Mar 26 2013 10:29AM

Playoff Contention: Brooklyn Nets

In Playoff Contention, we spotlight the 16 playoff teams to see where they stand as they head into the playoffs.

Previous teams

EAST: Milwaukee Bucks

WEST: Memphis Grizzlies

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Acquiring Joe Johnson and getting Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace for a full season has transformed the second-rate New Jersey Nets (22-44) into the upscale playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets (41-29). They've had their ups-and-downs--firing their head coach Avery Johnson after a 14-14 start--but all in all, the Brooklyn experiment has been a success thus far. It just goes to show what spending $92 million on a team--second in payroll and luxury penalties only to the L.A. Lakers--can do for a squad under the old collective bargaining agreement. Under the new CBA next season, the Nets would pay $116 million for the very same team because of additional penalties. But enough about money. This team is peaking at the proper time, with Deron Williams finally snapping out of an (injury-plagued?) prolonged slump, with his Nets going 12-7 since February 11 when he sat out a couple games before the All-Star break to rest. Since that time, Williams has been on a tear, averaging 23.4 points in 37.9 minutes per game with a .614 true shooting percentage (before that date, Williams averaged 16.7 points in 36.5 minutes with a .542 true shooting percentage). Before Williams' resurgence, it seemed that Brook Lopez was carrying the offense by himself, with Iso Joe Johnson acting as the team's best set-up man. But now with Williams back in the flow and earning his new 5-year, $99 million contract, Brooklyn has the NBA's eighth-best offense in the last 19 games (106.3 points per 100 possessions after a mediocre start in the first 51 games at 103.3 points per 100).

Avery Johnson made the right move when he named Reggie Evans his new starting power forward December 9, replacing Kris Humphries, even though the incumbent had just signed a 2-year, $24 million deal. Evans, who is not as good a scorer as Humphries, is a better rebounder and defender and simply complemented the Nets starting core better, since there were four past and present All-Stars in that bunch (Williams, Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Lopez). The new Nets starters are still underachieving as a five-man unit (+0.5 net rating in 541 minutes together), but at least they're doing better than the original starting squad (-2.0 net rating in 190 minutes). It will be really tough for the Nets to match up with some of the best five-man lineups in basketball (Heat, Knicks, Pacers), but at least Nets Coach P.J. Carlesimo knows he has a trio that has worked very well together this year (Johnson, Wallace and Lopez have a +4.1 net rating in 1059 minutes) that should mesh even better now that Williams is back to his old ways. It seems C.J. Watson is the only bench player they have who brings life to whatever unit he plays with (you have to love the bench trio of Watson, MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic that has a +11.8 net rating--and 88.2 defensive rating--in 107 minutes together). Overall, the Nets are just some chemistry, a bench and a starting power forward away from becoming a true championship threat in the future. Tough to fill those holes when you're capped out way over the luxury tax.

The 5,000 Minute Rule says most NBA championship teams have five-plus players together for 5,000 minutes when they win the title. Brooklyn almost has three Nets crossing the 5G threshold: Lopez has 10,481; Humphries, 6125; Williams, 4922. It'll be another year before Johnson (2421 minutes), Wallace (2408) and Brooks (2340) reach that level.

Nobody on the Nets has won a championship ring, but 38-year-old Jerry Stackhouse did play 150 minutes with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals.

Hollinger Playoff Odds say Brooklyn has a 6.9 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 1.5 percent chance to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Nets have a 4.4 shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and a 0.8 percent to win it all.

Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
2012-13 NETS (.586)

C Brook Lopez: 63 games, 30.7 mpg, 19.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 24.7 PER, +2.7 Net, +4.1 On/Off

C Andray Blatche: 70 games, 18.7 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 22.5 PER, -0.3 Net, -1.9 On/Off

PF Reggie Evans: 69 games, 23.6 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 11.7 PER, +1.5 Net, +1.2 On/Off

PF Kris Humphries: 54 games, 18.4 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 13.5 PER, -0.6 Net, -2.1 On/Off

PF Mirza Teletovic: 45 games, 9.8 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 12.5 PER, -0.1 Net, -1.1 On/Off

SF Gerald Wallace: 60 games, 30.6 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 12.1 PER, +2.0 Net, +2.5 On/Off

SF Jerry Stackhouse: 29 games, 14.2 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 0.9 apg, 8.7 PER, -2.3 Net, -3.6 On/Off

SF Tornike Shengelia: 16 games, 3.8 mpg, 1.1 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 6.9 PER, -6.6 Net, -7.6 On/Off

SG Joe Johnson: 65 games, 37.2 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, 14.0 PER, +3.4 Net, +8.6 On/Off

SG Keith Bogans: 65 games, 18.7 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 7.6 PER, -0.8 Net, -2.6 On/Off

SG MarShon Brooks: 62 games, 11.2 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 0.9 apg, 12.8 PER, -0.4 Net, -1.6 On/Off

PG Deron Williams: 67 games, 36.8 mpg, 18.4 ppg, 7.7 apg, 19.4 PER, -0.3 Net, -4.4 On/Off

PG C.J. Watson: 68 games, 19.1 mpg, 6.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, 13.4 PER, +1.9 Net, +2.2 On/Off

PG Tyshawn Taylor: 32 games, 5.2 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 0.4 apg, 4.6 PER, -8.8 Net, -10.2 On/Off

2011-12 GONE NETS (.333)

SG Anthony Morrow: 62 games, 26.4 mpg, 12.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 13.1 PER, -5.9 Net, +2.9 On/Off

PF Shelden Williams: 58 games, 22.0 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 11.9 PER, -9.5 Net, -3.7 On/Off

SG DeShawn Stevenson: 51 games, 18.8 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.3 PER, -6.2 Net, +1.6 On/Off

C Johan Petro: 59 games, 15.6 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 10.3 PER, -8.7 Net, +2.0 On/Off

PG Jordan Farmar: 39 games, 21.3 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 17.4 PER, -10.3 Net, -4.1 On/Off

PG Sundiata Gaines: 57 games, 13.9 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.2 apg, 15.0 PER, -7.6 Net, -0.5 On/Off

SG Gerald Green: 31 games, 25.2 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 15.8 PER, -1.1 Net, +10.8 On/Off

PF Jordan Williams: 43 games, 14.8 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 14.5 PER, +1.3 Net, +10.7 On/Off

SF Damion James: 7 games, 24.3 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.1 PER, -8.6 Net, -1.6 On/Off

PG Armon Johnson: 9 games, 13.8 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 1.2 apg, 12.9 PER, -5.2 Net, +9.0 On/Off

* did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; players in boldface are returning players

SOURCES: Nets' Net Rating and Nets' On/Off Net Rating from NBA, Player Efficiency Rating from ESPN; other advanced statistics from Basketball-Reference.