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Friday, September 5, 2014
Burning Q's: Who's key to the O?

By Mike Mazzeo

With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: Who is the team’s most important offensive player?

First off, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez could both easily be the answer to this question. But we’ve touched on those two a lot over the summer, and will again on several occasions.

One guy we haven’t written about as much as we’d like to is Joe Johnson.

That’s probably because he didn’t undergo surgery during the offseason. Also, he was extremely steady during the 2013-14 campaign -- his second season with the Nets.

During the playoffs, Johnson averaged 21.2 points on 53.3 percent shooting -- including 41.5 percent from 3-point range. At times, he was unstoppable, going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the second round.

With Williams and Lopez coming off injuries and Kevin Garnett -- assuming he returns -- entering his 20th season -- Johnson is as close to a sure thing as the Nets have. Perhaps he’ll even take on more of a leadership role this season.

Anyway, before we go on too much of a tangent, Johnson was really able to excel last season in the low post, exploiting double-teams on an extremely consistent basis. For all the complaining about Iso Joe in Year 1 of his Brooklyn tenure, there wasn’t nearly as much in Year 2.

Former coach Jason Kidd preached ball movement, and the Nets were obviously at their best when they moved the ball.

Johnson is probably much more comfortable playing with the Nets given this will be his third season with the team. At the same time, he’ll be playing for his fourth coach (Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Kidd and Lionel Hollins) so that can’t be too comforting.

It will be interesting to see how Hollins decides to utilize Johnson on the offensive end. Will he be the focal point or will Lopez regain that No. 1 role?

Given his easygoing, team-first mentality, Johnson will likely accept whatever role he’s given. And with the loss of Paul Pierce to free agency, he’s pretty much the only guy on the entire team that has a solid track record in late-game shooting situations. As we’ve written numerous times, he’s been the best clutch player in the NBA.

The Nets would be well-served if Johnson can carry over his playoff performances into the 2014-15 season.