One team could have the best backcourt in the East, while the other added veteran leadership and more size to their already formidable frontline.
The New York Knicks have owned the city’s basketball market for decades, and this season the Brooklyn Nets try to challenge that dominance.
The two were set to start the new season against each other Thursday night, but the game has been postponed due to the aftermath Hurricane Sandy in the New York area..
Bragging rights for New York will have to wait until they finally meet, but taking a look at each team’s roster and their experience gives us a clear picture of who is best team in the mecca of basketball right now.
Best Backcourt in the East
When Mikail Prokorhov bought the Nets he said the team would win a title in five years, and Brooklyn made strides toward his prediction. Ultimately the team lost out in the Dwight Howard trade frenzy, but Brooklyn made two deft moves when they brought traded for point guard Deron Williams in 2011 and res-signed, and last season completed a blockbuster trade that netted them top shooting guard Joe Johnson.
The Knicks counter with point guard Raymond Felton replacing last season’s super success story Jeremy Lin. New York will have Ronnie Brewer and J.R. Smith as committee at the two, with Iman Shumpert is still recovering from his ACL tear in last season’s playoffs.
Based off talent alone, the Nets have a superior backcourt. Williams has been one of the league’s best point guards for years, and Johnson can create his own shot and wants the ball in hands in crunch time.
Frontline vs Frontline
Before their first game, injuries have decimated the Knicks’ front court. Power forward Amare Stoudemire is again suffering with a knee injury, and it is unknown when he will return. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler has returned to practice, but is still listed as day-to-day after spraining his knee in the preseason.
Carmelo Anthony is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but has a propensity to take over the ball and forget his teammates are there. Still for his career, Anthony averages almost 25 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez is the center piece of the Nets’ frontline, but he has never averaged more than 8.6 rebounds per game, and has never been lauded for his defense or aggressiveness. Forwards Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace should pick up Lopez’s slack on the boards, but how this group meshes on defense could be the key for the Nets.
When healthy, Chander transformed the Knicks’ defense last season, as they ranked in the Top 10 for most of the year. When he returns, New York will thrive, but based on health alone, Brooklyn again holds the advantage in the front court.
Avery Johnson has translated his on the court success into an impressive coaching career. Johnson took the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals in just his second season at the helm, and had three straight 50 win seasons.
With a solid starting core, Johnson and the Nets should greatly improve on last season's 22 wins.
New York’s Mike Woodson has never been out of the second round as a coach, but during his stint in Atlanta his team’s improved by a minimum of four wins per season. Woodson also led the Hawks to three straight postseasons.
He took over for Mike D’Antoni midway through the lockout shortened season, and New York went 18-6 to end the year, earning the seventh seed, but eventually fell to the Miami Heat in the first round. Woodson has not shown the ability to lead his team’s to big wins, with a 12-22 playoff record.
Overall, the nod goes to Johnson who has far more experience in the playoffs.
Chandler became New York’s leader by example last season, and has the respect in the locker room thanks to the championship ring he won with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. The Knicks also signed veteran Kurt Thomas, who has a solid reputation as team builder.
By default, Williams should be the Nets’s captain, but has yet to fully embrace the role. He also has a reputation as a "me-first" player. Rumors swirled after he was traded from Utah, saying he was responsible for Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan’s abrupt retirement.
Chandler tips the scales in the Knicks favor, and New York was able to keep their core together, giving them more experience as a team.
On paper, Brooklyn appears to the best team, especially with Stoudemire’s injury and the Nets’ superior backcourt. Defensively the Knicks are stronger, but showed they are susceptible to scoring droughts in the playoffs.
Unless the season opener is rescheduled sooner, these two teams will have to wait until Dec. 11 to decide who owns New York.
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