Nets Preview: X-Factors and Wild Cards

10/31/2012 10:06 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Brook Lopez could be the Nets' biggest X-Factor, says Ian Eagle, because of his size and scoring prowess.(AP)
The Nets’ official Brooklyn debut is scheduled for Saturday against the Toronto Raptors, and all month we’ve been previewing the 2012-13 NBA season by getting the Nets on YES broadcast team’s thoughts on a series of league-wide subjects; now, however, we shift the focus onto the Nets themselves.

Brooklyn's starting lineup contains five former first-round draft picks with 10 All-Star selections between them, and the bench has an eclectic mix of veteran role players, young upstarts, and potential breakout stars. However, how their minutes play out – and in a way, how they mesh – falls on coach Avery Johnson, who must find the best balance to get Brooklyn to the playoffs.

That said, we asked each member of the Nets on YES broadcast team – Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, and Mike Fratello – to give us one player that could be said “X-Factor” in Brooklyn’s success, and one or two more “Wild Cards” that could be worth monitoring as the season goes on...and what we found in the former is that for all the accolades the members of the backcourt have racked up over the years, center might be the most important spot on the hardwood this season.

Ian Eagle’s X-Factors: Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche
“Center is the one spot where the Nets can have an advantage; there just aren’t a lot of legitimate seven-footers in this league anymore who can camp out under the basket and score. The Nets believe Lopez can be that guy for them, and Blatche, right now penciled in at backup center, has a world of ability but was in a situation in Washington where the bottom dropped out. The hope is that in Brooklyn there’s strength in numbers, and the fact that he’s going into a veteran locker room will force him to follow the lead of Williams, or Johnson, or a hard worker like Kris Humphries who has made the most of his ability. He’s going to be given chances to be a factor, and he’ll have less pressure on him as a role player; if the Nets achieve the kind of success they’re envisioning, that’s an important job to have.”

Mike Fratello’s X-Factor: Andray Blatche
“As Ian said, if he can stay the course, Blatche could be an integral player. He is really talented, he’s got size and skill, and I’d like to see him do well, but he’s got to prove that he can embrace his role.”

Jim Spanarkel’s X-Factor: Andray Blatche
“Agreed; if Blatche can give the Nets 15-18 solid minutes a night backing up Lopez and Humphries and keep his focus in line, he definitely makes the frontcourt depth that much better.”

Center may be the hot spot, but as far as “wild cards” go, the three broadcasters gave their own answers, but were in agreement that the real one depends mostly on how Avery Johnson chooses to deploy his lineups.

Ian Eagle’s Wild Card: Mirza Teletovic
“Teletovic is a big mystery, because you just don’t know how European players will handle the NBA. He’s not young – he’s a veteran of the Spanish League – and the hope is that his maturity will allow him to transition seamlessly to the NBA. He’s a stretch four, and he can make plays from the perimeter, so that can cause matchup problems.”

Mike Fratello’s X-Factor: MarShon Brooks
“Lineups can change, so you never know how Avery Johnson is going to juggle his lineup with a deep team. MarShon Brooks could develop into a sixth man type that comes in and scores a lot of points of the bench, and as I said earlier, Blatche can be a big factor if he embraces his role.”

Jim Spanarkel’s X-Factor: C.J. Watson
“I think Watson is important because he’s more than just a backup point guard; he’s a good three-point shooter, and if he thrives in his role, that allows Avery Johnson to move Deron Williams to the two-guard in some sets, which gives the Nets even more flexibility.”

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