But I think the real question is, how much better are they in the Eastern Conference?
Next season, Brooklyn will roll out a starting lineup consisting of Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
I think name wise, that starting lineup may take the cake compared to just about anyone in the entire league outside of the Miami Heat.
But the obvious fact is that Pierce is 35 years old and is entering his 16th NBA season.
Garnett is 37 years old and is entering his 19th NBA season. NINETEENTH.
He’s played 1,323 career regular season games which ranks 11th all-time in NBA history. And that doesn’t include his 131 playoff games.
Even Jason Terry is entering season number 15.
Clearly these guys are merely secondary pieces behind the two main parts of the future in Williams and Lopez. But the biggest reasons why Brooklyn made this move are because of their championship experience and leadership.
Something Williams, Lopez, and Johnson severely lacked in my opinion.
But as we saw throughout these NBA playoffs, although the Miami Heat are the best team in the league, they’re not that much better than the rest of the league. Both the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs took them to seven games. And clearly the Spurs should’ve won that series in six, but that’s a debate for another day.
So the Nets felt they just needed to add a few more pieces in order to compete with Miami, and they may be right. But after this addition, and also acquiring Andrei Kirilenko (a move I thought was outstanding), where do they really stand?
It’s hard to imagine a Chicago Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose and Luol Deng wouldn’t be the second best team in the east. Even with Rose coming off a torn ACL, this was a team that won 50 games in a 66 game season just two years ago.
The Nets could possibly feel as though they’re close to the Pacers, considering they finished with just one less win than them in the regular season and now bolstered the roster after their blockbuster. That may be correct, but I think I’d still take my chances with Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and potentially a healthy Danny Granger along with one of the best young coaches in Frank Vogel.
The Pacers have been put together about as well as you could possibly construct a team without a star player.
And then you still have the New York Knicks. A team who won 54 games last season even with fairly significant injuries to Iman Shumpert and Amar’e Stoudemire. And double-digit games missed by Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton.
Now include the fact that they added Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Tim Hardaway Jr. without really losing much from their every day roster. It’s hard not to say the Knicks themselves have become a better basketball team.
I don’t doubt that Brooklyn is a more talented team than New York. But I question the notion that they’re head-and-shoulders better. And with these additions, how many more wins are the Nets going to have?
Five more wins? Six? It can’t be that much more, right?
They have a new, first-year head coach in Jason Kidd. He’s already mentioned limiting Garnett and Pierce throughout the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nets and Knicks finish within two games of each other in the Atlantic Division.
They could even meet in the first round of the playoffs in a 4-5 seed playoff matchup. Maybe they get out of the first round. Maybe they don’t.
But if they’re in that matchup, you’re likely squaring up against the Heat in round two. Probably not a matchup they’re going to win. If they get the three seed and face either Chicago or Indiana in round two. Are you really incredibly confident they’ll knock off either team for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown?
And how long is the shelf life of Garnett and Pierce?
Maybe one full season? I doubt it reaches two considering their ages.
What happens if they don’t get further than round two? Or worse, round one? A team that will be paying $183 million including their luxury tax.
In fact, the Nets luxury tax alone will be more than the payroll 25 NBA teams.
We clearly know that owner Mikhail Prokhorov has no cares in the world when it comes to money. But will he care when they are sitting with hardly any future draft picks, an overpaid team that fails to live up to expectations and still locked into Williams, Johnson and Lopez financially after KG and Pierce retire or can hardly move, and still have no cap flexibility?
Everyone loves the new owner now, and I would too were I a Nets fan. But this isn’t baseball. He won’t be able to buy players like the Yankees and Dodgers.
There’s a salary cap in this league and rules that give little-to-no flexibility to adjust the roster.
They won’t be able to bring in any free agents unless they agree to minimal contracts. No draft picks to build from.
What’s going to happen when these guys are near the end of their deals? If I were a betting man, I’d predict the Nets will try to trade their expiring contracts in the future for more players who are overpaid and/or well past their prime in order to stay relevant.
Things may be exciting for a year, maybe even two. But in my eyes, it’s tough to envision this Nets team, as it’s currently constructed, making any legitimate noise in the East and contending for a championship.