Let’s go back to late October last year. The Brooklyn Nets had traded for veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. They signed free agents Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson, and drafted rookie power forward Mason Plumlee from Duke University. Brooklyn named future hall of famer Jason Kidd as their new head coach, along with an elite bench of assistant coaches. These guys, along with a healthy Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, were the perfect formula for success.
That didn’t go well. The Nets were defeated in the second round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat after injuries to Williams and Lopez took the team sideways. Kidd left to become the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Pierce took a contract with the Washington Wizards, and Livingston left to join Stephen Curry in the Golden State backcourt.
However, believe it or not, there is still hope for Brooklyn, and there are several reasons why the Brooklyn Nets are NBA Finals contenders.
This offseason Brooklyn signed Lionel Hollins to become their new head coach. Hollins has great coaching experience, taking the Memphis Grizzlies, a team cursed by recurring injuries to star players, and made them into one of the Western Conference’s most elite teams. The Nets are very similar. Their star center, Lopez, has struggled with foot injuries for his entire career, and many believe age is catching up to Williams, who’s had troubles staying healthy as well. Hollins is a guy who can turn a team around, and he will do just that with the Nets.
One of the biggest hits to the Nets this offseason was losing Livingston. When Williams got injured and was out for a massive chunk of the season, Livingston stepped up and became a leader on the team. Fans fell in love with his unselfish and highly efficient play and were heart broken when he left for California.
So, what did Nets GM Billy King do? He went out and signed somebody better. Veteran point guard Jarrett Jack came to Brooklyn from Cleveland, and is hoping to start from where he left off as a backup to Stephen Curry in Golden State, where he shined. Jack is a strong player on defense, and can cover shooting guards and sometimes even small forwards. He will be a great addition to this team.
Twenty-five-year-old rookie Bojan Bogdanovic is making the transition to the NBA with the Nets. He was known as one of Croatia’s top players. During this summer’s FIBA World Cup, Bogdanovic showed signs of superstar potential, and if he can play like he did in that tournament, he could be one of, if not the, most underrated addition a team has made this offseason. He is a fantastic three-point shooter which he has already shown flashes of this season.
If there is one thing that will decide how far the Nets go this year, it will be health. Williams and Lopez are infamous for their chronic injuries. These guys will need to stay healthy this season for the Nets to even be able to compete for a playoff spot. Coach Hollins will need to make sure he limits these two until he knows they are 100% healthy.
And finally, the combination of youth and age at the power forward position could serve as an extremely valuable asset to the Nets this season. Garnett, who is just about wrapping up his career, will serve as a valuable mentor to sophomore Mason Plumlee. Although the 38-year-old Garnett has lost his touch on offense, he is still a terrific defender and an insane rebounder. Plumlee is also a great defender and rebounder, and he has an outstanding knowledge of the game. Learning from Garnett could greatly increase these traits, and could turn into opponents’ worst nightmare.
Keep an eye out, NBA. The Brooklyn Nets aren’t over. They’re just beginning