- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Brooklyn Nets won 49 games but couldn't advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Still, here are three reasons why Nets fans should be optimistic heading into the 2013-14 campaign:
1. Core continuity: Yes, they're going to have a new coach. And yes, the roster isn't going to be entirely the same. But GM Billy King believes that, even though the Nets are over the salary cap and don't have much room to improve from a personnel standpoint, they can be a better team next year because they've played together and felt the pain that comes with an early exit from the postseason. The Nets were basically an expansion team in 2012-13; their top four players -- Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace -- had never played together in the same game before the season began. That's no longer the case -- and that should go a long way in finding success next season.
2. D-Will should be healthy: Williams was not healthy for the first 50 games, when he averaged 16.7 points and shot 41.3 percent from the field. But his ankles got better. His numbers -- 22.9 ppg on 48.1 percent shooting in the final 28 games -- did too. D-Will says he is going to take some time off for the first time in three summers. The Nets hope it pays off. If Williams is healthy and producing the way he did after the All-Star break, Brooklyn is likely to notch 50-plus wins in 2013-14.
3. Brook could be even better: Lopez finished fifth in Player Efficiency Rating -- behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony -- and made his first All-Star team. Plus he played in his first playoffs and put up solid stats -- 22.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. So much for all that concern about his defense and rebounding after he played just five games in 2011-12. But Lopez was outplayed by Joakim Noah in the elimination Game 7, so King hopes that pain adds fuel to Lopez's fire for next season. Lopez is only 25, so it's possible he can be even better in 2013-14. That would certainly be big for the Nets.
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