While everybody else is watching the inspired drama of the playoffs, fans of the New Jersey Nets are left remembering the uninspired play that led to a 12 win season. Just how could all of New Jersey’s young talent add up to so few wins?
The Old News
Where do I start on pieces the Nets are missing? To begin with, some forwards could be helpful. Forwards make up nearly half of a usual NBA roster, but New Jersey has just one signed for next season, and Yi Jianlin is more of a bad contract at this point then a productive big. Just about every good team has at least two forwards capable of putting up 20 points or locking down on defense. The Nets had Jarvis Hayes.
Even more important than any positional needs, though, is the complete and utter lack of leadership. Kiki Vandeweghe couldn’t have coached worse this year, ruining the seasons of Terrence Williams and Chris Douglas-Roberts, who are two of his most talented players. I understand that both have a little Stephon Marbury in them, but that’s no reason to try to Don Nelson their careers away.
The burden of leadership probably should have fallen on Devin Harris, but the former All-Star practically disappeared this year. Injuries left him ineffective early in the year, and ineffectiveness left him disenchanted with losing. Harris went from flapping his jersey after game-winners last season to lazily settling for jumpers.
The Bold Horizon
Well, this kid named John Wall would probably solve the Devin Harris issue, and the Nets have the best shot in the Association at landing him. Take that for what it’s worth, I suppose. If they land Wall it seems likely that Harris could snag them yet another mid-first round pick – perhaps from teams like the Bobcats or Grizzlies.
And then, of course, there’s all that cap space. The Nets should have something like $32 million dollars of space, which, for the capmatically illiterate, equals nearly two max contracts or one max contract and roughly three players for around mid-level exception price. Considering Trevor Ariza was a mid-level signing last season, that’s a lot of talent.
The worry, however, is that top-tier free agents should know the Nets are still young, immature and probably won’t be championship worthy next season. The benefit is the opportunity for a dynasty behind this year’s lottery pick, Brook Lopez, T-Will, and whoever signs. New Jersey plus Wade or James would easily surpass the Thunder as the toast of youth movement.
Even though the Nets cobbled together one of the worst season in NBA history, comic-book Brook and Terrence Williams are legit talents. Lopez should be a perennial 20-10 threat, one of the best help defenders in the NBA, and an All-Star reserve for years to come. And once Vandeweghe stopped caring enough to punish, he finally freed Williams to play his do-it-all game late in the season. Williams led the team in assists over the last dozen and helped them to five wins. Consider him a sleeper to become a gigantic, friendly Rajon Rondo.
Notice I didn’t even have to mention prospective owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s unlimited pockets. I’m not sure what’s more frightening, Russia’s second richest man or the fact that the Nets are emerging with or without his funding.
New Jersey is back.
Nets fans should be the most excited they’ve been since moving Kenyon Martin, because all that cap space and a guaranteed top four pick in this draft will not go to waste. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade probably aren’t walking through that door, but Joe Johnson or Rudy Gay and Carlos Boozer or Amare Stoudemire just might.
There’s no team out there with a better combination of core and room to grow and Nets fans are ready for a summer to remember.