The freshly moved-in Brooklyn Nets are New York‘s new, exciting team. Star point guard Deron Williams has plenty of new targets—almost a completely new team—to pass to on offense.
But if the Nets want to do damage in the playoffs, they will need to play defense as well. NBA championship teams are invariably above average on defense and are usually elite.
Only two teams in the past 20 years have won a championship without having a top-10 defense. Those teams were led by Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon, which helped make up for it.
The Nets will have to be careful now to put together a team defense composed of several starters who are not known for defense. Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries have not been great defenders so far in their respective careers.
Gerald Wallace—their 30-year-old small forward—is the lone exception. He made the All-NBA defensive first team in 2010 and led the league in steals in 2006.
As Zach Lowe of Grantland comments:
It’s no secret the Nets are going to have issues on defense. Lopez has been something of a punch line for two years now, owing mostly to his miserable rebounding numbers. The Nets have been among the league’s 10 worst defenses each season since he entered the league, and they have consistently played much worse on that end when Lopez is on the floor.
Starting center Brook Lopez’s defensive rating has been at 110 or worse the past three seasons, while his PER has been above 19. Clearly there is a disparity between his offensive productivity and his defensive impact.
Fortunately for Lopez’s individual numbers, most of his deficiencies do not impact the stat sheet. Still, he is relatively slow and does not provide good help defense. The Nets general lack of an athletic big man could lead to some bad matchups in 2012-13.
How will they guard the Los Angeles Lakers, for example?
Head coach Avery Johnson is hoping to change the way the Nets play:
We haven’t had the type of defensive intensity, physicality, that I’m looking for. This team does not have the personality that I thought it would have at this point. That’s been somewhat of a disappointment. Are they trying? Yes. Is anybody panicking? No. But we should have a little bit more of a physicality.
The Nets head into their first season in Brooklyn with a lot of hope and also a lot of cause for concern. Several pieces need to be put together, so an early slump in November would not be a shock.
Coming together defensively in the playoffs will be the most important thing.
Adam Waksman is a featured columnist for the Bleacher Report New York Jets community. Be sure to follow Adam on Twitter to receive updates right away.
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