With all the talk about a rivalry these days, we decided to breakdown the how the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets stack up based on our projected lineups for each team.
Point Guard – Raymond Felton/Deron Williams
There was a time when Deron Williams versus Chris Paul was a legitimate question. Although he hasn’t quite been the same player as in Utah, Williams averaged a very solid 19 points/8 assists last year, while putting up his highest true shooting percentage (which factors FGs, threes and FTs) since 2009. The advantage here is with the three-time All-Star.
Shooting Guard – Iman Shumpert/Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson, though past his prime, is still a productive player with a knack for hitting late-game shots. Johnson hit four game-winning shots last season, and shot 51 percent (19-37 FGs) in the final five minutes of close games (ones in which the Nets were tied or trailing by as many as five points), 52 percent (13-25) in the final three minutes of those games, and 77 percent (10-13) in the final minute.
Although this will likely flip one day soon (keep in mind Shumpert just turned 23 years old), as of now Johnson’s post-prime is more impactful than Shumpert’s pre-prime.
Small Forward – Metta World Peace/Paul Pierce
At the small forward position, two aging former All-Stars, both with new teams hoping they have something left to contribute. The artist formerly known as Ron Artest is still able to affect games on the defensive end, where the Lakers were seven points better with him on the floor than off it. He should thrive in a role where he’ll only be asked to rebound, defend, and hit corner threes (a respectable 37 percent from the corners last year).
Paul Pierce is still a superbly effective basketball player, averaging an impressive 4.8 assists last season. Questions surround how much he has left in the tank – especially at age 35 and coming off a playoff series where he was surprisingly (and successfully) guarded by Felton. Still, the Knick Killer is the more well-rounded player.
Power Forward – Carmelo Anthony/Kevin Garnett
As my friends will tell you, I’m an unapologetic Carmelo Anthony fan. However this was a lot closer in my mind than they’d think. You can’t help but respect Kevin Garnett’s impact on the defensive side of the ball, even at age 37. The Celtics’ defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) with KG on the court was 96.2 versus 104.6 with him off the court – a monumental difference.
Going further – the Celtics ranked in the top six in defensive efficiency each of the last six seasons, or since Garnett arrived. His impact will likely be reduced considering Jason Kidd stated Garnett will not play back-to-backs next season (20 games).
Still, I’m taking the scoring champ in his prime, Carmelo. ‘Nuff said.
Center – Tyson Chandler/Brook Lopez
Both All-Stars for the first time last season, Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez presents perhaps the most interesting matchup. Lopez posted a solid 19 points/7 rebounds per game last season, en route to the fifth highest player efficiency rating in the league. Meanwhile, Chandler posted a very similar stat line to his Defensive Player of the Year campaign, although he seemingly wore down by season’s end.
This is a tough matchup to call, but I’m giving it to Tyson because he supremely fits what the Knicks do. He’s an ideal pick-and-roll big man, capable of finishing at the rim at a high rate. At the same time Tyson is exactly what the Knicks need on defense, with his strengths perfectly complementing the Knicks’ tendency to funnel opposing players into the paint. Because of this impeccable fit, advantage Knicks.