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NBA Brooklyn Nets

5 Players Who Must Step Up For The Brooklyn Nets In 2013-14

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5 Players Who Must Step Up For The Brooklyn Nets In 2013-14

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are heading into the 2013-14 season with big expectations. After a disappointing first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Chicago Bulls last year, the Nets doubled-down on their roster and traded for the remnants of the Boston Celtics' latest championship team. This year, they’ll need those new players, along with their returning ones, to step up their games if they want to live up to those big expectations.

The weight will especially be on those returning players. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez were supposed to be the nucleus of a championship contender. That group wasn’t enough, however, as the Nets just weren’t able to get past a good defensive team in the playoffs. That defense, something that Brooklyn needs to improve itself, turned out to be too much for them when the intensity of the playoffs showed up.

This year, Williams will need to be more of a playmaker for Johnson and Lopez. The Nets were 27th overall in assists last year with 20.7. That number needs to increase this year, and that burden will lie squarely on the shoulders of the point guard who just a few years ago was being talked about as one of the league’s best at his position.

Brooklyn also needs those new players to do their part this season. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry come over from Boston. Garnett and Terry will be used as reserves, but Pierce will be expected to take some of the perimeter scoring responsibility away from Johnson. Brooklyn also added reserve forward Andrei Kirilenko, a ball-hawking defensive stalwart who will be one of the first guys off the bench. Many big things are expected of the Nets this year. Another first-round playoff loss will be a major disappointment for a team that is all-in this year.

These are the five players who are going to need to step up their games if Brooklyn is going to meet those expectations in 2013-14.

Ben Sullivan is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Every good team needs someone to key the reserves. Andrei Kirilenko is the perfect sixth-man type. He plays great defense and can hold his own offensively.

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4. Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Pierce is the biggest question mark for the Nets this year. If he still has another really good year left in him they will be in contention for second place in the East. Last year he averaged an 18-4-6 line. If he can match those numbers this year, Brooklyn will get their money's worth out of The Truth.

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3. Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

A throwback low-post scoring machine, Brook Lopez is one of the best true big men left in the league. The Nets are built like an old-school team, and they rely on Lopez earning double-teams down low to open space for the perimeter scorers.

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2. Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Johnson has been on the verge of breaking out as an elite NBA scorer for a while now. Every now and then he reminds us that he can score at will when he wants. Key words - when he wants. Brooklyn needs him to want to dominate games more often.

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1. Deron Williams

Deron Williams
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when you had to include Deron Williams in any conversation of the best young point guards in the league? Yeah, I know, that was a long time ago. Now he's clearly a second-tier playmaker, but the Nets still need him to be the best player on their team this year.

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