Meet the Nets: The NBA’s Most Enigmatic Team
Added by Darius Amos on December 26, 2011.
If you thought having point guard extraordinaire Deron Williams for a full season meant the New Jersey Nets would compete for a playoff spot this season, you’re right. Williams without question gives the team a glimmer of hope even with center Brook Lopez expected to miss up to eight weeks because of a broken foot, and the Nets will use every single resource they have to sneak into the postseason.
That’s right, playoffs. I said it. Miami and Chicago are still the class of conference, while the Knicks, Magic, Celtics and Hawks make up the belly of the East. That leaves two spots for teams like the Nets, Pacers, Bucks, Pistons and Sixers.
Let’s face the truth: the Nets, as they stand right now, are not an impressive team whatsoever. The Nets are really just fortunate to play in what’s still a top-heavy Eastern Conference and have the luxury of playing the likes of the lowly Wizards (though D.C. has improved a lot since last season) more than any other team in the league this season. The Nets will steal one of the last playoff spots because of that schedule.
I hesitate to use another “P” word to describe this team because it’s such an ambiguous and uncertain term, but the Nets are really a team with unlimited potential. But with potential comes so many unknowns, and that’s really what frightens so many Nets fans about the 2011-12 season. The Nets can be good, but they can also be bad. It’s one of many burning questions hover over the team as the season gets under way. Other unknowns include:
Will D-Will keep his focus knowing that he becomes a free agent next summer? Will the Nets tread water long enough with Mehmet Okur as they wait for Lopez’s return to the lineup? Will Lopez come back and be his old reliable self after the injury? Do the Nets have enough scoring power in their lineup to support D-Will? Can Kris Humphries win over fans again with another double-double season?
The list of questions and unknowns goes on and on. The only definite thing going into the season is the makeup of the roster, which by week’s end can change in an instant. For the sake of making a prediction for the season, we’ll go with what we know and break down the opening day roster.
Humphries is the Nets’ big name at this position, but that just might be because of the failed marriage with Kim Kardashian. Recently voted the most hated player in the NBA, Humphries will get no love this season from any Kardashian or in any city that the Nets visit. Nets fans know (or believe, at least), however, that Humph will bring his A-game night in and night out – that means a brash, physical style of play. Anyone expecting Hollywood flash out of Humphries will be disappointed, so it’s likely that he’ll only be appreciated in Newark.
Shawne Williams was one of the Nets’ best offseason acquisitions, and coach Avery Johnson and company are hoping that Extra E brings the same spark that he gave the Knickerbockers last season. Williams is a capable scorer and good shooter (an assassin unleashing the corner 3), and he’ll be counted on to play productive minutes.
At 6-9, Dennis Horner has size, and Damion James will compete for time playing on the wing. Another former Knick, Shelden Williams, should also offer valuable minutes off the bench.
With Williams and Anthony Morrow, backcourt is probably New Jersey’s best and deepest position. Morrow, playing the two-guard spot, benefits the most with D-Will in the lineup. He’s not at All-Star level, but he’s reliable and at this point, a more than serviceable threat from anywhere on the court.
Jordan Farmar is one of the best back-up point guards in the league, and Sundiata Gaines is just as good as the back-up, back-up point guard. Both will be valuable in keeping D-Will fresh and healthy, especially since he’s coming off a wrist injury.
If he has something left in the tank, DeShawn Stevenson is a fierce defender. Rookie MarShon Brooks can play the two-guard or small forward position and he had a solid preseason, but he still has to prove that he can score against NBA defenses.
Notice that I didn’t even touch on Deron in this section. Everyone knows about his capabilities, the only X-factors for him this year are his teammates and if they give him support. His undecided future with the team likely won’t impact his play on the court, and if GM Billy King (who last week told Stephen A. Smith in a radio interview that D-Will is still 90 percent certain that he’ll return to the Nets) is right, then Deron shouldn’t be thinking about his contract at all.
GM King did a nice job trading for Okur almost immediately after the team learned
Lopez would miss between six to eight weeks with the broken foot. Okur is a familiar face to D-Will, having played together last season in Utah, so he shouldn’t take too long to adapt to the offense. He’s a strong rebounder and has a surprisingly nice outside shooting touch for a big man. Perhaps Okur will give the Nets the extra scoring punch that they need?
If he gets time, 7-footer Johan Petro can make a splash. He had a solid preseason, but was it enough to impress Coach Johnson? He might be used out of necessity, as the other options force the Nets to play with a smaller lineup. If they go small, the Nets will do it with Maryland rookie Jordan Williams (four Williamses made the team, if you’re counting).
Prediction: 30-36, eighth in the Eastern Conference.