Brooklyn Nets 2013-14 Team Review

Posted by Nick Ziegler on Monday, June 30, 2014 with No comments
By Nick Ziegler (@Ziggy26x)

In their second season in Brooklyn, the Nets were able to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season despite a really difficult start to the season that saw a learning curve for Head Coach Jason Kidd, and a lot of injuries, which included losing Center Brook Lopez for the season. The turning point for the Nets was their first game of the 2014 calendar year on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Going against one of the best teams in the NBA, the Nets were able to get a huge victory thanks to Joe Johnson, who showed off his clutch gene hitting a buzzer-beater that turned the season around.

After the huge win against the Thunder, Brooklyn would have a fantastic month of January, going (10-3). As 2014 went on the Nets would emerge as one of the best teams defending their home-court, with a 15-game home winning streak. Jason Kidd did a very good job hanging in tough after the poor start, and making adjustments, no one more important than him deciding to go with a small lineup. In his final season with the New York Knicks, Jason Kidd was mostly on the court with another Point Guard, and in the Nets turn around he implemented that with his team moving Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup with Deron Williams. The lineup not only helped the Nets on the offense end by having Paul Pierce as a Power Forward causing lots of mismatches, but on the defensive end it turned the Nets into a position-less defense similar to what the Miami Heat do with players being able to constantly switch and rotate quickly. Overall it was a successful regular season for the Nets, finishing with a (44-38) record.

Some careful positioning and rest late in the season the Nets finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, which set them up with a first round match-up against the Toronto Raptors, who won the Atlantic Division. Brooklyn seemed to want no part of facing the Chicago Bulls for the second straight postseason, but the young Raptors pushed the veteran Nets to a fantastic seven game series. The Nets would come out on top of the Raptors with victories in both games 6 and 7, with Game 7 being a great one, as the Nets squeaked out a 104-103 win in Toronto to advance and face the defending champs.

In the second round of the playoffs the Nets had the daunting task of trying to knock off the LeBron James and the Heat. The Nets were behind the eight-ball to begin the series, as the Heat impressed at home, defeating the Nets by double-digits in the first two games. When the series shifted back to Brooklyn, the Nets would start to play much better, as they were able to win Game 3 before suffering close losses in Game 4 and 5. The Nets goal was to be title contenders, but even with Lopez that would have been unlikely as long as the Big 3 are together in Miami, but for the Nets the season has to be considered a good one as they were able to win their first playoff series since the move to Brooklyn, and they just unfortunately ran into the best player in the world, and a more talented Heat team.

Standout Star: Joe Johnson

Easily for the Nets in the regular season and the postseason their best and most consistent player was Joe Johnson in the 2013-14 season. Statistically in the regular season, Johnson was the best the Nets had, leading the team with 15.8 points per game on 45.4% shooting from the field, 40.1% from three point-range, and 81.5% from the free throw line. Johnson was under some scrutiny when he was selected to his seventh All-Star Team, but with the Nets doing well coming into the All-Star Break, Johnson being the Nets best player got the nod.

After the Lopez injury, Kidd needed to make changes losing arguably the Nets most talented half-court offensive player, especially in the post. With the loss of their best post player, Kidd would start to run the offensive through Johnson in the post, as being 6-7, 240 caused lots of mismatches, and often forced teams to bring double teams to Johnson, who then made excellent passes out to set up often wide open three-point attempts for teammates.

Johnson had a few special games in the regular season, with the before mentioned buzzer-beater in Oklahoma City, he also had another one earlier in the season against the Phoenix Suns, as Kevin Garnett gave him the nickname “Joe Jesus” due to his clutch gene. His highest scoring game of the season came against the awful Philadelphia 76ers, where he dropped 37 points, which included a 29-point third quarter, and a career-high 10 three-pointers made.

In the playoffs Johnson really shined stepping up his game, as the Nets proved to really need him to in order to win a series. He was able to average 21.2 PPG in the playoffs, with an improved shooting percentage across the board going 53.3% from the field, 41.5% from three-point range, and 83.7% from the free throw line. In what ended up being the Nets final game of the season in Game 5 against the Heat, Johnson came through with his best performance of the playoffs. In the 96-94 loss, Johnson scored 34 points, which was his most of the postseason on 15 for 23 shooting from the field, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Nets season alive.

Off-Season Needs:

The off-season for General Manager Billy King will not be an easy one, as with the trade last season for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Nets are strapped in the salary cap, and also have no picks in the 2014 draft. For the Nets they thought to have a two-year title window after the additions of Garnett and Pierce, but for the 2014 season there is no guarantees that either one will be back, as Pierce can leave via free agency, and although Garnett is under contract, he had a tough year and maybe thing retirement at the age of 38. There doesn’t appear to be any way to replace the production that even at their age Pierce and Garnett can give the Nets, as King will have no money or picks to bring in comparable replacements.

Pierce isn’t the only Net that maybe be testing free agency, as including Pierce there are six possible free agents for Brooklyn. Known for sure of the players that have player options, is that Andray Blatche has declined his and will be an unrestricted free agent this off-season. Blatche has said that he would like to come back to Brooklyn, and the Nets would like to have him back, but with him in the open market coming off a good season, averaging 11.2 points, and 5.3 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game the price may get to high for the Nets to bring him back. Another player with an option is Alan Anderson, who holds a player option, which he will be declining, worth just over one millions dollars for next season. Anderson was a pretty steady member of the rotation for the Nets, playing in 78 games with 26 starts. He averaged 7.2 PPG, while playing solid defense, and if the Nets could have him back he could figure to be in the rotation once again for Brooklyn. Andrei Kirilenko, who had a lot of injuries and a poor 2013-14 season by his measure has made the decision that he will be returning to the Nets with his option. Kirilenko will certainly be in the rotation in the coming season, but the Nets could really use him to play better than he did in his first season in Brooklyn.

A major concern for the Nets heading into free agency is that there is a very strong possibility that they will not be able to keep Livingston, who had a great bounce back season, and is now a free agent. Last season, Livingston played in a career-high 76 games, while averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. In Kidd’s system, Livingston plays a major role in the two-point guard set on offense, and on defense his height and athleticism make him a perfect player to be able to switch on to multiple players.

Due to the Nets lack of financial flexibility, trades will certainly be in the mind of King, as in all likelihood Livingston will be gone, which has brought up some rumors of a possible Marcus Thornton for Jarrett Jack trade. Kidd likes to have two Point Guards on the court together at the same time in his offense, so in case of the loss of Livingston, Jack would be a good replacement for the rotation.

The possibility of trading Williams or Lopez are both viable ones for the Nets, as the often injured Lopez is making a lot of money, but should draw decent interest if made available. Williams has sort of said that he would like to be moved, but after a down year, ankle surgeries, and a max contract, the return for Williams wouldn’t be a very good one more than likely. in the event that either player is traded, it would likely be for cap relief, young players, or draft picks, as it would mean the waving of the white flag on the championship expectations.

King has made it very clear that he would like to get into the draft somehow or someway, and on draft night he was able to acquire three second-round picks all for cash considerations. The 44th pick was the first one the Nets were able to get, selecting Markel Brown from Oklahoma State. The final two picks of the draft would go to Brooklyn, as they selected with the 59th pick Xavier Thames from San Diego State, and with the 60th pick Cory Jefferson from Baylor. King said all along he would like to get into a deep and talented draft, so getting three second-round picks will add some much needed depth and youth to the Nets bench.

Recently their has been some turmoil in the Nets Front Office, with news emerging that Jason Kidd has made a power move to try and gain more control than King when it comes to personnel decision making. The Nets have quickly shot this play by Kidd down, and now an offer from the Milwaukee Bucks has been accepted. the deal will be for two second-round draft picks. 

2014-15 Season Outlook:

In the upcoming season there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Nets right now with the recent mess in the Front Office/Coaching departments, but their best case scenario if Williams and Lopez are healthy, with Pierce and Garnett back would be them in the middle of the Eastern Conference, with them challenging for the Atlantic Division title, and maybe another playoff series win or two. A lot can also go wrong for the Nets in the off-season if they lose some players because they don’t have the cap or draft picks to bring in adequate replacements. Health is a major concern as well for the Nets will two starters coming off surgeries, and the fact that they are an older team to begin with, which can be a recipe for disaster.

Moving forward for the Nets though in the coming seasons will be mostly disappointment, as the title aspirations they had after the big trade with Boston were unrealistic to begin with, and will cost them down the road with basically no first-round draft picks, and a lot of money invested in players that simply aren’t playing up to it. King will have his work cut out for him, and some extremely difficult calls to make about what the team is really capable of as constructed, which would be an admitted failure by King. The departure of Kidd will mean the Nets will be once again looking to bring in a new Head Coach, and King,who is still running the show will have some good options to replace Kidd for 2014-15 season.