|Nets overtake Heat as best team in East|
PUBLISHED 2 days and 20 hours ago LAST UPDATED 2 days and 11 hours ago
Sean Deveney Sporting News
Source: Throwin' Elbows: Nets overtake Heat as best team in East - NBA - Sporting News
The free-agency period is slowing down in the NBA, and as the dust settles, it is obvious that one franchise came out well ahead of the rest. For this week’s edition of Throwin’ Elbows, we will start with that team:
There is a top-level championship contender in the Eastern Conference. And it’s in Brooklyn.
Over the three seasons since LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade got together in Miami, all teams in the East have been measured in terms of their worthiness as a conference runner-up. The Pacers are good—they can hang with Miami. The Knicks are built for the regular season, and were thus the No. 2 seed in the East. The Bulls would have a chance of giving the Heat some competition when Derrick Rose is healthy.
Now, though, we should forget the notion of sizing up a team in terms of what percentage they are when compared to the Heat. The Nets have blown that out of the water. They’re better than Miami.
Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez. That’s your starting five. Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry, Andray Blatche, Shaun Livingston and Reggie Evans. That’s your bench.
“Everything that Miami does well, all of their guys, the Nets have a counterpunch for it,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “They can be very tough on LeBron. That’s just the starters. You get to the bench, and the Nets blow them away. It’s not close. I think they will have some epic matchups.”
It should be acknowledged that there are caveats, conditions and asterisks to go with the enthusiasm attached to the Nets. The first is health. Kirilenko has had two ACL surgeries, and his signing is not yet official. Pierce turns 36 in October and Garnett is 37. Terry will be 36 in September. These are giant, flapping red flags for this team.
The other problem is that the Nets hired Jason Kidd right from the Knicks’ roster as their head coach, and though he will have seasoned former coach Lawrence Frank at his side, there is no telling what kind of coach Kidd will be.
Kidd will ultimately be charged with monitoring the minutes of the fogeys in his rotation, and getting them through the regular season with enough vim and vigor to carry through the playoffs will be tricky. It’s not something that Kidd has done before.
Example: Doc Rivers had enough cred to go to Garnett and tell him he was only playing 25 minutes that night, because Rivers would willingly sacrifice regular-season games to keep his players ready for the postseason. Will Kidd have that same license? Will he have the same vision?
There’s also the long-standing chemistry battle, one that can cause these super-rosters to come apart in a hurry, as the Lakers showed last season. Williams and Johnson like to pound the ball on the perimeter, and that’s not going to cut it when you have so many scoring options on hand. There’s also the crunch-time debate—who takes the final shot?—and as the Heat showed two years ago, issues such as that have a way of snowballing into bigger problems than they should be.
So nothing is guaranteed. But the Nets have the capability to do all the things that hit at the Heat weaknesses. They have Lopez, a middle-of-the paint scoring option. They have Kirilenko, a long, shrewd defender who can handle James on the perimeter and in the post. They have Williams, a point guard who can play pick-and-roll and get into the paint. They have Garnett, a guy who is kryptonite for Bosh. They have perimeter threats (Pierce, Terry), they have a tough guy who annoys (Evans), they have a scoring big man on the bench (Blatche).
The Heat are hardly invincible. They needed seven games to beat Indiana in the East finals, and seven to get by the Spurs in the Finals. The rebuilt Nets are better than the Pacers and the Spurs, both in terms of frontline talent and depth. When you get into comparing the teams on a matchup basis, the Nets just have so many more options than any other team when it comes to dealing with Miami.
Mark them with asterisks, for sure, but mark this, too: As it stands here in July, the Nets are better than the Heat.
Nevermind the Heat
What a slap in the face to teams like Indiana & Chicago