Doolittle: Nets can't beat the Heat

Do the Nets have any chance to beat the Heat?

Simply put, no, according to Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus.

Writes Doolittle in an Insider piece:

Look, the Nets might be improved, but they aren't headed for anything resembling a historic turnaround. Brooklyn would be projected to be better even if it had brought back the same roster from last season in its entirety. That's simply due to regression in games missed for several key pieces. As it is, we've got the Nets pegged for the NBA's middle class, complete with the second-tier playoff seed and the lack of homecourt advantage that status entails.

As for beating the Heat? It's not happening. Not unless (Dwight) Howard hates L.A. and forces a trade to Brooklyn after (Brook) Lopez is eligible to be moved Jan. 15. And even then it's not happening. The real question is how the Nets get better from here.

The biggest issue Doolittle cites in the difference between the two teams is defense.

According to Basketball Prospectus' SCHOENE, the Nets are projected to allow opposing teams to shoot 47 percent from the field next season. (Yes, D-12 would've changed that.) For the record, the Nets allowed opponents to shoot 47.2 percent last season, third-worst in the NBA. That translated into a 22-44 record.

As currently constituted, their frontcourt of Lopez and Kris Humphries isn't exactly imposing. Who exactly is going to protect the rim? On the plus side, Gerald Wallace is a solid defender, while Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are pretty decent.

Basically, it's up to coach Avery Johnson to mold these players into better defenders. There's no question they can score, but defense will be key for the Nets if they want to exceed expectations.