The Brooklyn Nets are all in -- they want to win a championship this season. In order to accomplish such a feat, they'll almost assuredly have to go through the reigning back-to-back champions of the NBA, the Miami Heat. So let's now take a look at exactly how the new-look Nets stack up with the King James and his crew from Miami.
Last season, the Nets and their fans (and Reggie Evans) thought they had an outside shot to compete with Miami. As the three regular season matchups showed us, that was far from the truth as the Nets lost those three games by a combined 63 points.
But things have changed and with the Nets new additions this off-season, many believe that they've inched closer to Miami's level. The first thing we'll look at will be each team's respective off-season additions and subtractions:
[Key] Additions - Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Mason Plumlee, Jason Kidd, Lawrence Frank
[Key] Subtractions - Gerald Wallace, C.J. Watson, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Jerry Stackhouse, Kris Joseph, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo
[Key] Additions - Jarvis Varnado, James Ennis
[Key] Subtractions - Mike Miller
As you can see, the two teams have had very contrasting off-season strategies: the Heat just won a title and have kept everything in tact while the Nets have added to their already solid core in order to vault themselves into the championship conversation.
If we were just doing this comparison on who had the better off-season, the Nets would by far and away take home that trophy. Unfortunately for them though, the games need to be played on the court -- not in the headlines.
So now that each team's roster is essentially set for next season, we can compare the two teams based on their projected rotations:
C: Brook Lopez/Andray Blatche
PF: Kevin Garnett/Reggie Evans
SF: Paul Pierce/Andrei Kirilenko
SG: Joe Johnson/Jason Terry
PG: Deron Williams/Shaun Livingston
C: Chris Bosh/Chris Anderson
PF: Udonis Haslem/Shane Battier
SF: LeBron James/Shane Battier
SG: Dwyane Wade/Ray Allen
PG: Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole
As you can see, the Nets are deeper and the Heat are likely more talented (mostly because of LeBron James). But comparing two teams on paper using player by player comparisons is not a sound strategy in figuring out who is better. Basketball is a team game and games are won as a team and lost as a team.
The early part of the season for the Nets is going to be an adjustment period for not only the players, but the coaches as well. The newly acquired players will have to adjust to the players that remain and vice versa. The newly acquired coaches will have to adjust to all of the players, new and old alike. For this reason, judgement on just how good the Nets can be next season may need to be reserved for the latter part of the season.
The Heat on the other hand, will have been together for their fourth consecutive season -- making the finals in each of the previous three. Everyone will be familiar with each other and thus can hit the ground running right out of the gate.
But what about when the Nets finally gel and become a well-oiled machine as the season progresses? How will these two powerhouses matchup then? That's it: it's all in the matchups.
Last season, the Heat ranked as the league's second worst rebounding team per possession, just behind the Boston Celtics. Their Eastern Conference Finals opponent -- the Indiana Pacers -- ranked as the league's best rebounding team per possession. During the 7-game series, the Pacers out-rebounded the Heat by 46 rebounds in their three victories in that series.
Because of the severe matchup advantage the Pacers had on the boards, they were able to take Miami to 7-games despite an obvious disparity in talent. Can the Nets do the same?
The Nets have size, that much is clear. They retained the NBA's best rebounder (per possession) from last season in Reggie Evans and acquired Kevin Garnett -- someone who averaged 13.7 rebounds per game in 6 playoff games vs. New York last season.
If the Nets can use their size and strong post-play to their advantage against the Heat, then they may just be able to have the upper hand in the head-to-head matchups.
Finally, the biggest concern for either squad should be health. If one key player from either team is forced to miss any action, it could have immense repercussions in determining the winner when these two teams square-off. Will Dwyane Wade's knee return to being 100%? Will Brook Lopez make a full recovery from off-season foot surgery? These things are near impossible to predict and injuries can be spontaneous throughout the season.
One thing we know will occur between these two teams next season is better competition and excitement than last season. The Nets are stronger, the Heat are champions, and LeBron James is still LeBron James. Expect some fierce and intense contests between the two sides when the season finally begins in October.