With a new city, a fresh start is much-needed for a franchise that has been dreadful since 2007. The move to Brooklyn, New York should help regenerate interest in a franchise that was so bad that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said “good riddens” to them after their last home game. How will the Nets do after failing to land Dwight Howard?
Even though they didn’t land Howard, they still managed to pull-off a trade that instantly makes them better. When they acquired Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks to pair him with backcourt mate Deron Williams, Brooklyn went from scrub to semi-contender. They won’t win the Eastern Conference by any means, but they won’t be winning 20-some games a year anymore. A healthy and now rich Brook Lopez will assure the Nets a top four seed in the East. The Nets are looking for second-year player MarShon Brooks to build off his impressive rookie campaign by avoiding the “sophomore slump” and continuing to improve his game every day in practice. They also re-signed Gerald Wallace to a wealthy $40 million contract. A little over-priced if you ask me. I think you could find a little less quality of a player for cheaper than that, but that’s just me.
Heading the free-agent signees is C.J. Watson, a backup point guard who spent the last few seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Watson is tough defender and can score when needed. He is their only significant free agent signing, but if you want to count Reggie Evans as significant, then I think we lost all relativity.
With players such as Williams, Lopez, Johnson and Wallace, I think the Nets have a chance to be pretty good and they still have power forward Kris Humphries, who is a 10-10 guy. Brooks and Watson will be their main players off the bench, with others players playing “spare minutes.” I don’t think Avery Johnson is going to wait 10 minutes for Mr. Jerry Stackhouse to get his knees warm. I think Johnson would be smart, if he wants to keep his job, to use the allotted 240 game minutes wisely among eight or nine players. Doing that gives him an averaged range between 26 and 30 minutes per game for each player. Williams, Johnson, Lopez and Wallace will play more than 30 minutes per game, so the bench players will obviously play less. I would like to see Johnson use a late-game lineup of Williams, Brooks, Johnson, Wallace and Lopez in a close game. I think he can substitute Watson and Brooks how he wants because Brooks is offensive player and Watson is more of a defender.
OK, I got side-tracked there. Let’s check out their position breakdown.
Point guard(s) – Deron Williams: If you asked me, I would say Williams had a sub-par year in 2011-2012. He took a lot of shots (17.5 per game) and shot a dreadful 40.7% from the field. He is a career 45.5% shooter. Other than that, the majority of his numbers were up but only small percentage points. He played very well during Olympics, but I don’t want that to persuade my opinion of the year he had last year. He will need to be more efficient this coming year, and I think he will be with the addition of Johnson, who will be the primary scorer. Williams will be option 1B instead of the main guy this year and I think it will make him a better player. I still think there are some point guards better than him, including Rajon Rondo. I hope he proves me wrong.
C.J. Watson will be the backup to Williams.
Position Grade: B+
Shooting guard(s) – Joe Johnson: The addition of Johnson is big for the Nets. It will give them another player who can score the ball. He is a solid three-point shooter (38.8% last year) and the mid-range game is excellent. A lot of people would note that he is extremely overpaid and I would have to agree with them. He is making a boat-load of cash (nearly $20 mil this year) and doesn’t do enough to cover the spread. At 6’7, he averages 4.2 rebounds per game for his career and the numbers have dropped year after year. He is an upgrade from their previous starter (Brooks) and his experience will be needed on a team that is still relatively young.
MarShon Brooks will be the backup to Johnson and either Jerry Stackhouse or Keith Bogans will backup Brooks.
Position Grade: B
Small forward(s) – Gerald Wallace: I think the Nets sucked themselves into this situation. First off, they traded their lottery pick for him, and then they signed him for four years and $40 mil. The Portland Trail Blazers ended up getting the #6 pick and they selected point guard Damian Lillard. Wallace is 30-year old small forward who is on the downside of his career. He has always been a decent scorer and rebounder, but he makes his money on defense. He can do a little of everything but on this team, his role will be strictly be defending the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
The Nets don’t have another small forward listed on their roster, but I believe Joe Johnson will see time at the three and maybe Keith Bogans or Jerry Stackhouse, too.
Position Grade: C+
Power forward(s) – Kris Humphries: Humphries has been a nice player for the Nets the past two seasons, averaging a double-double both seasons. The former lottery pick has become a very solid rebounder and low-post finisher for the Nets. He is a guy who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He is a very good offensive rebounder (3.8 last season) and will even block a shot once in a while. After Kim Kardashian divorced him last summer, I didn’t know if I would ever hear from him again. I guess I was wrong.
Reggie Evans will be the primary backup to Humphries.
Position Grade: C+
Center(s) – Brook Lopez: I know many fans are disappointed that they didn’t acquire Howard, but Lopez isn’t that bad. After signing a $60 million contract, the Nets look for Lopez to be both productive and healthy. He will be entering his fifth year in the league but is still only 24-years old, so he still has upside. He is a pretty good scorer, below-average rebounder for his size (7’0 ft) and a 50% field-goal shooter. I think Lopez has All-Star potential; he just needs to stay healthy, work on expanding his game and play consistently for 82 games. If he does that, I think the Nets will be in a good position come playoff time.
The Nets don’t have a backup center on their roster. I am guessing they are still looking to sign one more big man.
Position Grade: B-
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Deron Williams
G: Joe Johnson
F: Gerald Wallace
F: Kris Humphries
C: Brook Lopez
Starting Lineup Grade: B-
G: C.J. Watson
G: MarShon Brooks
F: Keith Bogans/Jerry Stackhouse
F: Reggie Evans
Bench Grade: C
Coaching Grade: B- (Avery Johnson)
I am predicting that the Brooklyn Nets will finish second in the Atlantic Division and will be the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.