"The Crossover" is a season preview series we're running here at Raptors HQ in which we'll talk to other SB Nation team sites in the Eastern Conference to give us an idea of what to expect from the competition, what their expectations are for both their own team and the Raptors.
1. What would constitute a successful season for the Nets this season?
For this team, I think it's returning to the playoffs and getting to the second round....with a healthy Brook Lopez. I mean, if they can get 75 games out of Lopez this season, that's a huge success. I'm not so sure this team is built to contend for a title this season -- as constructed -- but they have some pieces in place to make a run in the future, and a big part of that is getting Lopez to a place where he can play a full season without sustaining any major injury. If they lose in the second round of the playoffs, but Lopez stays healthy, they develop some of the young guys like Mason Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic; that's a successful season, as far as I'm concerned.
2. How do you think the hiring of Lionel Hollins will impact the team?
Everyone is going to be held accountable for their actions and attitudes this season, unlike in years past. Hollins ins't the kind of coach to tread lightly around egos and baby his players. He'll push them for sure. I also think that he'll have a huge impact on Brook Lopez, in that if he can get a bit of that Marc Gasol fire lit inside of Lopez, we might be looking at a completely different player on the defensive side of the ball and off the glass. I fully expect to see some toughness out of this Nets team. It was funny to try and see Kevin Garnett light that fire last season, but since none of the players or the coaching staff were responsive to it, the Nets never really were able to pull of the blue-collar vibe and their attitude became more disjointed than anything else. I expect Hollins to do his best to change that.
3. Do you think Deron Williams can regain his form, or have you tampered expectations for this season and going forward?
My expectations are tempered, I suppose. I don't look at Deron Williams as the 1B to Chris Paul's 1A, however, I still think he's got 18 and 9 in him. The Nets just need him to be a more consistent leader. There's no reason why Deron Williams should not be in the conversation when you talk about who is leading this Nets team. We always hear about what Garnett brings and how Joe Johnson is the closer on this Nets team, but what they really need is to add Williams into that conversation once again and at the very least have him act as if he's the cornerstone player on this franchise. He doesn't need to be Chris Paul, but he needs to act like he belongs in the conversation. So, in short, I don't think he'll regain those days in which he was compared to CP3, but I do think he's better than we all now believe him to be.
4. Give us the best case/ worst case scenario for the Nets this season?
To me, the best case scenario is a healthy season from Brook Lopez, development of the young guys (Plumlee, Bogdanovic, Karasev), a All-Star-like season from Deron Williams and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. If all that happens, Nets fans should be ecstatic. As for the worst case, it would have to be another injured season from Lopez and the team losing in the first round of the playoffs. That would just sink this fan base.
5. In your mind, from an outsider's point of view, where do you think the Raptors will finish in the division and in the East?
I still think it's between the Raptors and Nets for the Atlantic Division. A two-team race. The thing about the Raptors is, it wouldn't shock me if they finished 3rd in the East and it wouldn't shock me if they finished 8th, either. I really like your guards/wings. Kyle Lowry-DeMarDeRozan-Terrence Ross-Greivis Vasquez is a nice combination. I really, really like how Jonas Valanciunas is developing. I think a lot of it will depend on whether or not Amir Johnson will develop into a consistent big. There's a ton of potential there, but I would love to see more from Johnson before I really solidify them as the best team in the Atlantic.