Zach Lowe joined the chorus of voices skeptical about The Nets’ playoff chances this year. In his annual column that offers readers “33 Crazy Predictions for the NBA season” Lowe predicts that the Detroit Pistons leapfrog one or more of the following projected playoff teams “Miami–Brooklyn–New York–Indiana” under new Head Coach Stan Van Gundy.
Now before you go picking fights, Lowe does not trash the team when he notes “Brooklyn has lots of interesting pieces, including stealth first-team All-Rookie candidate Bojan Bogdanovic” but adds the team faces a challenge reintegrating “Brook Lopez without sacrificing what emerged as a legit top-10 defense last season.” Lowe shares the near universal concern for “Lopez and Deron Williams” health.
This site, and several others, noted the improvements Lopez has made defensively to leverage his size and strength to protect the rim and body up big men in the post. But, there is no denying that ball handlers lick their chops each time they see a slow-footed Lopez stretched far from the paint.
These tendencies were on full display in the team’s first exhibition game with the Kings. You saw some of Lopez’s better tendencies bodying up talented scorer DeMarcus Cousins. You also saw some the challenges Lopez faces as Kings’ guard Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions turned on the jets when Lopez left the paint to defend a pick-and-roll.
From what we saw in just a few preseason games: Lopez “ices” most picks and rolls very conservatively ceding plenty of room for a pull-up jumper. A strategy the Nets tried last season. It’s a defense far different from the Nets aggressive “long ball” scheme that asked its big men to play to the touch, and its position-less wings to “switch” on most pick-and-rolls in search of turnovers. It should be noted that in the first two exhibition, other big men Nets rosters have varied their pick-and-roll coverage – showing and playing to the touch – compared to the more conservative style of Lopez.
Lopez’s integration on defense is a fair question mark that we hope to explore more as the season progresses.
Lowe also predicts ownership of one teams will change hands during the season, and it might be The Nets:
Mikhail Prokhorov wants to retain control of the Nets even if he can strike a deal with Guggenheim Partners for some minority stake, but no one in the league offices would be surprised if Prokhorov eventually cashes out.
Reports from several outlets and direct statements from team management refute any interest in a sale, but money does talk, and Prokhorov proves quite adept at furthering his fortune.
Either way, the Nets get the opportunity to put predictions and projections behind them on October 29 when they open up the season in Boston.