As the Nets enter their second season in Brooklyn, they come in with a new coach, and a revamped roster that many say will make the team a contender. Of course, the Frontcourt will play the biggest roll toward determining if this season will end in disappointment or elation. Let’s take a look at who’s who and what we can expect from the most important players on the Barclays Center’s hardwood.
Brook Lopez: Coming off his first All-Star appearance and his best season as a professional, Lopez is poised for a monster season that will vault him into the NBA’s elite. As this column wrote at the beginning of last season, Lopez’s offensive game was never a concern, however, his rim defense and rebounding posed questions. Well, his rebounding remained stagnant an unimpressive for a seven-footer, as he averaged only 6.9 points per game. I’d like to see him return to the form that netted him more than 8 points-per-game he posted in his first two seasons. Lopez’s rim defense, on the other hand, improved dramatically as he averaged 2.1 blocks per game during the regular season and 3 per game in the playoffs. In the offseason, Lopez had another surgery on his right foot to repair a problem with a previously inserted screw. Though minor, it is certainly something to pay attention to as the season progresses.
Kevin Garnett: One of the key offseason acquisitions is the perfect one for these Nets. The Big Ticket may not be the same offensive threat he was in his prime- — though his midrange jumper is still as effective as anyone’s — but that doesn’t change the intensity he brings on the defensive side of the ball. As one of the best rebounders going, KG will take some pressure off Lopez to pull down boards. Additionally, with Garnett owning the high post, Lopez will draw fewer double-teams and have more room to operate in the low post — an option not available to the Nets last season. With the Nets limiting KG’s minutes thanks to a deep frontcourt bench, Garnett will be rested and ready for a long playoff run.
Andray Blatche: Blatche had a career resurgence in Brooklyn last season, earning a new, lucrative contract. He will continue to spell Lopez off the bench at the five spot. Like Lopez, Blatche doesn’t provide the stoutest defense, but his scoring off the bench will be essential for a team with title aspirations, especially as they look to often rest an aging Garnett.
Reggie Evans: The Pensacola kid returns to Brooklyn for a second year, and with the additions of Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko, he will be asked to take a reserve role, which is perfectly suitable for his game. He will come off the bench for 10 to 15 minutes per game and do what he does best: rebound, agitate, and wreak havoc on the opponent. I can’t wait until KG and Evans see minutes together.
Andrei Kirilenko: It has been well documented that AK47 has taken a significant pay cut to come play for fellow countryman, and Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. Without speculating on Russian oligarchs, I’ll just say that I’m happy to have Andrei on board. He had a renaissance campaign last season in Minnesota, an he now joins a deep Nets Frontcourt on which he’ll have a crucial role to play: spell Garnett (and sometimes Pierce). Kirilenko will provide valuable minutes off the bench, keeping starters well-rested through the long season.
Mason Plumlee: The Duke product and the Nets first-round draft pick has received positive reviews throughout training camp. However, as he comes into a group of established veterans chasing a championship, he may not see the floor much. And that’s okay. The Nets are not in a position were their first-round pick needs to be an impact player right away. Plumlee comes into an ideal situation where he can learn from Lopez, Garnett, et al, so if the Nets ever do need him this season, he will be ready.
Mirza Teletovic: Teletovic got some time last season to start at the power forward position in an attempt to provide some much needed scoring from the four spot and he did very little with it. But there probably won’t be much opportunity for him to see significant minutes thanks to the addition of KG.
Tornike Shengelia: Toko is pretty much an unknown commodity at this point, having averaged only 4.9 minutes in 19 appearances last season. He hasn’t played this preseason as he rehabs offseason knee surgery. It doesn’t appear as though Toko will get much time with an already crowded, talented Frontcourt.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports-world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.