It goes without saying that if the New Jersey Nets acquire Carmelo Anthony, one of the best players in the NBA, they will most likely find themselves in the playoffs.
Even if they aren't able to get their hands on him until the trade deadline, as long as they are reasonably close to a playoff spot they should make the postseason.
What if they can't get him, though? Will they still be a contender for a playoff spot?
For a variety of reasons, the answer is yes.
The Nets have a new owner, a new general manager, a new coach, a new arena and several new players.
The team should be much improved over their 12-70 record.
Every team starts out the season with a 1-in-30 chance of winning a championship.
Here are 10 reasons New Jersey is a squad to pay attention to this year.
The Nets were not able to sign any of the big-name free agents available this summer, but they did their best to get a hold of players who could improve their team.
They needed better rebounding—they signed Troy Murphy and drafted Derrick Favors.
They needed better shooting—they made a deal for Anthony Morrow and drafted Damion James.
They needed someone who could create offense—they signed Travis Outlaw.
There's no doubt the team wanted LeBron James, Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh, and they did their best to clear cap room to sign one and possibly two of them.
It just wasn't in the cards for this team, though. So they did what they could to bring in players who would help them improve in areas they struggled with last season.
The team also has better depth this time around, with Jordan Farmar coming off the bench to back Devin Harris.
These moves should get the team back into contention.
Lopez has All-Star written all over him.
In the 2009-10 season he improved in points scored, rebounds and assists. A similar increase this year would land him in 20-10 territory.
Lopez is a solid passing big man who will look for open teammates while in the post—good for a team that recently picked up some shooters.
His field goal percentage went down a season ago, but that can largely be attributed to an increase in attempts as he worked on improving his range.
A summer's worth of work in that department should bring his percentage up, but can you really complain about a guy shooting nearly 50 percent from the field?
A complaint against the team a season ago was that there were stretches when Lopez would not see the ball enough, a mistake New Jersey will not make again this year.
A defensive-minded coach who took a team to the Finals and was the fastest coach to reach 100 wins in NBA history, Johnson will look to improve a defense that wasn't as bad as last year's record suggests, coming in at 17th in the league.
Johnson was made an assistant coach with Dallas in 2003 and was named head coach later that season.
In the seasons he coached, the team allowed an average of 95.8 points a game. In the season preceding his tenure, and in the two years since he was fired, the Mavs have allowed 100 points per game.
If he can make such an improvement with New Jersey, the team could find itself near the top-10 in defense, with an offense that should be more potent than it was a year ago.
The three-ball is the great equalizer in basketball, and the Nets placed a heavy emphasis on getting guys who could shoot this offseason, especially those who can shoot the three.
Headlining this focus is Anthony Morrow, who is among the best pure shooters in the NBA. For his career he shoots 47.2 percent from behind the arc and could be a beneficiary of Devin Harris' drives to the basket if outside defenders collapse on him.
While other pick-ups such as Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw and Damion James don't shoot as well as Morrow (who does?), they have shown the capability of knocking down the long ball.
Troy Murphy is also capable of hitting three-pointers, shooting 39.4 percent for his career, which is really good for a guy who is nearly seven feet tall.
While Murphy is certainly not in this class of player, you may recall a power forward capable of hitting long shots by the name of Dirk Nowitzki, who had some of his best years with Avery Johnson as his head coach, topping 40 percent on threes twice during Johnson's tenure.
When Murphy gets healthy, Johnson could look to use him as a guy who can spread out the defense.
Prokhorov, the Nets' new owner, promised fans the team would make the playoffs in the 2010-11 season and win a championship within the next five years.
He has the money and the willingness to spend it, a combination that could lead to the fulfillment of his promises so long as the right personnel moves are made.
One would think that you don't become one of the richest men in the world without knowing how to surround yourself with the right people—which is what the Russian billionaire will have to do.
When Prokhorov wasn't busy hiring film crews to record his talents on a jet-ski, he helped lead CSKA Moscow, the team he owned in Russia, to two Euroleague titles and an appearance in a third championship game.
It's safe to say the guy knows what he's doing, and many believe he will be able to relate to NBA stars more than other owners, helping him to convince top players they should join the Nets.
Harris can take anyone in the league off-dribble and is considered one of the best defending point guards around.
The main concern with him is his ability to stay healthy and his lack of effort a year ago, although it's hard to be too upset with a guy who had such a weak supporting cast around him.
He could have merely been extremely frustrated, as he had been on winning teams for most of his young career.
Harris and Coach Avery Johnson are familiar with each other due to their time in Dallas, and while they had some disagreements while there, Harris lobbied hard for Johnson to become the head coach in Jersey.
He has tremendous chemistry with center Brook Lopez, often feeding him alley-oop passes when he drives to the basket.
Defenders will be more hesitant to provide help when Harris penetrates this year with better shooters on the floor with him.
Look for him to have a big year.
Thanks to recent trades, signings and some good young players, the East is stronger than it has been over the past several seasons.
However, it's not so good that a team like the Nets can't find its way into the playoffs.
Every year, in every sport, there are teams no one thought would contend yet find themselves in the mix at the end of the year.
There's really no reason to think the Nets can't be one of those clubs this season.
Teams like Milwaukee, Charlotte and Chicago made the postseason last year, but there's no guarantee they'll make it again.
Remember, the Bulls' biggest move was to sign Carlos Boozer, who now looks to be missing a good chunk of time after requiring surgery to fix a fractured pinkie.
The Bucks and Bobcats snuck up on people last year, but it's much harder to succeed when teams know you're coming and are paying more attention to you.
No one ever knows how a young team will deal with success, either.
Cleveland had been the best in the conference the past two years—at least in the regular season—but they just saw their franchise player take his talents to South Beach (sorry LeBron, I couldn't help myself).
Things could be lining up for New Jersey to make a run towards the playoffs.
Williams could be on the verge of a breakout season.
The second-year pro had trouble in the beginning of his rookie season but finished with a flourish, posting 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 6.9 rebounds a game over the final six weeks.
It appears he will start the year coming off the bench but should still log a bunch of minutes and will handle the ball a lot when he is on the court.
He's another player that should benefit from the upgrade in players on the team, as he looks to dish off to open teammates when he drives the ball.
He could stand to improve his shooting ability, but he has All-Star potential.
He's yet another player to be excited about in the 2010-11 season.
The oldest player on the Nets is veteran Joe Smith who is 35.
Outside of him, the average age of this team is 24.
Young players want to show everyone what they can do, and the team's best players, Devin Harris (27) and Brook Lopez (22), are both young and hungry.
Rookie Derrick Favors is just 19, and while very raw, he will want to prove he is not the underachiever many have labeled him.
The key to starting a youth movement is getting good, young players and then keeping them together for a long period of time.
New Jersey is trying to build a team that will be a contender for years to come and that could start this year with their young core.
The Nets could also find new life in their new arena, the Prudential Center, a much more inviting and accessible place than the Izod Center.
Professional athletes are among the most competitive people you will ever meet, or maybe just see, in your entire life.
They perform their best when they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove, which every player on this team will—especially those who were around for last year's abysmal season.
Avery Johnson delivered a preseason speech to the New Orleans Saints before last season and met with the team again prior to the Super Bowl.
He knows how to motivate a team.
New Jersey should play much harder than they did a year ago when their season was basically over after a month of play.
If they do contend, much of the credit should go to the pride the players have in their craft.