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Guards will lead Nets to greatness

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with an equally middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets will take cues from D-Will, with Johnson’s arrival only solidifying the team’s reliance on its back court.

Here are the little guys he thinks will lead the way.

Deron Williams: Williams is suddenly the talk of the league after years lurking in the small-market shadows of Salt Lake City and Newark. But can Williams — who swore off a return to the Nets if not for the move to Brooklyn — lead a team in the spotlight? Last season, he averaged 8.7 assists per game, his lowest since his rookie year, and he racked up the worst shooting percentage and most turnovers of his career. For the Nets not to be a laughingstock, the star point guard must excel in distributing the ball and managing the game.

Joe Johnson: Johnson is an immense talent — and his arrival is part of the reason the team has such high expectations. Johnson — who averaged better than two three-pointers per game last season on 39 percent shooting — should combine with Williams for about 36 points a night. That sounds great, but it could take a while for the two stars to feel each other out and know when to cede shots to the hot hand. Johnson has to settle into a new environment while providing veteran leadership and showcasing his ability to lock down some of the league’s best on defense. Oh, and score points, too.

MarShon Brooks: The Johnson trade reinvented the team — goodbye Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, and DeShawn Stevenson (Brooklynites hardly knew ye) — and pushed Brooks out of the limelight. Last year, the rookie quickly established himself as a scorer by averaging 13 points in 29 minutes, but with Johnson onboard, Brooks will see less time on the floor. If he wants to be a factor, he must keep his head down, improve his defense, and limit his turnovers.

C.J. Watson: Watson already endeared himself to Nets fans by declaring D-Will better than D-Rose, the star point guard he backed up in Chicago for the past two seasons. Whether he’ll win as many fans with his play as he did with his words remains to be seen, but with Rose injured much of last year, Watson proved himself to be remarkably quick and efficient with the ball. When Williams takes a breather, expect Watson to hit the floor with aggression.

Gerald Wallace: Wallace is a legitimate swingman, meaning he’ll be just as much a part of the front court as the back court. Like Johnson, Wallace is a 6-foot-7, 11-year vet who has only once made it past the second round of the playoffs. But while Johnson drained nearly four out of every 10 three-pointers last year, Wallace made three in 10. To help Brooklyn on the boards, he needs to concentrate his talent inside the arc. And as the team’s only true defensive specialist, Wallace must shut down opposing stars.

But what about the Nets’ big men.

Updated 5:36 pm, July 9, 2018
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