense last night.

Here’s another early example:

Incoherent Defense2 1

Again, Rondo handles at the top, Garnett is tight on Sullinger, and Plumlee follows Olynyk as he races up to set a screen. The Celtics are going five-out here.

Incoherent Defense2 2

Oh no! Olynyk slipped the screen, just as Plumlee took another hedge position. Now either Plumlee needs to chase Olynyk like hell or another Nets defender needs to rotate off a shooter and give help.

Incoherent Defense2 3

A couple of bad things have happened, here. Joe Johnson rotated down to help but is notably not between Olynyk and the basket, and Plumlee is, again, in no man’s land, behind the ball and headed just about literally nowhere, fast. Rondo has his choice of Jeff Green wide open on the wing or Olynyk in the paint.

Incoherent Defense2 4

Ouch. Despite rotating to Olynyk’s hip, Johnson is unable to contest either the catch or the shot, while Plumlee is, again, at the point on the floor that is furthest from any Celtics player.

One more, just for grim edification. This time the Nets defense will collapse without the Celtics creating any useful spacing at all:

Incoherent Defense3 1

Mirza Teletovic fights Brandon Bass for position in the paint, Rondo handles at the top, while Garnett checks a trailing Tyler Zeller. Note that Boston’s Jeff Green is also lurking near the paint, allowing Alan Anderson to stay more-or-less between the ball and the basket.

Incoherent Defense3 2

Garnett, perhaps anticipating a Zeller screen, takes the Plumlee outrageous-hedge position, while Jarrett Jack works his way well under Zeller’s… whatever that is. With a non-shooter like Rondo handling and a non-shooter like Zeller as the screen man, this might be a good time for Garnett to abandon the show and retreat to his man, and the Nets can behave like any other sensible NBA defense and dare Rondo to beat them with perimeter jumpers.

Incoherent Defense3 3

What.

Brandon Bass leaks to the elbow, Jack sags dramatically off Rondo, and Garnett waits until Zeller is alone under the basket to point in utter futility for a switch with Teletovic, who is caught in no man’s land. You’ll never guess what happens next.

Incoherent Defense3 4

Right you are!

If there’s a common theme here, it’s aggressive hedging on pick-and-roll action without an apparent strategy for how to recover against virtually anything that could conceivably follow a pick-and-roll. They’ve yielded an uncontested three-pointer from the top of the key on the first pass after the screen, an uncontested layup by the roll man with the floor spaced, and an uncontested dunk by the roll man with the paint packed. It’s a story of an incoherent defensive plan executed with minimal cohesion, and communication that is seemingly only deployed in the drawing of everyone’s attention to the extent of its failures. Hey, Teletovic, look how open I left my man!

Some of this stuff will iron itself out over the course of the season, and the Nets will likely (hopefully) abandon some of the aggressive hedging once Lopez is back in action. Plumlee’s confusion can potentially be explained away by the time he spent this summer practicing and playing with the US Men’s National Team, executing a defensive strategy designed by Tom Thibodeau that calls upon its bigs to sag back against the pick-and-roll, and this is, after all, their first season under new coach Lionel Hollins. Look for the Nets to clean up and refine their approach to pick-and-roll defense. If they don’t, this will be a very long season.

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Reverse Engineering the Ideal Offense

There is still some mystery surrounding exactly what the Brooklyn Nets will look like on both sides of the ball (and some early season night terrors). We know coach Hollins will expect them to be more active and intense on defense, but there will also be some change to the offensive sets. Over this past weekend I was browsing through some offensive plays that the Memphis Grizzlies ran under Lionel Hollins (as all the cool kids do) when I had a bit of an epiphany.

I was attempting to superimpose some Grizzlies plays onto the Nets personnel when it hit me like a Steven Adams elbow: I need to figure out where these guys should be shooting from. I have since spent a few too many hours analyzing the offensive skills of Brooklyn’s best lineup and reverse engineering a play to get them into those desirable spots. What follows is the result and it contains a lot of semi-technical stuff (which is itself a technical term), so if you like Xs and Os welcome to my nerd party.

The Lineup

I’m honestly not sure yet what the best Nets lineup is going to be, but I can take a pretty good guess. Assuming everyone is healthy, Deron Williams will be the point guard, Joe Johnson will be at shooting guard, and Brook Lopez will be the center. At the end of a game I would be surprised if the power forward isn’t Kevin Garnett, despite having been in the league almost as long as he’s been out of it (he’ll actually cross that mark on April 19, 2015). The small forward spot is the hard one, although I expect it to be a shooter. Since there’s not a lot of data available for the brand new Brooklyn bomber, Bojan Bogdanovic (whose name is alluringly alliterative), I’m going to insert Mirza Teletovic in this lineup. (Side note: Yikes, this is a rough defensive crew, but that’s a story for another day.)

Ideal Shooting Spots

Easy, everyone gets a slam dunk. Next section.

Fine, fine, I guess it’s not realistic to expect all five players to be in the restricted zone at the end of a play. That said, the slam dunk or layup is the best shot, so we already know we want someone in there. As has been much discussed over the past few years, the next best spot is the corner three point shot, so we should expect to utilize that as long as someone is efficient from there. As for the rest, and their exact placement, I used the effective field goal percentage (eFG%) data found on NBA.com. The reason I went with eFG over standard field goal percentage is that eFG accounts for the extra point that a three-pointer earns. The calculation is super-easy (you multiply made 3 point field goals by 1.5 before dividing by attempts), but it shows the true value of each shot.

Brooklyn Nets ideal final shooting placement

Ideal final shooting placement

For this analysis I combined field goals for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, mostly because a few of these players didn’t play too much last season (specifically the large, Lopez-shaped one). I also removed any shot styles or locations that had fewer than 30 attempts. That’s still a smaller sample size than I’d like, but I’m not going for the Nobel Prize in Basketball Journalism here (I’m saving that for my “How a Joe Johnson Step-Back Cures Ebola” opus).

The best overall eFG% out of those five guys listed above was a little surprising to me: Deron Williams in the left corner. The sample size is low at only 46 attempts, but he’s hit 22 of those for a 47.8% FG, or a 71.7% eFG (22*1.5/46). Alternatively, Deron’s taken 585 above the break three pointers in the past 2 seasons. While he’s hit a respectable 36.1% of them (54.1 eFG%), he, unlike Baby, should be put in a corner.

After Deron in the corner comes Mirza Teletovic in the corner. Luckily for the purposes of this article, Mirza is better from the right corner, although much like Deron, he has not taken nearly as many as above the break threes. In the past two seasons Teletovic shot 388 threes from above the break, but only 26 from the right corner, despite making 12 of those for a 69.2 eFG%.

The next placement is utterly unsurprising: Brook Lopez in the restricted area at 65.5%, with even better numbers for layups, dunks, and banked hook shots. That means we need to get Brook on the block, specifically the right block.

Now we’re getting into territory where shots are less reliable. Above the break three pointers are rarely high-efficiency shots unless you’ve got someone like Steph Curry (spoiler alert: the Nets do not), and therefore we don’t want everyone hanging out behind the line. So then we’re in mid-range nation, which can be a slippery slope between high percentage foul line shots and Josh Smith jumpers (28%…oof).

This is the part where Kevin Garnett becomes important. KG is one of the rare players that is a very good mid-range shooter, hitting 45% of them in the past two seasons. One of his favorite spots to shoot from is that pick-and-pop area between the elbow and the wing. Since we’ve already got people in the corners and one on the right block, we’re putting KG on the left side, about 18-20 feet from the basket.

So here we are with Joe Johnson, who has to be the distributor…Iso-Joe himself. He’s going to end up at the right elbow, where he’s right around 50% shooting, but he has the most options, which I’ll discuss as we go.

Initial Setup

If the players were just told to go stand on those spots it probably wouldn’t work very well (although I’m convinced that’s what some NBA coaches do). Therefore, we need a few offensive actions to get them in place and hopefully shake off a defender (by “offensive actions” I mean things such as cuts and screens, not what went down at the Gold Club).

I’ll start with the easiest one: Mirza Teletovic is just going to go stand in the corner as if he used a naughty word while helping his dad change a tire. Forget about him for now, he’ll be over there when we need him.

Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett are starting across the lane from their end position, so Lopez is on the left block and Garnett on the right elbow.

Deron Williams is bringing the ball up while Joe Johnson waits just outside the wing area setting up for a dribble handoff.

The Play

This is an uncomplicated play by NBA standards, but when broken down into segments, plays are simple. Piling action on top of action and taking into account the options of every player is where things get complicated. Since this article is long enough, I’m keeping it simple.

So last we saw Deron and Johnson, they were in the middle of a dribble handoff so JJ can get the ball. After his handoff, Williams cuts tight around Garnett at the elbow, giving the impression that he’s trying to lose his man. He then dives straight to the rim and sets a quick screen for Brook Lopez to move across the baseline. After releasing the screen, Deron sprints to the left corner looking for the pass.

Following the screen by Williams, Brook Lopez cuts under the basket and attempts to seal off his defender near the right block. Meanwhile, Garnett is moving toward the left elbow to set a ball screen on Joe Johnson’s defender. After releasing the screen, Garnett will “pop” into his position between the elbow and the wing looking for the ball.

Joe Johnson dribbles right to utilize the Garnett screen and drives down toward the right elbow. Oh the options he has…

Play Diagram

Play Diagram

Options

As I see it Joe Johnson has 4 basic options.

1. As outlined above, the best shot is Deron Williams in the left corner, so that’s Johnson’s first look. If Deron’s defender gets hung up under the basket or cheats toward either Brook Lopez or Kevin Garnett, the pass goes to Williams.

2. Should the defender stick to Deron, Joe looks to the block and checks on Lopez. If he has his man sealed, that’s where the ball would go. From there, Brook has two options: if Teletovic’s defender comes for the double, he would kick it to Mizra in the corner, otherwise the shot goes up.

3. The next best option is going to be instinctual for a player like Johnson, and that is to score. If his defender got left behind on the Garnett screen (which, let’s face it, was probably moving) and neither of the above options are there, Joe puts up a jumper.

4. The worst option in this case is to slide it over to KG. If Deron’s man is dumb enough to leave the corner to run at Garnett, he can swing the ball to Williams, otherwise that patented KG 18 footer flies toward the hoop (legal disclaimer: patent office will neither confirm nor deny that papers have been filed).

Of those options above, even the worst one is an area where Kevin Garnett hit 47.3% of the shots he took. That means that, on average, they can expect a minimum of 0.95 points per possession. Over the past two seasons, the Nets pace (average number of plays per 48 minutes) was 92.46. That equals an expectation of 87.8 points per game. In the best case scenario, the eFG% is 71.7, which calculates to an expectancy of 132.59 points per game. Taking a crude average of the best and worst options, the Nets can expect 110 points per game running this play over and over again, which would have put them atop the league last season (the Clippers led with 107.5 per game).

Obviously this is simplified and takes very little of defense into account. It also doesn’t account for the scenario where all options are covered. In that case, the team would ideally move into further actions. If the opening night Celtics game was an indication, however, layered action is probably a lot to ask for since the offense more closely resembled zombies wandering the streets than NBA players.

The animated gif below shows the movement and ball options described above. I know it’s a little rough (and I don’t know why the dots change colors), but it gets the point across. Click to see it move as if by magic.

NETS

That’s as far as I’m going to go for now, please leave some comments or talk to me on Twitter @YesThatBrian. I accept any and all questions, criticisms, suggestions, and unconditional praise.

If you’re liking this sort of deep dive into play structure let me know, I hope to do it periodically with actual Nets plays from the season. Of course, if they’re going to perform like they did against Boston, I may just have to keep speaking theoretically. Also, if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m stuck searching stats at NBA.com and may be under some sort of stat geek spell. Contact the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office immediately (and yes, that’s a deep, deep Harry Potter reference. Dorks gonna dork).

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RECAP – Nets: 105, Celtics: 121

Brooklyn Nets 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
121 Boston Celtics
Mason Plumlee, PF 11 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -6

The FIBA gold medalist finished the game with just 11 minutes played after averaging well over 20 minutes in the preseason. The strong performance from Mirza Teletovic limited his time to make an impact, but the second-year forward made some defensive mistakes early that must have frustrated Lionel Hollins enough to limit his playing time.

Bojan Bogdanovic, SF 26 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -8

Bogdanovic got the start and attempted to take advantage a cross-match with Rajon Rondo early, but the Celtics point guard was crafty enough to limit the height advantage from the Croatian swingman. After his advantage down low was limited, the small forward nabbed just seven points on 50 percent shooting.

Kevin Garnett, C 23 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 10 PTS | -11

The Big Ticket played 23 minutes in the season opener and notched 10 points along with six boards against his old team in Boston. Garnett does deserve some of the blame for allowing Kelly Olynyk to score 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting, as the youngster beat KG in transition and cuts to the basket multiple times.

Deron Williams, PG 39 MIN | 6-16 FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | -16

In 39 minutes of action, Williams shot 6 of 16 from the field for 19 points. The point guard opted for a lot of isolation looks from mid-range and struggled to finish at the basket, shooting just 33 percent from the restricted area. Williams failed to make a 3-pointer in the game, but did tally eight assists and a pair of steals.

Joe Johnson, SG 34 MIN | 7-19 FG | 3-5 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | -30

Johnson continued the trend of inefficiency in the backcourt by shooting 36 percent from the field in 34 minutes of action. Like Williams, Johnson scored 19 points, but failed to score well in the restricted area. He finished the game shooting 2 of 5 from beyond the arc, but just 3 of 10 from inside the paint.

Mirza Teletovic, PF 23 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +4

As one of the only bright spots for the Nets, Teletovic came off the bench to score 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the field in 23 minutes of action. The 29-year-old spread the floor better than anyone else on the team by shooting 4 of 6 from beyond the arc with the rest of the team shooting just 23 percent.

Jarrett Jack, PG 30 MIN | 5-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -7

Jack played the third-most minutes on the team as he came off the bench to score 11 points with a pair of rebounds, assists and steals. Outside of his 5 of 9 shooting from the field, Jack failed to produce a spark as the leader of the bench unit.

Lionel Hollins

Hollins picked up his first technical of the season after an argument with the officials in the second quarter. In his first regular-season game as head coach of the Nets, Hollins was unable to rally the team to come back from a 67-41 halftime deficit. The offense never seemed to find its sense of balance, as Joe Johnson and Deron Williams attempted to score against a potent defensive backcourt from Boston in Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The Nets allowed the Celtics (yes, those Celtics) to 61 percent shooting from the field in the first half. The team seemed unprepared for the amount of off-ball cuts made in Brad Stevens’ offense as Rajon Rondo cut through the Brooklyn defense with 12 assists.
  2. The Nets only led once, at the beginning of the game when a pair of free throws opened play for Brooklyn. Although the Nets tried to make a run to begin the fourth quarter, the deficit didn’t fall under 19 points as Boston’s defensive backcourt made it difficult for the Nets to initiate the offense.
  3. Between Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Nets played a lot of isolation ball in the first half to deepen their deficit. Although the Brooklyn backcourt scored 19 points each, most of those were outside the design of Hollins’ offensive system. Johnson’s post ups and Williams’ pull-up jumpers limited the rhythm of the offensive unit.

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Three Man Weave: NBA Opening Day Edition

Every Tuesday during the season we’ll be posing three questions for three of our experts at the Brooklyn’s Finest Blog to answer. While a few franchises are set to celebrate the start of the 2014-15 NBA season tonight, the Brooklyn Nets still have a day remaining before tipping off in Boston, giving our writers a chance to expand upon their predictions for the upcoming season. We’ll have actual basketball to discuss next week but until then we’d love to hear your responses to these preseason questions in the comments below.

1.) Which player can the Nets least afford to lose to injury?

Austin Reynolds:  Brook Lopez. Injuries have been a problem for Lopez throughout his career, but if the Nets have any hopes of making the playoffs this season then he’s going to have to play at least 70 games. In 2012-13 (the last year Lopez was relatively healthy) the Nets had an offensive rating of 110.3 with Lopez on the court compared to 105.3 with him on the bench, and on the other end of the floor the team’s defensive rating dropped from 107.7 to an improved 105.0 when he stepped on the floor. Brook is an All-Star caliber player that makes an impact both offensively and defensively, and the Nets are going to need him to find a way to stay healthy.

Jonah Jordan:  The Nets cannot afford to lose Deron Williams. His ankles have to hold up if the team has any hopes of making the playoffs. The offense is going to depend on Williams to spread the floor and run whatever sets Lionel Hollins comes up with besides “throw it to Brook”. His backup, Jarrett Jack, has proven that he cannot be the starting point guard for an elite NBA team. Behind Jack is Jorge Gutierrez who is just not very good. Losing Williams would send the Nets to the lottery and their pick to Atlanta.

David Vertsberger:  This one’s tough. I’d have to go with Deron Williams. The Nets aren’t too deep at the one spot, and I’m not the biggest Jarrett Jack fan. Sure it would be silly to expect an injury-free season from D-Will, but even through ankle troubles his production would be nearly impossible to replace.

2.) Which young/role/supporting player takes a step forward or is the most important to the teams’ success?

Reynolds:  Mason Plumlee. I have a feeling this is probably the popular answer, but it’s also the right one. Plumlee improved as the season went on last year, averaging 9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in 22 minutes per game following the All-Star break, and did it efficiently, shooting an absurd 68 percent. Take that and combine it with the experience he gained playing with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, and Plumlee could be poised for a breakout year.

Jordan:  Mason Plumlee is going to be huge for the Nets on both sides of the ball, but it’s up to Hollins to use him correctly. Plumlee is great in pick and roll situations but is ‘meh’ with his back to the basket. This doesn’t fly in the Lionel Hollins school of thought.  Misusing Plumlee would be a disservice to him and the Nets. There is no reason that he shouldn’t have a breakout season.

Vertsberger:  BOJAN! As it stands, he’s a starting wing for Brooklyn as a rookie. There’s really no way around the fact that he’s the most important young fella on the roster. As long as Brook Lopez is healthy, Mason Plumlee takes a backseat. Same goes for Mirza Teletovic with Kevin Garnett. Appointing Alan Anderson or Andrei Kirilenko as full-time starters isn’t a great option, so it’s on BOJAN! (yeah, I’m doing this all year long) to impress in his freshman campaign.

3.) What adjustment(s) are you most looking forward to seeing head coach Lionel Hollins make this season?

Reynolds:  This might be cheating since it isn’t exactly an adjustment per se, but I’m most looking forward to seeing how the Lionel Hollins/Deron Williams relationship plays out. One of Lionel’s strongest coaching abilities in Memphis was his ability to get players to buy in to what he was trying to accomplish and the culture he wanted to establish with the team. Lionel also isn’t the kind of coach to pander to superstars and let them have things their way. On the other side of the coin, whether fair or not, WIlliams has earned himself a reputation as one of the NBA’s premier “coach killers,” so the relationship between those two is certainly something to keep an eye on throughout the season.

Jordan:  It’s no secret that the Nets were not a great defensive team under Jason Kidd. I love what Lionel Hollins did with the Memphis defense in his tenure there. The team defense concept is something Hollins is great at getting players to adhere to, but this team doesn’t rep the best defensive roster out there. Getting Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack to play consistently high-level defense  is a massive undertaking for Hollins. I’m not sure he’s prepared for the amount of times that Williams steps out of the way for a faster point guard because his ankles are held together by glue and masking tape. We may need to get someone to monitor Lionel’s heart throughout the season.

Vertsberger:  Injuries are going to hit this team, and they are probably going to hit either Brook Lopez or Kevin Garnett, perhaps even both. I’d like to see if Hollins will look to go small in such a situation, as Jason Kidd did last season. The Plumlee-Teletovic frontcourt is one that intrigues me to no end, and although injuries suck, seeing those two playing starter minutes would be a blast.

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Allow me to re-introduce myself

My name is Verts, D-A-V to the I-D

I used to basketblog back in NYC

I guess starting now you can call me

CEO of the Brooklyn’s Finest, yo!

Fresh out the fryin’ pan into the fire

We’ll be the Nets content number one supplier

Flyer than a piece of paper bearin’ our name

Got the hottest blog in the game, stay out our lane

Okay, enough of that.

Hello there! In case you couldn’t tell by my dope (note: not dope whatsoever) rhymes, my name is David Vertsberger and I’m the proud new owner of Brooklyn’s Finest blog. I was born in Brooklyn and have lived in the borough ever since. When the Nets first moved to Brooklyn, I was giddy as could be despite my allegiance to the Knicks. My borough had an NBA team! How could I not have a soft spot for them? So when the opportunity of running the Truehoop Network’s Brooklyn Nets affiliate blog appeared, there was no way I could pass it up.

Today is our re-launch, and aside from this little “Hello Brooklyn!” message we’ve got some words for you to read! Brian McNichols gives you Brooklyn’s possible scenarios this season, Paul Mitchell breaks down the small forward position, Kevin Echavarria looks at how Jarrett Jack will do in Shaun Livingston’s place, Jeremy Briggs talks about health, John Mazlish proposes a multitude of different lineups, Kenny Garner argues the Nets will miss Andray Blatche, Nick Huth gives the young bloods some attention, and the staff makes their season predictions.

Our goal is to continue bringing the best in Brooklyn Nets coverage, with game recaps, analysis, and weekly columns. Every month, Jeremy Briggs will give you a look inside what kicks the Nets are rocking. Every couple of weeks, Austin Reynolds is going to examine a recent trend of the squad, good or bad. We’ll also have a weekly mailbag from Jonah Jordan, which you can start e-mailing questions to here: bknmailbag[at]gmail.com[dot]com.

All this plus frequent posts analyzing the Nets year round, new columns being implemented and a killer podcast on its way. Welcome to Brooklyn’s Finest, where we hope to live up to the name.

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Youth Movement: Youngsters Pushing for Increased Roles with Nets

With the continued presence of seasoned players such as Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko and Joe Johnson, one might not realize that the Brooklyn Nets are younger than last season. With the departure of Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche and the recent injury to Brook Lopez, head coach Lionel Hollins will find himself relying on a few younger talents to fill the void. Read More

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The Nets will miss Andray Blatche

When Nets fans remember Andray Blatche, they will most likely remember him for his silly shenanigans rather than for his actual play on the court. There were the numerous times during his two year tenure with the Nets that Blatche mistook himself for Deron Williams and flung up an ill advised three-point shot, or tried a difficult Harlem Globetrotter-esque dribble move and failed miserably. Comedy will not be the only part of Blatche that Nets fan will miss this year as the big man continues his career in China, though. Read More

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Health will be key for Nets this season

It has been said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Quite frankly the Nets could have cultivated an entire orchard in Barclays Center and still would have struggled to keep their players healthy last season. While the end result was a solid record and a playoff berth, injuries certainly hampered the lofty expectations that had been set forth. Read More

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Goodbye Shaun, Hello Jarrett

Amongst the injury storm that was the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets’ season, one name was notable for consistently staying off of the injury reports — Shaun Livingston, who set career highs in games started and played. His resurgence last season was a welcome sight league-wide, as he established himself as one of the better backup point guards in the league with his athleticism, defensive ability and his leadership on the court, before getting picked up this offseason by the Golden State Warriors on a 3-year, $16 million contract.

It is Livingston’s mantle that now falls to the shorter, broader shoulders of Jarrett Jack, the 6’3″ combo guard acquired from Cleveland this past offseason as the Cavs looked to clear cap space to sign some hometown hero who had been toiling away down in Florida. How well Jack can handle his responsibilities will play a significant part in how the Nets fare in the new look Eastern Conference. Read More

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Brooklyn’s Small Forward Situation

Paul Pierce couldn’t even make it a full week into the games portion of the NBA’s preseason schedule before taking shots at his former franchise. He expressed early interest in returning to the Brooklyn Nets once Kevin Garnett committed to another season, but never received a contract offer from general manager Billy King this summer and spoke about his departure with David Aldridge. The usual clichés of both parties moving in “different directions” and even the cutting costs conversation were innocuous enough, but the “New Jersey” name drop and the “they felt like they weren’t going to be a contender” comment certainly constituted some shade thrown by Pierce. King responded to The Truth’s trolling by reiterating management’s commitment to winning and spending (the Nets will lead the league in team payroll entering the second-consecutive season) but his depth acquisitions at the wing the last two summers and the changing role of the small forward position in the Brooklyn Nets’ new offense this season have helped make Paul Pierce expendable. Read More