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.