A lot of times, filling a need works better in theory than in reality, but for Brooklyn, the reality of filling those holes in the front court manifested in a way few could have dreamed of. Out go Gerard Wallace and Kris Humphries, in come future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Suddenly, the Nets' front court is as good on paper as it's been in a long time, and it goes far beyond the two Boston imports.
The trio of Lopez, Garnett and Pierce will get the majority of the attention, and with a combined 26 All-Star selections, that's no surprise. But the big men coming off the bench are no joke either, as Jim Mancari discussed earlier. Andray Blatche is coming off an outstanding first season in Brooklyn, and he may see a lot more minutes this year as part of a "Twin Towers" package alongside Brook Lopez. The two 7-footers have been a dynamic duo when they've played together, and that hasn't gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
Last season, Blatche and Lopez only played a total of 102 minutes together in the regular season, and another 57 in the playoffs. The two combined for a +32 plus/minus rating in that playoff series, and if you ask Blatche, he's very excited to have that Twin Towers package expand this season. While they both understand that they'll have to be sound defensively for the Nets to fully trust that combo on a regular basis, the offensive potential they have together is obvious. Defending two guys with size and skills like Lopez and Blatche is no easy task for any opposing team.
Of course, Pierce and Garnett are no strangers to one another. Last season, they were on the floor together for over 1400 minutes, and were +119 as a duo, no matter who else was on the court alongside them. The two ex-Celtics stars won't have to carry nearly that much of the load this year, however, and that's probably a good thing for all sides.
Even though Garnett was better on no-days rest last season than many remember, it's clear that he's at his most effective when his minutes per game are being properly managed. Last season, KG shot 51.7% from the field with a 54.7% True Shooting percentage and 104 Offensive Rating in games he played between 20-29 minutes, as opposed to a 46.9 FG%, 51.8 TS% and 99 O-Rating in the games he played between 30-39 minutes. The same is true for his career numbers, too. 54.1 FG%, 57.8 TS% and 111 O-Rating in games between 20-29 minutes played; 50.0 FG%, 55.1 TS% and 110 O-Rating in games in which he played 30-39 minutes.
Pierce is the same way. Last season, he put up a 46.0 FG%, 57.8 TS% and 105 O-Rating in the games he played between 20-29 minutes per game, as opposed to a 43.8 FG%, 56.2 TS% and (a slightly better) 106 O-Rating in games with 30-39 minutes played. For his 15-year career, he's at 46.8 FG%, 59.0 TS% and 109 O-Rating in 145 games between 20-29 minutes played, versus a 44.8 FG%, 56.6 TS% and 108 O-Rating in 596 games between 30-39 minutes played. KG and Pierce are old, sure, old enough that the NBA doesn't have career plus/minus splits for them. Last year, however, KG's plus/minus was +3.2 in the games he played between 20-29 minutes as opposed to just +0.6 in the games he played between 30-39 minutes. Pierce was at +5.0 in the 20-29 minute games, +3.9 in the 30-39 minute games.
What it basically boils down to is that the two "old guys" the Nets acquired still have a lot of high-quality play left in them, and keeping them fresh should get the most out of them. The Nets are lucky to have a potentially dominant starting front court of Pierce, Garnett and Lopez, and Blatche will be a heck of a weapon as one of the first guys off the bench.
Meanwhile, Andrei Kirilenko is a former All-Star himself, and he should be a big difference-maker against second-unit players. Reggie Evans brings defensive intensity to the table, and second-year man Mirza Teletovic will hopefully bring a sharpshooting dynamic. Then there's also 23-year-old rookie Mason Plumlee and 22-year-old Toko Shengelia, who are pretty nice depth guys to develop in the front court.
All things considered, there's no question that the Nets' front court is vastly improved this season compared to years past. The quality and depth is unparalleled to any Nets team in recent memory, and it should be a big reason for the Nets taking a big step forward in 2013-14.