The Nets now feature one of the best starting fives in the NBA. They re-signed four of their capable starters and went out and traded Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, and change for Joe Johnson.
With the addition of Joe Johnson, the Nets now have a top-five backcourt. Their front-line is athletic and talented.
Can Boston match up with this squad?
We’ll take a position-by-position view at how the teams matchup:
Rajon Rondo / Keyon Dooling vs. Deron Williams / C.J. Watson / Tyshawn Taylor
Really, the Nets are deeper at this position, but we’re really opening a can of worms with a conversation of who is the better player between starter Rajon Rondo and the Nets’ Deron Williams. Williams is a better scorer; Rondo a better passer and defender. Both are among the top tier of point guards in the NBA, and both can even enter discussions for the greatest active point guard.
I think, really, the advantage must go here to which player best complements the rest of his teammates. As to which guy is the correct answer to that conundrum is anyone’s guess as far as I am concerned. Rondo makes teammates better and is a great facilitator of penetration. Williams is better in pick and roll situations and can create his own looks easier.
At one point, I considered Williams tied for the best point guard in the league with Chris Paul, but I think Rondo, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose have tightened up that comparison.
Avery Bradley / Courtney Lee / Jason Terry vs Joe Johnson / MarShon Brooks / Keith Bogans
The Celtics have one of the best backcourt rotations in the league, because Bradley can double up as a back-up to Rondo. Courtney Lee is going to be a favorite of coach Doc Rivers for his great three point shooting and lock down defense. Terry can heat things up off the bench in a hurry.
And then there is the Nets…Joe Johnson has always been a 20/5/5 type of player and is a perennial All-Star. MarShon Brooks was an All-Rookie First Team selection in 2011-12. Bogans is a decent shooter and above average defender.
Still, for all Joe Johnson is, I think he is slightly overrated, especially at this point in his career. He needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and that won’t happen as much with D Will running the show. I expect Joe Johnson to further fall off, and critics will cite his age when it happens, but that won’t be the reason why.
I realize the Hawks have an All-Star backed up by a rising rookies, but the Celtics have about as good a three options as one could imagine in terms of covering all bases (Defense, shooting, ball handling).
Advantage: Boston, by a hair
Paul Pierce / Jeff Green / Kris Joseph vs. Gerald Wallace / Jerry Stackhouse
Pierce is old and getting older, but Wallace is no spring chicken either. Wallace has regressed from his days of outstanding athleticism, but is still quick afoot, and an excellent defender. In fact, Wallace is one of the few guys in the league capable of doing a decent job covering Pierce.
Pierce is backed up by a potential sixth man of the year candidate in Jeff Green. Green is the starting small forward of the future, and there is no way that Jerry Stackhouse can matchup against Green on either the post or the perimeter. Stackhouse, in fact, would have enough trouble guarding third stringer Kris Joseph, so unless Wallace can find the fountain of youth and play 42 minutes a game, the Nets are going to be in trouble at small forward.
Brandon Bass / Jared Sullinger vs. Kris Humphries / Reggie Evans / Mirza Teletovic
Bass is quickly emerging as one of the better young power forwards in the league. He’s approaching his prime, played very well in the playoffs, and signed a huge extension over the summer. It sounds good, right? He’s backed up by Sullinger, who at one point was considered to be a top five pick, but fell to the C’s in the late first round. Sullinger’s scoring abilities and talents pair well with Bass, and they could see time on the court together, particularly if Doc Rivers wants to keep as much offensive talent on the floor and not replace first unit center Kevin Garnett with the inexperienced Fab Melo.
The Nets strut out Kris Kardashian, otherwise known as Humphries. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Humphries’ off court ridiculousness, but on the court he is a great hustle player and excellent rebounder. Last season, Hump averaged 13.8 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game. That’s just a lot better than Bass and Sullinger are capable of. Humphries is backed up by bruiser Reggie Evans and the Bosnian forward Teletovic. Teletovic shows a lot of promise and could see major minutes. If he’s as good as billed, that means even more problems for the C’s.
Kevin Garnett / Fab Melo / Jason Collins vs. Brook Lopez
Lopez went from a decent banger to being softer than three-ply toilet paper. He stopped rebounding the ball and started letting the aforementioned Humphries do all the work. That’s fine, for KG, because it means more rebounds for him.
In fact, despite the fact Lopez is a good scoring big man, I think Garnett has a huge advantage here, age notwithstanding. He’s just a far better player even at this point in his career, and I don’t see Lopez having the mental toughness to go toe-to-toe with Garnett. KG will intimidate Lopez and grind the Nets down in the post. I have to say Boston has this advantage bigger than all the others, and most people would be inclined to worry most about this position. Lopez is overrated.
Doc Rivers vs. Avery Johnson
Both are former players and good point guards, but as coaches, Doc Rivers’ edge as a player is a bit more pronounced than his skills over Johnson as a coach…Johnson is a good coach, make no mistake.
Johnson won 66 of his first 82 games as an NBA coach and took the Mavs to their first ever Finals appearance, but they lost 4-2 against the Miami Heat in 2006. Rivers coached the Celtics to a Finals win in 2008 and has had them back strong season after season. Both preach defense and mental toughness, things they both excelled at as players. Both maximize the talents of all players on the roster.
Boston has an advantage at three of the five positions, with Brooklyn really only having an edge at shooting guard, and the point guard matchup being courted as a stalemate. The coaching is negligible. But all things considered, we have to draw the conclusion that this Celtics team could take down the Nets in a seven-game series.
Seven Game Series Prediction: Celtics 4-2