Of all the superstar shuffling that has taken place in the NBA -- most recently in Miami, New York and Boston -- the headlining players were joining moderately talented teams with perhaps one or two potential All Stars.
That this is not the case in Brooklyn is what makes the 2013-14 Nets so intriguing. With Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, Brooklyn already has a bonafide "Big Three" of All-Star caliber players. Throw in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett into the mix, and this is a group like we haven't seen in some time.
Together those five have combined for a total of 35 All-Star appearances, three Olympic gold medals and, when you add new addition Jason Terry, a total of three championship rings.
It's a lot of star power, sure, but that may just be what a team needs to knock of the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat. For Williams, who has made the playoffs five times in his nine-year career, this season brings renewed hope.
"It’s great to feel like you can win a title, you can compete for a title, going into the season," Williams tells ThePostGame. "It’s been a while since I really felt like that."
If anyone knows how to take down the Miami Heat, and specifically LeBron James, it's Pierce, Garnett and Terry. Pierce and Garnett ended James' Cleveland title aspirations with a crushing, come-from-behind defeat in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. Terry helped the Dallas Mavericks upset the Heat the next year in the NBA Finals.
The difference now is the age of the Nets' new additions. By the beginning of this season Garnett, Pierce and Terry will all be north of 35. So if Brooklyn wants to make a run, it's got to be soon.
"We have a short window," Williams said.
While no team has found the formula to beat the Heat in the playoffs since Terry's Mavericks did it on the strength of their 2-3 zone in 2011, the teams that have come the closest have exploited Miami's lack of size. The Indiana Pacers present such a challenge to Miami because they have been one of the best rebounding teams in the league over the past two years (finishing fourth in the NBA total rebounds in 2011-12 and first in 2012-13). The Heat, despite all its athleticism, finished last in the NBA in rebounding in 2012-13.
It's not hard to see why a team with an All-Star 7-footer like Lopez and a solid interior defensive presence like Garnett could give the Heat trouble.
Miami has overcome its lack of size with stellar team defense and lightning-quick rotations. And while that's not likely to change, the Nets can attack Miami both inside, with Lopez, and on the perimeter with Williams, Johnson and Terry. Throw in Pierce, who can score from just about anywhere on the court, and Brooklyn will present a matchup challenge for anyone it faces.
Of course, at this point, with so many variables and unknowns, all predictions are somewhat foolish. For the time being, it's safe to say that Brooklyn has a shot to dethrone the Heat. And everything else is speculation.
"Miami is the king," Williams says. "They’ve won [the Eastern Conference] the last three years. They’re at the top and everyone wants to knock them off. We have a lot of work to do -- we haven’t even played a preseason game yet. But that’s our ultimate goal, to win a championship, and we feel like if, down the line, everything happens right, we have a chance."
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