As a New Jersey native, I have always wanted the Nets to succeed. And, for a brief time at the beginning of the decade, they did. However, that time is long past and the team is in major rebuilding mode.
The new goal is to survive the season and develop some talented young players into the future of the franchise. In a weird way, this team is in great shape to rebuild quickly. So, here are the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Nets coming the 1009-2010 season.
Devin Harris and Brook Lopez make for a strong foundation for the team. Devin Harris was an all-star and Lopez was on the all-rookie team. The hardest part of building any franchise is finding a center and then a point guard. The Nets have managed to find two quality players to build around in the toughest positions.
Lopez averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds, and almost 2 blocks as a rookie. He showed excellent footwork, toughness and instincts. He has a nice touch around the basket and fights for position. He merely needs to gain more experience to improve. To accelerate the rebuilding process, Lopez needs to ball in the low post about 15 to 20 times per game.
Harris is speed personified. He is extremely hard to stop when he gets into the paint as he is tall enough to finish and willing to take the hit to get to the free throw line. The only knock is that he has been injury prone in his career. If he can stay healthy, he is a high caliber player.
The Nets do have three other young players who could be productive in Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts and the rookie, Terrence Williams. However, none has been a scorer on the NBA level. It is asking way too much to expect that they will be that this year.
The best bet is Douglas-Roberts who has shown a knack for getting good shots. However, he is not a good defender. The goal is to develop these three players in the hopes that at least one of them can partially replace the offense lost in the Vince Carter trade
Sadly, Lopez and Harris are the only players that currently qualify for good. The reality is that this team is going to have trouble scoring. The Nets lack a single player at the other three positions who is better than average. So, the will have trouble scoring. They lack quality shooters and do not have a wing player who can command a double team.
Courtney Lee will be the starting shooting guard, but he was a defense first guard for Orlando last year. Lee showed a nice range with the Magic, but now he will have to create some shots instead of having Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu create them for him. Until he shows that he can create his own shot, the Nets will have trouble scoring.
The Nets have had trouble scoring on the Knicks thus far in the preseason games. The Knicks are not a good defensive team. If the Nets have had trouble scoring against the Knicks, then that is a really bad sign.
Lawrence Frank has been the coach with the most tenure in the NBA Atlantic division. I doubt that that streak will continue ext year. Frank knows the fundamentals but has not shown himself to be a very good game coach.
The Nets have been very poor perimeter defenders for a few seasons now and that is the most damaging part since he was known as a defensive coach when he originally got the job. With no job security, he is going to have trouble keeping the team together this year.
The power forward position is an outright disaster for the Nets. As good as Lopez was as a rookie, the black hole that is the power forward was even worse.
This is the spot manned by Yi Jianlian. Yi is a decent shooter. He is decently athletic, but he just never seems to be in the right position. Yi has poor body control. As such, he does not adjust well in the air. He lacks upper body strength. So, he misses more dunks than anyone I have ever seen at that height.
He gets pushed out under the boards routinely and is a poor ball handler. Other than that, he is fine. The real problem is that Yi is the best that the Nets have at that position.
Josh Boone can't shoot at all. If it is not a dunk or an uncontested layup, he will usually miss. He is a solid rebounder and sets a good pick. He is not a good defender. He lacks timing on his attempts to block shots and lets his man establish position too close to the basket. He is what he is: a backup.
Sean Williams has talent. He is tall and can block shots as well as anyone in the NBA. The Nets defense improves tremendously when he plays because of that. However, he has no touch on offense and fouls way too much. This limits his minutes.
Plus, he has been such a knucklehead throughout his career that the Nets cannot rely on him. So, he rarely plays.
Eduardo Najera is a nice player, but has trouble staying healthy. He is solid in all aspects of his game. He is short for a power forward. So, he can be posted. However, he is the most consistent Net at the PF position and should get more minutes.
The Nets should have some hope at the small forward position because of Terrence Williams and Chris Douglas-Roberts, but neither one currently starts. Bobby Simmons starts and his backup is Jarvis Hayes. Simmons was once an excellent defender with a solid jump shot.
However, he can no longer create a shot and is now just a spot up jump shooter. His limited talents are completely wasted on a Nets team which needs more from this position.
Jarvis Hayes can shoot. He also has a stress reaction in his leg. That basically means he is in danger on developing a fracture from playing. So, the Nets cannot rely on him.
Trenton Hassell can defend and hit an open jumper. That is it.
With only two players who can be relied on at this time, the Nets are an easy team to defend. So, they are going to lose a lot of games. The Net desperately need a real power forward to control the baseline with Lopez and hope that either Lee, Williams, or Douglas-Roberts develops into a true scoring threat. Otherwise, the Nets will be in contention for the worst record in the NBA.
My final prediction is 23 wins.