Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the front court, with Humphries and Lopez backed up by capable offseason signings.
Here are the big men he believes will make or break the season.
Brook Lopez: As the recipient of a lucrative contract extension, Lopez is a cornerstone in the Nets’ plan for title contention. He posted strong preseason offensive numbers after missing most of last year with a broken right foot and an ankle injury — but offense has never been his problem. Since joining the Nets in 2008, opposing teams have often left Lopez flatfooted when attacking the hoop off the pick-and-roll. He must step up his defense around the rim and attack the glass to up his pedestrian career average of 7.5 rebounds per game.
Kris Humphries: Coming off a year in which he recorded career highs in minutes, rebounds, points, and media coverage, thanks to his fast-break marriage to Kim Kardashian, the Nets need Humphries’s double-double production to carry over into this season — giving Brooklyn two legitimate low-post threats. While Humphries makes up for Lopez’s absence on the glass, averaging 11 boards per game last season, but he is no enforcer in the paint. Not the biggest or fastest front-line defender, he must rely on timing and good decision-making to keep opponents out of the lane.
Reggie Evans: The famed flopper has landed in Brooklyn. Acquired this summer for a future second-round pick, Evans last season helped the Los Angeles Clippers on the boards, and often one-upped the acting chops of lightweight superstar Chris Paul in his attempts to draw fouls. When Lopez or Humphries need a rest, this rebounding specialist will clean the glass — or pretend someone chopped off his arms while going for a loose ball.
Andray Blatche: Benched last season by the Washington Wizards due to a lack of conditioning, Blatche has looked like a new man throughout the preseason. That’s a good thing, because the Nets need him to add offensive depth — even if he’s a defensive liability.
Mirza Teletovic: The Bosnian rookie spent the last six seasons playing for Caja Laboral in Spain, where he recorded career highs in points, rebounds, and assists last year. But like many European big men before him, Teletovic is not afraid to shoot the deep ball, which pulls him out of the paint and limits his contributions as a rebounder.