Brooklyn Nets roster 2013: Jason Kidd brings unknown variable to roster of constants

USA TODAY Sports

The Nets sure do seem like they're going to contend in the Eastern Conference, but one never fully knows with rookie head coaches.

The Brooklyn Nets made quite a splash this offseason in taking a team already established -- the Nets were the No. 4 seed in last year's Eastern Conference playoffs -- and turning it into a true challenger to the Miami Heat. The most notable transactions were the trade to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the hiring of head coach Jason Kidd, the sweat still drying from his last season as a player with the New York Knicks.

But the Nets also improved beyond their starting five, moves just as important considering the age of Pierce and Garnett and point guard Deron Williams' struggles last season with both injury and conditioning.

Projected Starters

Deron Williams -- Williams struggled during the first half of last season with ankle inflammation, and the injury problems kept his season from taking off until he returned to form after a week off during the All-Star weekend. He averaged nearly 23 points and eight assists per game over his last 28 games. Williams, 29, is still a top point guard when healthy and in shape, and a return to a faster-paced style will play to his strength as a player who excels in an open court.

Joe Johnson -- Last year's offense under Avery Johnson and interim replacement P.J. Carlesimo suited Johnson; it gave him plenty of isolation opportunities to score. He was second on the team with 14.6 field goal attempts per game, behind only center Brook Lopez. Johnson might not find as many one-on-one chances this season, but it's a return to a style of play more faithful to his best years in Atlanta that earned him his current six-year, $123 million contract, according to Spotrac. Johnson is a few years older now than he was in Atlanta, but his ability to spread the floor should allow Williams to find him for more open jumpers.

Paul Pierce -- Pierce and Kevin Garnett are no strangers of playing with a point guard who likes to run. That's not to say Williams and Rajon Rondo are similar players, because the two have as many differences as players as they do similarities, but both are used to moving up and down the court. Pierce plays a lot like Johnson, so their chemistry will be worth watching.

Kevin Garnett -- Garnett is entering his 19th season, and he's performed fairly consistently over the past five years or so. Doc Rivers did a good job of managing the 37-year-old's wearing knees, and he's hovered right around 15 points and eight rebounds per season each of the last five, give or take a point or a board. Garnett has never been a true post player, but life should be easier on him with the relief of playing next to an elite big man for the first time in his career.

Brook Lopez -- Lopez had a career year last year, but is likely the player who will have to adjust most to the new regime, even if he is the longest-tenured Net in the starting rotation. Lopez is used to a more deliberate half-court pace that aims toward the post, and the Nets have talked about wanting to push the pace. But Kidd will be sure to make adjustments to account for Lopez's emergence as one of the league's top big men.

Key Reserves

Andrei Kirilenko -- Kirilenko signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal with Brooklyn, quite a bargain for someone who averaged 14 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and opted out of the final year of the contract that was worth $10.2 million for 2013-14 alone. It was seen as such a bargain that the NBA investigated it to make sure there was no wrongdoing between Kirilenko and fellow countryman Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets' owner. The NBA found no wrongdoing, according to SI.com. Kirilenko will be the team's sixth man and can step in to rest Garnett and Pierce over the course of the season.

Jason Terry -- Terry came over in the same deal with Pierce and Garnett, and he'll provide the primary depth behind both Johnson and occasionally Williams. None of the Nets' starting five are excellent 3-point shooters, a void Terry will fill off the bench.

Andray Blatche -- Last season was a revelation Blatche, and he'll again fill in the backup role behind Lopez. In his first year in Brooklyn, Blatche's production soared over what it had been in 2011-12, his final year with the Washington Wizards. He averaged 10.3 points in 19 minutes per game last season, an improvement over 8.5 points per game in 24.1 minutes as a Wizard the year before. That multiplies out to a nearly seven-point jump in points per 36 minutes.

Shaun Livingston -- Although Terry has the capability to provide some point relief behind Williams, that duty may primarily fall on Shaun Livingston. The Nets signed Livingston in July as a free agent who spent each of the last five seasons in four cities. As Kyrie Irving's backup with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, he averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 assists, which was his best statistical season in those two categories since 2009-10 in Washington.

Reggie Evans -- Evans turned into a regular starter for the Nets last season, but he'll return to a prominent bench role with the addition of Garnett. And perhaps that role will be best for Evans under Kidd, since Evans is much more capable as a defensive player and offensive rebounder. Playing him starter's minutes exposes his limitations. Because of the contrast in styles, it seems likely Evans could provide breathers for either Garnett or Lopez while the other plays alongside Evans.

Deep Bench

Mason Plumlee -- The 2013 first-round pick could jump Evans as the preferred backup to Lopez, but will likely play sparingly this season. Plumlee played well in the Summer League, and SB Nation's Mike Prada ranked him the No. 15 rookie to play in either the Orlando or Las Vegas league.

Brooklyn's Summer League team was depleted, but that didn't stop Plumlee from providing nice athleticism and finishing ability out of the pick-and-roll. Summer League amplifies his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.

Alan Anderson -- A summer signee who spent last season scoring 10 points per game for the Toronto Raptors, Anderson is a versatile swingman who could step in for Johnson or Pierce, though he remains distantly behind Terry and Kirilenko in both slots.

Mirza Teletovic -- A disappointment after signing a mini-mid level contract last season, the sharp-shooting Bosnian forward will look to fight his way into the rotation if the Nets need more offense.

Tyshawn Taylor -- The Nets' second-round pick in 2012 shuffled between the D-League and Brooklyn last season and will likely do so again.

Tornike Shengelia -- The Nets' other 2012 second-round draft pick also split his time between the D-League and Brooklyn. He offers intriguing upside as a point forward.

Head coach

Jason Kidd: Seeing as Kidd has never coached, it's difficult to assess how effective he'll be in year one. It is known, though, that these Nets will look philosophically different than last year's team. At his introductory news conference in June, Kidd said he'd move away from the stodgy half-court offense and move closer to an up-tempo style, which is more suited for Williams. If nothing else, the Nets should be more fun to watch.

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