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NBA Weekly Roundtable: Nets Unbound And Rockets' Big-Man Dilemma

Law Murray, Darian Nourian, Matt Padavick |
November 21, 2013 | 2:56 p.m. PST

Sports Staff

Brook Lopez is the one thing going right for Brooklyn this season. (Bryan Horowitz/Flickr)
Brook Lopez is the one thing going right for Brooklyn this season. (Bryan Horowitz/Flickr)
The Brooklyn Nets held a closed-door meeting on Sunday after losing at home to the Portland Trail Blazers. The team is 3-8 under head coach Jason Kidd, despite acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the offseason. The team is talented, so what needs to happen to turn the squad around and back into a playoff contender?

Law Murray: The good news for the Nets is that every other team in their sorry division has a losing record as well. It's not like they have put themselves in a major hole as far as winning the Atlantic is concerned. That said, Brooklyn entered Wednesday night's game at Charlotte with a bottom-ten offense and a bottom-five defense. The only rotation players shooting over 45 percent from the field are Brook Lopez (who the team needs to revolve the offense around) and backup point guard Shaun Livingston. Kevin Garnett isn't playing much, but he's fouling more than he has since the lockout - the 1998 lockout. The new pieces, the injuries and the fact Brooklyn decided to hire Lawrence Frank, I mean, Jason Kidd, as head coach meant that chemistry and structure was going to take time. Deron Williams and Kidd need to get it going offensively so that the entire roster isn't shooting 40 percent, they need to not forget about Lopez and they need to stop putting putting teams on the line so much.

Darian Nourian: Deron Williams needs to get healthy and return to being the elite player that he is capable of being. This team is loaded with talent, but rookie head coach Jason Kidd isn't going to be out on the court to orchestrate the team's offense, so the Nets really need Williams to step up.

Matt Padavick: Although this roster is stacked with talent, it is stacked with very old talent. I don’t know if there is a simple way to turn this team around. You have two guys that were traded for this offseason that are at the very tail-end of their careers, and while they are still serviceable players, they are nowhere near what they used to be. You have a coach who jumped into this job directly after playing, and despite Kidd having one of the highest IQs in the league, I think you need a few years to sit back and analyze the game before coaching. Remember when Deron Williams was in the conversation for best point guard in the league? That was funny. He looks like an average point guard in the league now on a team who cannot seem to mesh. So in short, I don’t think there is a simple way to turn this team around. Injuries to Williams and Lopez have definitely slowed the team down, but I think time is the key. The Heat needed half of a season to feel each other out and I think it is going to be the same in Brooklyn.

Deron Williams is looking like an average point guard at best (LolitaLens/Creative Commons)
Deron Williams is looking like an average point guard at best (LolitaLens/Creative Commons)

Dwight Howard and Omer Asik can't seem to work next to each other in the post, and it looks like Asik will be traded. What would be your ideal trade involving Asik, and why? 

Murray: I was surprised that Houston tried to paper over their power forward position by starting Howard and Asik together. It's nice that Terrence Jones has shown his ability as a starter (14.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG in five starts), but competent size is at a premium in this league, so if I'm Houston, I'm not moving Asik unless I get a sweet deal. If Howard goes down, Asik would need to keep the rocketship afloat. But if the situation gets too uncomfortable, the Rockets could always hit up the Cleveland Cavaliers and ask about Anderson Varejao. The Cavaliers wanted to deal Varejao last year, they signed Andrew Bynum to start despite his career-threatening knee issues, Asik would inevitably start plenty of games for the duration of his contract and Varejao has the energy and athleticism to start at power forward or back up Howard at center.

Nourian: The Rockets need to get a veteran role player. They should trade their chips in-state to Dallas, who after falling out of the race for Dwight Howard, is still looking for a replacement for Dirk Nowitzki, who doesn't have very many years left under his belt. If Houston could get a good perimeter and inside defender in Shawn Marion straight up for Asik, they would be able to benefit. 

Padavick: The ideal move for the Rockets would be to trade Asik in a package with Ryan Anderson. The Rockets need a stretch four who can open up the paint for Dwight. A mid-range shooter would be good, but a guy like Ryan Anderson who can shoot it from anywhere on the court would be the best possible outcome. Unfortunately for the Rockets, the Pelicans love how Anderson fits with Anthony Davis. There are guys like Aaron Afflalo, Paul Millsap and Derrick Williams who could fit, but I don’t see those deals happening. I think the next best option would be Iman Shumpert. That would give them a solid wing defender that they lack and would add a lot of athleticism to the roster as well as provide a spark off the bench. Imagine a Lin-Shumpert-Harden-Parsons-Howard fast break-- no stopping that.

Omer Asik is likely on the move sooner rather than later. (Norma Gonzalez/Creative Commons)
Omer Asik is likely on the move sooner rather than later. (Norma Gonzalez/Creative Commons)

There have been a rash of early-season injuries, with none season-ending but many impacting teams' starts. Which early-season injury has put a team in the biggest hole, and why?

Murray: Any time we talk about an injury negatively impacting a team, it's a cover excuse for a deficiency in four areas: coaching, depth, chemistry, and complementary talent. Some teams have injuries and actually improve (RE: Danny Granger, Indiana). So the team that is doing the worst job covering for an injury has been the Utah Jazz, who didn't have rookie point guard Trey Burke (finger) available and got off to a league-worst 1-11 start without him. I realize that the Jazz have low expectations, and I'm not sure if Burke will even have a positive impact in year one after his summer struggles. But head coach Tyrone Corbin (coaching) has already seen what John Lucas III (depth) can do, and it's not much. The team is playing their entire starting lineup in new roles (chemistry), and it has resulted in the worst offense in the league (talent).

Nourian: Kobe Bryant needs to get back to the Lakers, and fast. This remains a Lakers team that is playing without a true identity and needs their superstar back if they want any chance at making the playoffs. Their current playing style under Mike D'Antoni's system relies solely on three-point shots, and Bryant would be able to slow down the game again so that the Lakers can stop playing like a college basketball team.

Padavick: Coming into the season, you would think that Kobe Bryant’s injury would affect his team the most, but the Lakers bench has picked up for the absent Bryant. They are leading the league with an astonishing 46.7 points per game a year after having one of the worst benches in the league. The injuries to Brook Lopez and Deron Williams have really hurt the Nets, but Tyson Chandler’s absence has probably put the Knicks in the biggest hole. With defensive slobs like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith on the roster, a defensive stopper in the paint is absolutely necessary. The Knicks are second to last in the league in rebounds per game and 23rd in blocks per game, resulting in a 3-8 start to the season. With an Iman Shumpert trade looming, the Knicks' defense is only going to get worse until Chandler’s return.



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