The Brooklyn Nets have rocked the NBA world this off-season with their new roster and sky-high pay roll. When the Nets step on the court this season expectations will be extremely high and some around the league, including Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, believe the Nets could knock off the Miami Heat this season. In part 5 of our Pre- Season Preview we will break down the matchups between the Nets and the defending champs.
Point Guard- Deron Williams v.s. Mario Chalmers
Chalmers is a middle of the road NBA point guard. At times he looks lost on the court committing stupid turnovers and having defensive lapses. Other times, especially in the playoffs, he looks like he’s one of the best players on the court. Despite those moments, Williams is the much better overall player.
Wade’s health has to be the biggest concern for the Heat this season. The top teams in the Eastern Conference have all improved and when he is not healthy he really hurts the team on the court. Then we see performances like Game 4 of the NBA Finals, where he put up 32 points, six rebounds, four assists, six steals and zero turnovers. Those nights we are reminded of what Wade was and still can be. Johnson is going to have to adjust to a new system in Brooklyn that will not benefit his typical way of play.
Small Forward- Paul Pierce v.s. LeBron James
Simply, James is the best player on the planet. He can do everything at an extremely high level, can defend all five positions and the scary thing is, he is still getting better. The Nets will have to play great team defense against James because they don’t have anybody that can stay with him.
Power Forward- Kevin Garnett v.s. Udonis Haslem
Haslem, like Chalmers, is a middle of the road player. He can rebound, he can score, and he can play defense but he doesn’t do anything great. He had a few big moments in the playoffs, including 16 and 17 point performances in the Eastern Conference Finals, but then towards the end of the NBA Finals he barely saw the court. Even at 37 years old, Garnett can still change the game on either end of the court.
Center- Brook Lopez v.s. Chris Bosh
It is awfully tough to forget Bosh’s zero point performance in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. You have to imagine that any All-Star would at least get one basket to fall in the most important game of the season. In all fairness Bosh did make a couple of big plays in Game 6 to force a Game 7, including two blocks and a huge offensive rebound. However, Bosh is not the star player he once was and this season he averaged just 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. On the other hand Lopez is an emerging superstar who is extremely skilled on the offensive end of the court and improving defensively.
Bench- The Heat will return most of their bench from last season including Chris “Birdman” Anderson, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Norris Cole. The Heat also added James Ennis on draft day, who was one of the big surprises during the Orlando Summer League. The Heat’s big move during the off-season was their decision to amnesty sharpshooter Mike Miller, who played a big role in their championship run.
The Nets bench is one of the deepest in the league with Shaun Livingston, Jason Terry, Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche.
Bench Backcourt- Norris Cole has been a productive player for the Heat since coming into the league two years ago and is a pest on the defensive end. Allen is still one of the best three-point shooters in the league, despite his age.
For the Nets, Livingston provides a 6’6” point guard off the bench who will help out defensively with his ability to guard several positions. Terry is coming off a bad season in Boston but should help provide an offensive spark and Anderson is a perfect three and D player off the bench.
Bench Frontcourt- Heat have added Ennis who is a long, athletic small forward who can play defense and shoot the ball well from deep. Shane Battier is a veteran leader who was clutch for the Heat in Game 7, after playing poorly all playoffs long. Anderson is an energy big man off the bench, who helped the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, making smart cuts to the hoop and coming up with big blocks.
Kirilenko will have to play a lot of minutes against the Heat, since they like to play with small lineups and he will likely be given the task of guarding LeBron for most of the game. Blatche was one of the most efficient players all season long and his length and athleticism should work well against the Heat.
X Factor- Dwayne Wade
Against a team of the Nets caliber LeBron James is going to need to get some help. Wade will need to be that help for him. When Wade and James are both playing at the level they are capable of they are simply too good for the Nets. However, if Wade is not healthy or playing at a high level the Heat will have a tough time against Brooklyn.
Nets- 5 Heat- 2
Despite what the numbers say the Heat are a veteran team that has been together for 3 years and won back to back titles. The Nets will need to stay healthy and learn how to play with one another. They will also need to figure out some kind of strategy to defend the league MVP, which is much easier said than done. While the Nets might have the edge on paper, the Heat are the reigning champs and it is their trophy until someone proves them otherwise.
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