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.

Heading into the 2014 season, the expectations aren’t as high. The same buzz just doesn’t seem to exist, whether it be from the departure of Paul Pierce to the Wizards or a loss of the shiny newness from the relocation, a move that is now two seasons in the past.

But shouldn’t there be more excitement? This is a team that brings back a talented group of veterans, some promising youth, and a coach who has proved that he can win in the playoffs. When engaged, Deron Williams is arguably a top 5-10 player at his position. The same case can be made for Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. And don’t forget, they play in the Eastern Conference, the same conference that produced a below .500 playoff team last season.

On paper, all of this seems that it should equate to a rather good team. But as many have noted before me, the game isn’t played on paper. If it were, the 2012 Lakers would have had as much fun as their pre-season Sports Illustrated cover conveyed. The big name players on this roster and the accolades that they bring with them are an ingredient for success, but not the entire recipe. There are so many different factors that contribute to winning in the NBA. And, once again, the Nets will find health as one of the most deciding factors.

There are two gigantic components that will affect the prospective health of the team. The first is age. The current Nets roster has an average age of 27.8, good for 8th oldest in the NBA. After narrowing down the roster to a projected 10-man rotation, the average age becomes exactly 30. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, in that there are proven veterans on this team, who have a lot of valuable NBA experience. The downside is that the mileage on many of the players is wearing their bodies down, making them more susceptible to frequent and lingering injuries.

The second component is injury history. Many of the key players on this roster have struggled with significant injury problems. Whether it be Deron Williams’ ankles, Brook Lopez’s feet, or KG and Kirilenko’s everything, the expectation is that at some point they each will wind up in suits on the sideline.

The following is a lineup that will likely be used in the most important parts of close games. Next to the players’ names are the number of regular season games that each of them missed last season.

PG- Deron Williams (18)

SG-Joe Johnson (3)

SF- Andrei Kirilenko (37)

PF- Kevin Garnett (28)

C- Brook Lopez (65)

As you can see, aside from Joe Johnson, each player missed significant time. When this lineup is finishing games, you’re probably feeling good about your chances. But the issue comes when one or more of those guys are missing due to injury. In turn, the minutes are being issued to younger guys who have limited experience in big games (Bogdanovic, Teletovic, Plumlee) or to players who are better suited for smaller roles (Jack and Anderson).

The consequence tends to be that more mistakes are made in crunch time; mistakes that wouldn’t be made by the veterans who have been in those situations before. While it ultimately might only cost the team a few games, those losses could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

The Nets have an owner with deep pockets, a roster full of talent and experience, and a coach who puts his players in positions to succeed. They have a ton of versatility and a team system that will make best use of it on both sides of the floor. But without health, none of that will matter.