After re-signing all-star guard Deron Williams and free agent Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets have begun the process of building what may become a dynasty in the Eastern Conference. But, before we can say that this is true, can we even say that the Nets are the best team in their own city? By comparing the two teams side-by-side, I break down the rosters to answer this important question.
Deron Williams vs. Raymond Felton
All-star point guard Deron Williams clearly wins the battle at point guard. Felton had an outstanding stint with the Knicks during the 2010 season, before he was traded to the Denver Nuggets. During his time with the Nuggets and the Portland Trailblazers, Felton’s game slipped and his aggressive point guard play waned. Deron’s game is dominant, and he remains one of the top point guards in the NBA. The battle at point guard is truly no contest.
Joe Johnson vs. Ronnie Brewer
It is tough to say who the Knicks will start at shooting guard after losing Landry Fields to the Toronto Raptors. Ronnie Brewer (a newcomer acquired through free agency) and J.R. Smith are left as potential starters. Brewer is the most likely candidate, given his experience and high basketball IQ (especially compared to Smith). Joe Johnson, however, has career averages of 17.8 points per game and shoots 44.4% from the field. He will be Williams’ right hand man in offense and will be relied heavily upon to lift the Nets to victory. Because of this, Johnson will win the shooting guard shootout.
Gerald Wallace vs. Carmelo Anthony
The battle at the small forward position is hardly a battle at all. Wallace, who is a stand out defender and serviceable scorer, will be completely outmatched by all-star forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, who had season averages of 22.6 points 6.3 rebounds a game last year, will be carrying the Knicks on his back and will be playing with a ton of passion this season. Wallace will definitely have his hands full; Anthony wins this position with relative ease.
Kris Humphries vs. Amar’e Stoudemire
I personally have never been a big fan of Kris Humphries. Although he averaged 13.8 points and 11 rebounds a game last year, Humphries still does not pass the eye test. He lacks intensity, skill, and has hit a ceiling when it comes to what he can contribute to a team. Humphries would be a better fit coming off the bench than starting, but he will probably start, given the Nets lack of depth at the position. Amar’e is Amar’e: great, but inconsistent, and he has no back-to-the-basket skills. He, however, is definitely better than Kris Humphries, so he wins the power forward position here.
Brook Lopez vs. Tyson Chandler
This one is a toss up. On one hand, Chandler is a beast on defense (2012 Defensive Player of the Year). On the other, Lopez is a balanced player who plays both sides of the court very well and has a ton of upside. In addition, Lopez sat out most of last year due to injury, so it’s tough to get a feel of how good he will be this year. We’ll call the center position a stalemate for now.
Nets vs. Knicks
Scorecard says that the tiebreaker is bench play. The first players off the bench for the Nets and the Knicks will probably be C.J. Watson and J.R. Smith, respectively. Smith is arguably is the better player, but Watson is more consistent. The Knicks seem to have more depth and better talent off the bench than the Nets after acquiring Marcus Camby (from the Rockets), Jason Kidd, and re-signing Steve Novak. The next best player for the Nets is probably Jerry Stackhouse, who had career lows with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. The Knicks win the bench category.
Based on side-by-side comparison, it looks like the Knicks will remain the best in New York for next season (for now). I think the head-to-head series between the two teams will be very tight (which is the first game of the season for both teams), and the Nets have a good chance at beating the Knicks and even winning the division. But ultimately because the Nets have a brand new team and will need time to gel, and because the Knicks have the better bench out of the two, the Knicks crown remains safe for the upcoming season.