Happy Tuesday! In Day 2 of #WereInWeek, Ben Nadeau breaks down what this supposed “mentorship” the new 30+ year old veterans can bring to the Nets.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard yet, but the Brooklyn Nets landed Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry last week. Aside from the fact that the Nets may have the best starting line-up in the league (or perhaps the best one that doesn’t include LeBron James), this trade will have some incredible ripple effect on the league going forward. Sure, you’ve got your marketing schemes (the same one that announced that Brooklyn had nearly already sold out all season tickets for the 2013-14 season) and your implications of Pierce teaming up with his biggest rivals (Nets and Kidd).
But, if you had to ask me, the biggest reason to be excited about this trade is what it can do for Brook Lopez.
Last year, having barely survived another Dwightmare, Brook Lopez was Brooklyn’s lone All-Star. His seemingly below average ability to defend and rebound improved by leaps and bounds, and Lopez’s brilliant touch inside the three point line blossomed. Suddenly, the rest of the NBA took notice. Here at The Brooklyn Game, we’ve known for a long time that Brook Lopez possesses all the tools and skills to become one of the NBA’s best centers.
Then they acquired Kevin Garnett, and now, the sky can’t even possibly limit Lopez now.
Defensively, the potential improvements are obvious, but let’s start with the easy one: he’s no longer playing next to Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries for extended minutes. Brooklyn’s resident ball-hawks, Evans and Humphries’ sub-par defense was often sacrificed even more in order to grab a rebound as Lopez boxed out. With Garnett, Lopez will never feel like he’s been left out on a deserted island to play defense.
In fact, having Garnett on the floor at all made the Celtics one of the NBA’s best teams last year defensively. When KG was on the court, the Celtics posted a 96.2 defensive rating. When he was not, Boston’s defense ballooned to 104.2. Last year, Garnett played next to Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger on a regular basis.
Furthermore, Garnett’s passion and intensity could eek into Lopez’s (and Blatche’s!) bones. For a team that the media loved to kill for a certain lack of heart and urgency, Garnett has been been leading clubs by simply beating his chest. If Garnett can get Lopez to crack up that dial on the amp of intensity, the transformation of Brook Lopez could take another giant step next year. Imagine a Brook Lopez that screams and jaws with the enemy on occasion. No, seriously, take a minute and really picture it. While it may be scary to envision our comic book-loving nerd with an edge and swagger like Garnett’s, doesn’t it excite you?
And while everyone excitedly, and correctly, points out the difference Garnett will make defensively on Lopez, don’t forget that he’ll benefit offensively as well.
Let me set the scene for you: Brook Lopez posts up and gets the ball on the low block, he is instantly double teamed. On occasion, triple teamed, even. How is this scenario possible? In what world does a player other than LeBron James command double teams so frequently? Well, when you play Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace over 30 minutes a game, the aforementioned situation isn’t the exception for Brooklyn. No, last year it was the norm.
Seriously, if you don’t believe me, there are countless YouTube videos that highlight Wallace and Evans’ offensive ineptitude. No, really, look them up if you want your day ruined.
Lopez averaged 22 points last year in a line-up that often went 3v5 on offense. The Nets replaced said bricklayers with two bonafide NBA legends. Now imagine the situation again: the double comes for Brook again and he passes it outside to a wide-open KG-signature mid-range baseline jumper — swish. Stay on Garnett and bring help from the perimeter? Yeah, just leave three of the NBA’s best three point shooters wide open — cash money.
Simply put, adding players like Garnett and Pierce means that opponents respect all the players around Lopez. It means no slacking or sliding off of the offensively challenged Evans. It means no more leaving Gerald Wallace wide open for another corner clank. With Pierce and Garnett on the floor, it means that Lopez should be see far more 1v1 opportunities in the paint, and that is good news for everybody.
Surely, Garnett will spend some time with Lopez teaching him the post moves that has allowed him to play in the NBA at such a high level still. The very same moves that Garnett has made a living (and an NBA Championship) on. Expect to see Lopez’s range improve even further and I can’t wait to see Brook bring the turnaround fadeaway jumper into his offensive arsenal.
Last year, the Nets hesitated on dealing their center for Dwight Howard. This year, he exceeded expectations and gave Brooklyn a reason to believe that better things were on the horizon. Next year, now equipped with Kevin Garnett at his side, Brook Lopez has the chance to transform from All-Star to Superstar; because as we all know, with KG, anything is possssssssssiblllllllee!