You can’t exactly say the Brooklyn Nets are suddenly spendthrift — they are an estimated $17 million over the luxury tax line, far more than any other NBA team — but they have stopped spending out of spite for the tax (which is what they seemed to do last year).
For all that money the Nets have a team that should fit into that second tier in the East, finishing somewhere between third and seventh in the conference. They have some veteran talent on the roster in guys like Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett, guys that could lift them to the second round of the playoffs.
But really that’s in the hands of Deron Williams. As he has before, new Nets coach Lionel Hollins told the New York Post that he is going to lean heavily on the former All-Star Williams, and you can throw Brook Lopez in there, too.
“He’s a point guard,’’ Hollins said. “He’s our point guard. Will we play Jarrett Jack and Deron together? I’m sure we will. But that doesn’t mean Deron has to be off the ball. When you have two guys who can handle the ball, it doesn’t matter who handles it, but he’s going to be the primary ballhandler.’’
“Brook’s been moving pretty good. He’s been in the gym working on his conditioning, working on his game and I’m happy with where he is. Health is a big thing,’’ Hollins said. “He’s doing everything now, so I assume he’s going to be ready for the start of the season. We won’t know that until training camp and the stress of going through practice and going through it the next day.’’
Over the past couple years Deron Williams has shown brief stretches of looking like the D-Will we remember fondly from Utah but he hasn’t been able to sustain it. In large part because his ankles will not let him — he had surgery on both ankles this summer after a season where he had PRP blood platelet injections three times, multiple cortisone injections in his ankles, and an anti-inflammatory injection before Game 7 against the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.
How Williams and Lopez hold up will determine just how much value the Nets are going to get out of their league-high salary. The answer is probably about as much as last year.