After a brutal three-game road trip that culminated with a Joe Johnson game-winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Nets return back to Brooklyn for a Saturday night matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers to begin a four game home stretch. During that stretch, Nets fans will get to see an unexpected rising guard, a new young star point guard and the two-time defending champions.
It all kicks off with a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night at the Barclays Center. The Cavaliers have struggled throughout the season and come into Saturday's matchup with the same record as the Nets at 11-21. They will also be without their best player point guard Kyrie Irving due to a knee contusion.
Even without Irving, the Cavaliers still have several players that need to be accounted for. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao are high energy bigs that can give opponents fits on the interior with their rebounding ability. Jarrett Jack is a veteran backup point guard who is more than capable of filling the starting role left vacant with Irving out. Dion Waiters is an athletic wing with high scoring ability.
On Monday night the Nets play host to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks will be without All-Star power forward Al Horford due to a torn pectoral muscle. The Hawks are currently a relatively surprising 18-15 under rookie head coach Mike Budenholzer. Budenholzer was a long-time assistant under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs before being hired this summer by Atlanta.
This is a different Hawks team than the Nets have faced in the past. With Josh Smith leaving in free agency, Joe Johnson being traded two summers ago and Al Horford missing the rest of the season, the Hawks have a bit of a new look. Their three best players are now Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver.
Millsap and Korver were both acquired during free agency. Millsap is currently averaging 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Korver is arguably the best three point shooter in the league and is averaging over 12 points per game.
So who is Atlanta's current best player? Fifth year point guard out of Wake Forest Jeff Teague. In each of his five seasons Teague has upped his points per game and assists. This season Teague is averaging just under 17 points per game and over eight assists per game. He has also hit a number of big shots for the Hawks.
Next, on Wednesday night the Nets will face the high-octane Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are coached by one-time Nets YES announcer Mark Jackson, who just in his third season with the team is regarded as one of the top coaches in the NBA. Jackson coaches a team filled with big time talent like Andre Igoudala, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.
Igoudala has helped the Warriors with his complete all-around game while also hitting a couple of game-winners. His presence on the defensive end has made the Warriors a much more viable threat in the Western Conference.
Curry is the real draw here, though. The young guard has developed into one of the league's deadliest weapons with his incredible shooting ability and terrific court vision. Curry can score from anywhere on the court and also find his open teammates. He is simply one of the best player's in the NBA.
Finally on Friday night, the Nets will host the Miami Heat. This will be their toughest test of their four game stretch. Dwyane Wade has proven this year to still be one of the top level players in the NBA. Chris Bosh can stretch the floor with his shooting ability at the power forward position. Ray Allen cannot be left alone from three-point range. Oh, and they have some guy named LeBron James who you may have heard of.
The Nets already beat Miami in their second game of the season. Beating them twice will be an more difficult task.
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