On May 16, the New Jersey Nets got some good news; they received final approval to break ground on the Brooklyn arena.
The franchise's troubled relationship with New Jersey may finally be ending. It is no secret that the Nets have had trouble selling out games wherever they played in New Jersey. The Izod Center lacked sufficient public transportation to enable the franchise to draw 18,000 fans a night.
This had led to the team needing to keep costs under tight control and prevented them from investing in the team.
However, now the Nets have hope. Brooklyn could provide the Nets with a vast untapped potential for revenue.
There will eight million fans who can get to the games with a simple subway ride and now, ownership can finally feel comfortable in investing in the franchise because there is hope that the team will be able to make money.
This should directly impact the offseason for the Nets for the next two years. Thus, the Nets now can have hope that they can sign a key 2010 free agent (i.e. Lebron).
On many levels, the Nets are very well positioned for the future. The Nets have a young and exciting point guard in Devin Harris who might be the quickest player in the entire NBA. This enables him to penetrate opposing defenses at will. He grew into an all-star this year. He is exactly the type of young quality point guard that most NBA teams are searching for.
The Nets have also found their center of the future in Brook Lopez. As a rookie, Lopez averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and almost two blocks per game, including a 53 percent field goal percentage and a 79 percent free throw percentage. These are phenomenal numbers for a rookie.
Lopez showed good low post skills and excellent footwork on the pick and roll. Late in the year, he showed that the Nets could run the offense through him and get quality shots.
In a win against the Bobcats, he cored 18 points, had 20 rebounds and blocked two shots. That followed a game against Orlando where he went for 13, 11 and four. Lopez needs to learn how to play NBA caliber defense and avoid reaching. By becoming better at moving his feet on defense instead of reaching, he will easily eliminate one to two fouls a game and allow himself to play 35-40 minutes.
So, the Nets have found the two hardest elements in creating a winning team: the point guard and the center. The problem is the rest of the roster. Vince Carter can still be a dynamic scorer, but his efficiency has gotten worse and more importantly, he has trouble guarding quicker guards.
This has allowed for penetration into the Nets defense and contributed to foul problems for the big men. The Nets would be best served by moving Vince to SF and finding a young shooter who has better lateral quickness to play shooting guard.
Chris Douglas-Roberts hopes to be that player, but he currently does not shoot the ball well enough. He has skills and looks like he can be a solid reserve right now, but he is not yet ready for prime time. The Nets needs a shooter on the wing.
They also need a second big man who can play with Lopez. Josh Boone cannot shoot and is a liability at the end of games because he cannot hit a free throw. Plus, while he is a good rebounder, he is a poor post defender. He can be a solid reserve, but should not start.
Yi Jianlian appears to be overrated. Yes, he can shoot. However, he is a poor defender and rebounder. Even worse, he is soft. When he has the chance to score in the paint, he typically does not finish strong to the basket and leaves himself vulnerable to the blocked shot.
While there is hope that he can develop, this writer doubts that he becomes anything more than a modern day Brad Lohaus.
Ryan Anderson is a better prospect that Yi. Anderson is a more consistent shooter and tougher on the boards. He is skiiny and needs to put on at least 10 pounds of muscle before he can even hope to become a solid NBA caliber defender.
Sean Williams has a ton of talent and is a natural shot blocker. He can rebound and is a good defensive player. He cannot shoot and has no post moves. However, if he could just stay out of trouble, the Nets could easily put him next to Lopez and have a tough baseline defense. Of course, Williams cannot stay out of trouble and appears headed for a crash.
Keyon Dooling, Trenton Hassel, Jarvis Hayes, Bobby Simmons and Eduardo Najera are all solid role players, but they highlight the problem of a lack of a second wing player to team with Vince Carter. For the Nets to make the next step and go from the lottery to the playoffs, they need another scorer.
This year the Nets will likely have the 11th pick in the draft. At this point in the draft, there will not be a sure fire pick. They should focus on finding an athletic wing player.
DeMar DeRozan and Tyreke Evans will probably be gone and the Nets do not need a point guard. That leaves as possibilities, James Johnson of Wake Forest, Earl Clark of Louisville, Dejuan Blair of Pittsburgh and Gerald Henderson of Duke. All of these players have major limitations. However, the Nets have invested in Yi and are unlikely to draft a PF.
That leaves Clark and Henderson. They are both great athletes, but Henderson is even more athletic. Henderson is a shooting guard who could immediately be in the rotation and would be my pick at 11.