Both the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics have an abundance of storylines heading into the 2012-13 NBA season.
For the Nets, moving to Brooklyn has created enough excitement on its own. But when you add in the fact that the team has star talent, things really start to get exciting. Deron Williams is a top-tier point guard, and Brook Lopez has the skills to rival Andrew Bynum as the best center in the Eastern Conference.
Joe Johnson is a scoring machine who can give the team 20 points a night, while wingman Gerald Wallace is a tough-as-nails defender on the perimeter and in the post. This quartet is as talented as any in the NBA, aside from the Los Angeles Lakers starting group.
Will the move re-energize a team that has long been an afterthought in the Eastern Conference?
For the Celtics, the lineup will look very similar. Only this year, they’ll be without the services of Ray Allen, arguably the greatest 3-point shooter in league history. They’ve added Jason Terry, a guy who can make shots from anywhere on the court. But can he compensate for the loss of Allen?
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo still remain a formidable trio, but both Garnett and Pierce have begun to show their age in recent years.
Can Jeff Green remain healthy and provide another offensive option?
Will Avery Bradley continue to develop at guard?
And perhaps the most important question for both of these teams, can they challenge the Miami Heat?
Here are several young players to watch for in tonight’s preseason matchup.
Tyshawn Taylor, Brooklyn
Taylor is rookie guard out of Kansas who averaged over 16 points and nearly five assists per game his senior season. He was drafted 41st by the Portland Trailblazers before getting traded to Brooklyn.
He joins a crowded backcourt and is currently third on the depth chart at point guard behind Williams and C.J. Watson.
The question isn’t whether Taylor can win rookie of the year. That’s probably not going to happen. But can he take away minutes from Watson and provide scoring off the bench? He shot nearly 40 percent from three in college, and has the height at 6’3″ to create offense outside of the key.
But like most rookies, he’ll likely be a liability on defense. What can Taylor show in the preseason that will convince coach Avery Johnson to give him meaningful minutes once the real games begin?
Jared Sullinger, Boston
You’re likely familiar with Sullinger, the 6’9″, 260 lb. bruiser who dominated the Big 10 in his two seasons at Ohio State.
The former Buckeye averaged over 17 points and 10 rebounds his freshman season and put up similar numbers in his sophomore campaign. He also shot nearly 77 percent from the free throw line, an important stat for someone hoping to draw a lot of fouls.
But is he ready for the level of play that occurs night in and night out in the NBA? His numbers, while impressive, didn’t improve from year one to year two in college.
Sullinger certainly has the frame to slug it out with other big men in the league, but his ultimate potential is still an unknown.
He’ll likely come off the bench behind Brandon Bass, but this is an important preseason for him to show that he’s deserving of minutes. Showing coach Doc Rivers that he can do the little things like grabbing offensive rebounds and playing tough defense will go a long way toward proving that he has a long-term future in the NBA.
MarShon Brooks, Brooklyn
It’s important to note that Brooks will likely be out at least another week with right foot tendinitis (according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com). But when Brooks returns he’ll be looking to improve upon an excellent rookie season that saw him averaging over 12 points a game.
He’s slated to come off the bench behind Joe Johnson. But after playing almost 30 minutes a game in his first year he’ll look to play a key role in the rotation once again.
At 6’5″ and 200 lbs. Brooks has the frame to become a solid defender as well as a physical threat on offense. But what will his second year in the league bring to this Nets squad?
If he takes another step forward, the Nets relatively weak bench will start to look a lot stronger. But if he’s cursed with a sophomore slump, Brooklyn may find it hard to take out the starters very often.
When Brooks makes it back on the court, look for what kind of style his game has evolved into. After a successful rookie year, he should have an attacking mindset coming off the bench.
He has the potential to develop into a really special player. With the amount of talent that exists on the team already, Brooks could find himself being a key cog in a deep postseason run.
Fab Melo, Boston
One of the more interesting picks in the draft was the selection of Fab Melo out of Syracuse. It wasn’t necessarily a bad pick, but Melo probably won’t have much to contribute right away.
What’s intriguing about Melo is his 7-foot frame and his improvement from year one to year two for Jim Boeheim’s squad. He improved his free throw percentage from 36 percent to 63 percent. He also went from contributing practically nothing to averaging a shade under eight points and six rebounds a game. He also blocked over two shots per contest.
Melo is a former five-star recruit and his potential on the defensive end is limitless. He’s more of a long-term project, but like many of his fellow rookies he’ll be looking to make a lasting impression in the preseason.
Even if the offense takes awhile to develop, he’ll earn minutes if can dominate the boards and play solid defense. Ben Wallace proved this was possible for many years in the league.
But Melo is stuck on the bottom of the Celtics’ depth chart, and he could stay there for awhile. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how he progresses throughout the preseason. If he ever reaches his potential, he’ll be playing in the All-star game and adding a defensive player of the year trophy to his collection.
But what can he accomplish in year one?
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