Although they currently find themselves in drastically different situations, the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets entered the 2013-2014 season in similar positions.
Following the acquisitions of Andre Iguodala, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, each team featured starting fives commonly described as “complete.” Both were to be anchored by star point guards, Stephen Curry and Deron Williams, and supported by one dynamic offensive big man, David Lee and Brook Lopez, a defensive big man, Andrew Bogut and Kevin Garnett, and two impressive wings, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala and Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce.
With their comparable structures, both teams faced similar concerns. Between age, feet, and ankles, any preseason analysis of the Nets or Warriors came with the “if-healthy” caveat.
Unfortunately for the Nets, these two teams have taken entirely separate paths. While the Warriors suffered through a period of struggle without Iguodala, they are a clear playoff contender in the loaded West. The Nets, meanwhile, have completely faltered. At 13-21, Brooklyn sits a game out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. To many teams, this would not be a terrible position. However, in trading a wealth of draft picks to Boston for Garnett and Pierce, Brooklyn mortgaged its future in exchange for immediate success. To a team with title aspirations, a first round loss does not constitute success.
Brooklyn’s issues extend beyond poor performance. Garnett can only reminisce upon his days of defensive dominance, while Pierce has been only fleetingly effective. The Warriors have not been free of injury malaise, but have not suffered catastrophic injuries. Brook Lopez’s broken foot robbed Brooklyn of its best player, while Deron Williams’ repeated ankle issues have both held him out of games and prevented him from regaining his peak level of performance.
When the Nets face the Warriors Wednesday night, they will see an image of what could have been: a title contending team that, at least to this point, has overcome concerns and — spurred by both star power and team cohesion — formed an impressive season to date.