By Cory Bernstein
The last week has been crazy. No one has been signed, traded, or even amnestied, but so many rumors have been swirling around about the impending free agency class Twitter may explode. Let's go through a few revelations before we begin the full off-season preview.
1. Travis Outlaw broke his hand- This broke last night (no pun intended), and seems to have happened eight weeks ago. Outlaw was in a boxing training program and got surgery some time ago, but his hand is in a cast or something like that. If he's on the Nets, he will be ready for opening day.
2. Brandon Roy will NOT be amnestied- After a ninety minute meeting with the Blazers' brass, Roy, and his agent, Portland will not amnesty Roy. As a Nets fan, I am bummed that Roy cannot become a Net, but Blazers fan deserve this. Roy has given a ton to the franchise and Rip City deserves their most loved player.
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3. The Lakers want Chris Paul and Dwight Howard- I think this is the dumbest thing ever. It seems pretty implausible that the Lakers could have Kobe, Paul, and Howard on the same team. They can get one of them (it will be Howard), but not two.
Without further ado, this is what the Nets should do this off-season.
Step 1: Try and trade for Dwight: Call Orlando and talk to them about Dwight Howard. Keep a hard line and only offer Brook and two first round picks. If Orlando accepts that trade, obviously this entire manifesto is rendered useless. If Orlando says no, then we go ahead and start signing guys the Nets need to plan as if Dwight Howard will never have a Nets uniform on, because once we do that our team looks a lot like the Cavs last season.
Step 2: Get Josh Smith: Every analyst on the planet thinks the Nets’ best move right now is to pursue Nene or Tyson Chandler. While both are great players, many seem to be forgetting that Brook Lopez plays Center. I understand that the Nets need to spend a lot of money this offseason to hit the cap floor, but it would be stupid to use it all on a luxury when there are very clear needs for the Nets to fill in the next two weeks. And instead of splurging on Chandler or Nene, it makes the most sense for the Nets to get Josh Smith from Atlanta.
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Smith was being shopped around before the lockout, and it appears he has ran his course in Atlanta, and is keen on joining another team. Although the Hawks brass seem to be struggling to find takers for Smith because of his contract, he is due to make over twenty five million dollars in the next two years, I think that is perfectly reasonable. Smith is a borderline all-star, and is being paid the near-max salary he deserves.
What the Nets should do is sign-and-trade for Smith. Give the Hawks Kris Humphries (who for his troubles gets a five year deal instead of four), and give them the choice of our first round pick this season or the one we got in the Terrance Williams trade (a lottery protected pick from Houston). Atlanta gets a solid power forward and a first round pick for Smith and sheds his contract, giving them a chance to re-sign Jamal Crawford. Humphries gets to live in one of the top places on the planet for single men, and gets a five year, thirty million dollar deal.
The Nets get an elite power forward option. Josh Smith can do it all, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and over 1.5 blocks per game. He is a true power forward who would complement Brook Lopez on both sides of the ball. A ridiculous athlete, Smith would make up for Brook’s poor defense, as he could help on some of the better low-post players in the league.
Playing with an elite point guard and a disciplined coach, Smith’s bizarre shot selection (he averaged two threes per game last season) would be held in check. Josh Smith is a younger, better, and cheaper option than Nene or Tyson Chandler, and there is no reason why the Nets wouldn’t go after him in this abbreviated off-season.
Step 3: Amnesty Travis Outlaw- Now that we have some cap space filled from the Smith trade, Outlaw can “waive” the Nets goodbye.
Step 4: Small Forward - The gaping hole that Travis Outlaw’s amnesty created must be filled by someone. Shane Battier would be a perfect fit, but he would be better suiting on the Clippers or Thunder, where his veteran savvy and incredible defense would be put to better use. Although I think the Nets should make a run at him, he is smart enough to make decision with his brain and not his bank account.
The next best option is Tayshaun Prince. Remember that Prince, as well as the rest of his Piston comrades, had such little respect for John Kuester they formed a mutiny on him, and that is somewhat responsible for his declining play. We definitely should not sign Prince to a long-term contract, but I think three years, twenty-two million would be fair for Prince. Prince is still a lockdown defender who averaged over fourteen points per game last season and averages the second fewest fouls per 40 minutes in the entire league (very impressive for an elite defender).
Prince would become the leader of this Nets squad, as a few years ago he was a key player to a championship winning team. Prince should not be too expensive, and would greatly help the Nets next season and into the Brooklyn era.
Step 5: Trade Jordan Farmar- Farmar has a very fair contract, making only four million dollars next season, but his talents are wasted in New Jersey. With an elite point guard in tow, it doesn’t make sense for the Nets to have four million dollars committed to a backup this season, when Sundiata Gaines can do 80% of what Farmar does for 20% of the price. The Nets should send Farmar to the Nuggets, who need a guard with J.R. Smith stuck in China, for a protected second round pick. The cap space from Farmar’s departure is enough of an incentive to do this deal.
Step 6: Get Reggie Evans and make a push for Jonas Jerebko- These two players would help the Nets get much tougher. Evans is an abnormally good rebounder, racking up over eleven boards per game last season with Toronto. He has the offensive ability of an elephant, but would be excellent off the bench to get rebounds. Jerebko brings more to the table than Evans, but will also come at a much steeper price. He missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, but is back at full health and the Pistons seem keen on resigning him. He is an RFA, so Detroit can match any offer, and my guess would be the Nets will not sign him because he will be too expensive.
However, if he can be signed for less than fifteen million dollars (three years), the Nets should pounce. Jerebko is a wonderful role player and could play both forward positions well. For this exercise, we’ll say the Nets get Evans, but not Jerebko.
This would be the Nets’ lineup for next season with these moves:
PG - Deron Williams
SG - Anthony Morrow
SF - Tayshaun Prince
PF - Josh Smith
C - Brook Lopez
The Nets still have one roster spot to fill, and if Jerebko is too expensive the Nets should try to get a scorer off the bench. I like Anthony Parker as a ninth man, and think he would fit well with the Nets’ needs. He is a good offensive player (despite not breaking the 40% mark in field goal range last season), who is not a terrible defender. That being said, this Nets team would be at least .500, with Brooks being the X-Factor to making a playoff run. If he becomes a great scorer, the Nets become a very difficult team to beat in the East, with an elite point guard, the best front line in the conference and great defending along with Brooks.
If that happens, a second round playoff appearance is very possible, with room for improvement as we cross the Hudson River next season. This roster also gives us a chance to trade for Dwight Howard or sign a major free agent in 2012, which is still the main goal of this offseason.
Hope you’re reading, Billy King.
Get more great New Jersey Nets analysis over at Brooklyn-Bound.