Nets veteran Jarvis Hayes is optimistic going into this year, citing team chemistry as the "most underrated aspect" of being a successful team. I would be inclined to agree with him, after watching the most talented team (USA national team) continually struggle against other countries with better team chemistry.
However, with a team like the Nets, it is dubious that team chemistry can overcome the lack of talent they have.
By dealing veteran Vince Carter, the Nets basically announced they have went from rebuilding mode to rebuilding-tank mode. Other than Devin Harris, they have no one capable of making the All-Star team this season. That being said, the Nets still have a bright future if they can keep the parts of a young formative nucleus together.
By dealing Carter, they brought in Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie. Alston and Battie are decent vets, but the real heist was landing Courtney Lee.
Before fracturing his sinus cavity and having to wear a mask, he was emerging as a true star on the Magic. The first two games of the first round matchup vs Philadelphia, Lee averaged 39 mins, 21 ppg and 18-34 FG. He had a mediocre game three and four, and then came Howard's elbow in practice that sidelined him until he had a protective mask made weeks later.
Lee was beginning to emerge as one of the biggest draft steals the Magic had ever produced.
After the conclusion of the playoffs, he and Dwight Howard joked about becoming the next Penny and Shaq, only half in jest, since Howard has been labeled the next Shaq by many. And then came the trade. Since then, Lee has stated that he will make the Magic rue trading him and punish them every matchup this season.
The best thing the Nets have going for them is a backcourt rotation that could stay together and become one of the best in the league within a few seasons.
The aforementioned Devin Harris and Courtney Lee will be the starters, with 11th overall pick Terrence Williams and last year's second round pick, Chris Douglas-Roberts, coming off the bench. Both Williams and Douglas-Roberts had great college careers, but Williams is an unproven rookie and Douglas-Roberts only played spot minutes last season.
However, with the departure of Vince Carter, more minutes have opened up for Chris Douglas-Roberts, and his stealthy defense, solid jump-shot and slashes will be given their opportunity to prosper. Now, I'm not predicting Douglas-Roberts to be an all star ever, but he will be a solid role player in this league.
Outside of their backcourt, the other great thing the Nets have going for them is Brook Lopez.
Lopez played all 82 games last year and produced well. He shot 53% from the field leading to 13 ppg and pulling down 8.1 boards a game. The knock on Lopez has been that he is soft and lacks athleticism, but he makes up for that with his fundamentals and work ethic. He's also a solid defender and blocked 1.8 shots a game last year, too.
With an uptick in minutes per game and a full season under his belt, Lopez has the making of a future all-star, and will pair up well for an inside-outside game with Devin Harris and Courtney Lee for years to come.
All this talk of the future...but what of the present?
The Nets figure to be pretty bad this year. Potential doesn't win games.
Yi Jianlian is looking to have all the makings of a monumental bust, and will likely start at either SF or PF (he's a bit of a tweener). Yi might be the first all star starter to average less than 10 a game with the bolstering of a heavy Chinese vote. He almost did it last season.
Sean Williams has great potential too. He's a great athlete and shot-blocker, but is still struggling to adapt to the game mentally. He could either start or spend the whole season riding the bench in the doghouse. It's really mostly dependent on his mentality.
All this potential talk aside, they have no depth at all, and besides Harris, Lee, and Lopez, they will struggle to find other sources of points. They host a plethora of solid role players in Battie, Alston, Trenton Hassell, Bobby Simmons, and Jarvis Hayes, but these role players cannot save a team without a lot of star power. No one other than Harris is capable of averaging more than twenty points per game, and that lack of offensive firepower is likely to be the main downfall for the Nets this year.
Their depth chart should look something like this, though their starting SF spot is up in the air:
PG- Devin Harris - Rafer Alston
SG- Courtney Lee - Terrence Williams - Chris Douglas Roberts
SF- Bobby Simmons - Jarvis Hayes - Trenton Hassell
PF- Yi Jianlian - Sean Williams - Tony Battie
C- Brook Lopez - Josh Boone
The Nets have a great future. Unfortunately, after trading Vince Carter, they sacrificed their "present" and went into full on rebuilding mode.
They will fight with the Wolves and Kings for the worst record in the league this year , and will be fortunate (or unfortunate if you look at the season as a fight for ping pong balls) to win 30 games.