NBA Free Agency 2011: New Jersey Nets Top 10 Targets

Jim MancariCorrespondent IApril 1, 2011

NBA Free Agency 2011: New Jersey Nets Top 10 Targets

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    After a significant improvement from a 12-70 season, the New Jersey Nets are only a few pieces away from being a playoff contender.

    The trade for Deron Williams has the team heading in the right direction, though they will miss the playoffs this year.

    The Nets’ main priority this offseason will be locking up power forward Kris Humphries, who had a breakout year for New Jersey. Sasha Vujacic is also a free agent the Nets should re-sign.

    Though the crop of free agents doesn’t rival last summer, there are a handful of players who could have an immediate impact on the Nets.

    Here are 10 possible players the Nets may target during free agency.

10. Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Atlanta Hawks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 14.1 PPG, 3.2 APG, 30.5 MIN

     

    Jamal Crawford has provided instant offense off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks the last two seasons.

    He plays close to starter’s minutes each night and does nothing but produce.

    He shoots the three-ball exceptionally well, which allows him to rack up points off the bench.

    Despite being a 10-year veteran, Crawford will provide a team looking for bench scoring with a strong option.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    At least for next season, Deron Williams will be the Nets’ point guard, and Jordan Farmar will serve as the backup.

    However, at times, Farmar moved to shooting guard while on the floor with Williams.

    If the Nets sign Crawford, a similar situation would occur in the Nets’ second unit. Crawford would man the point with Farmar as the two.

    Crawford’s presence would be a great way to keep Williams fresh.

    How Nets Can Lure Crawford

    If the Nets can promise Crawford as much playing time as he received in Atlanta, this could be a good match.

    The Nets appear to be heading in the right direction, which could possibly appeal to Crawford.

    However, with Farmar, Anthony Morrow and possibly Sasha Vujacic in the fold, finding 30 minutes for Crawford might be difficult.

    In addition, Crawford is playing on a team that will make its fourth straight playoff appearance, so that may factor into his decision.

     

    Odds: 30/1

9. Glen Davis, PF, Boston Celtics

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 11.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 29.3 MIN

     

    Glen “Big Baby” Davis has been a great find for the Boston Celtics.

    Like Jamal Crawford, Davis plays close to starter’s minutes each night, which is vital in keeping Kevin Garnett fresh in Boston.

    Not only is he a presence on the glass with his 289-pound frame, he has developed a deadly mid-range jumper that had made him a more complete player.

    He should be a hot commodity this offseason.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    Assuming the Nets re-sign Kris Humphries, Davis would assume a similar role to the one he has in Boston.

    Humphries established himself as a starting caliber power forward, but there would be at least 25-30 minutes for Big Baby each night.

    Humphries and Davis would create one of the most formidable power forward tandems in the NBA.

    How Nets Can Lure Davis

    The problem with trying to lure Davis is that there may be teams willing to offer him a starter’s role.

    He’s only 25, so he still has time to establish himself as a star in the league.

    He would be a great fit for the Nets, but his career may flourish elsewhere.

    Odds: 25/1

8. Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.1 BLK

     

    After nine years of bouncing around between three different teams, Tyson Chandler has finally come into his own this season with the Dallas Mavericks.

    He’s averaged close to a double-double per game and has played with great energy.

    Chandler has formed a dynamic duo with Dirk Nowitzki that the Mavericks will try to ride deep into the playoffs.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    The Nets already have a seven-foot center in Brook Lopez.

    However, they can sign Chandler to play center and move Lopez to power forward.

    Lopez has developed an outside shot, which has allowed him to stretch the floor. Chandler would then clean up on the boards.

    If the Nets re-sign Kris Humphries, he can come off the bench to spell Lopez or Chandler.

    This scenario would work similar to the San Antonio Spurs of the late 1990s with David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

    How Nets Can Lure Chandler

    After his breakout season in Dallas, it will be quite difficult to lure Chandler away from the Mavericks.

    Maybe the prospects of playing with Deron Williams will appeal to Chandler, especially after playing this year with Jason Kidd.

    The Nets would have to push the idea of a dual big man set for this deal to occur.

    Odds: 25/1

7. Boris Diaw, PF, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 10.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.8 APG

     

    Ever since arriving via trade from the Phoenix Suns, Boris Diaw has thrived in a Charlotte Bobcats’ uniform.

    He hasn’t received the notoriety because he plays for the Bobcats, but Diaw is a consistent offensive and defensive force.

    He has started every single game the past two seasons, which shows his durability.

    Role in New Jersey

    If for some reason the Nets fail to re-sign Kris Humphries, Diaw would be a terrific replacement in the power forward spot.

    Though he may not play with the energy of Humphries, Diaw gives a consistent effort night-in and night-out.

     

    How Nets Can Lure Diaw

    Once again, if Humphries doesn’t re-sign, the Nets would target Diaw as their starting power forward.

    Though he would be a fallback option to Humphries, Diaw is still relatively young at 28 years old. He would be part of the Nets’ immediate future.

    Still though, Diaw can only be considered if Humphries signs elsewhere.

    Odds: 20/1

6. Shane Battier, SF, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 7.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 29.5 MIN

     

    Though he will be 33 years old heading into his 10th year in the league, Shane Battier has been a steady force his entire career.

    The Duke product can be a veteran presence and clutch shooter off the bench for a young team.

    He understands what it takes to be a role player and will give whatever team he signs with solid minutes off the bench.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    If the Nets fail to sign a scoring small forward, New Jersey will likely move on with a combination of Travis Outlaw and Damion James in the starting role.

    Battier would provide insurance for these players, especially James, who has spent much of his rookie season injured.

    He can be a fixture on New Jersey’s second unit. The Nets will still be a relatively young team next year, so having that veteran presence will pay dividends.

     

    How Nets Can Lure Battier

    Battier is a seasoned veteran who lacks a championship ring.

    While the Nets appear to be a team on the rise, they will need at least a few seasons to contend with the Eastern Conference powers.

    By that time, Battier will likely be on the way out.

    Though he may wind up with a contender, Battier would make sense for a young Nets team.

    Odds: 15/1

5. J.R. Smith, SG, Denver Nuggets

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 12.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, .387 3P%

     

    J.R. Smith’s performance on the court has been clouded with off-the-court issues.

    He was involved in a car accident in June 2007 in which a passenger in his car died. Smith pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter and served 24 days in prison.

    He was later suspended for seven games of the 2009-2010 NBA season for his guilty plea.

    However, on the court, Smith has proven he can be a natural scorer. He has mainly come off the bench in his career, thus providing instant offense.

    A change of scenery may do wonders for Smith.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    Smith could possibly slide into the starting shooting guard position for the Nets.

    Anthony Morrow has had a fine season, but his versatility allows him to either start or sub.

    Smith and Morrow would form a dangerous scoring tandem.

    While Morrow can spread the floor, Smith has the ability to drive to the hoop in addition to his three-point shooting prowess.

     

    How Nets Can Lure Smith

    Smith was born in Freehold, NJ, located less than an hour from the Prudential Center in Newark.

    His style of play fits in well with the Nets' new high-energy style.

    There would be plenty of opportunities to play regularly, and possibly even start.

    If Smith can show his legal troubles are behind him, this move would make sense.

    Odds: 10/1

4. Jason Richardson, SG, Orlando Magic

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 15.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, .396 3P%

     

    Jason Richardson has bounced around in his career to say the least.

    After six productive seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Richardson has played on three teams in four years.

    He’s a consistent scorer with a strong three-point shooting stroke.

    The former slam-dunk champion brings a level of excitement to the game matched by few players.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    Richardson would immediately take over starting shooting guard duties in New Jersey.

    Anthony Morrow would come off the bench, like he did at times this season.

    Morrow is an instant-offense player, so he would thrive in a bench role.

    Richardson would team up with Deron Williams to form a dynamic backcourt in Newark.

    How Nets Can Lure Richardson

    There will likely be many teams offering Richardson the chance to start.

    Richardson has played with some top-notch point guards the last few seasons in Steve Nash and Jameer Nelson. The prospects of playing with Williams would likely appeal to Richardson.

    It may take a multi-year contract to get it done, but Richardson would be a good fit for the Nets.

    Odds: 10/1

3. Jeff Green, SF, Boston Celtics

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 33.4 MIN

     

    At this year’s trade deadline, Jeff Green was traded with Nenad Krstic to the Boston Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.

    He went from starting every game to being relegated to a bench role behind one of the league’s premier small forwards—Paul Pierce.

    Boston is hoping it can get good minutes of the bench from Green as they contend for an NBA Championship.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    Green would become the starting small forward for the Nets.

    Travis Outlaw looked much better coming off the bench for New Jersey, and Damion James must prove he can stay healthy before the team anoints him the starter.

    He’s another high-energy player that would fit in well with Deron Williams, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez.

    How Nets Can Lure Green

    Unlike the other free agents on this list, Green is a restricted free agent. This means he can negotiate with other teams, but the Celtics will have a week to match another team’s offer, which would keep Green in Boston.

    There should be plenty of teams willing to insert Green into their starting lineup. Boston is not one of them because of Pierce.

    Green is only 24, so he will likely be hotly pursued by teams looking to lock him up long-term.

    He can be a marketable face for the Nets as they prepare to move to Brooklyn.

    Odds: 10/1

2. Tayshaun Prince, SF, Detroit Pistons

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 14.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.8 APG

     

    Tayshaun Prince has been a consistent scoring force ever since he came into the league.

    From 2003-2009, he started all but two regular season games for the Detroit Pistons.

    He’s gone from being the fifth option on a team that included Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton to being the No. 1 scoring threat in Detroit.

    The Pistons struggled offensively this season, and Prince may want to rejuvenate his career in another location.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    Prince would start at small forward, which would once again push Travis Outlaw into a bench role where he feels more comfortable.

    Prince would be a nice check-down option on the outside for Deron Williams if he can’t find Brook Lopez or Kris Humphries down low.

    The Nets will try to build a team that can win now, especially since Williams is a free agent after next season.

    Prince may not factor into the team’s long-term plans, but he can help win games immediately.

    How Nets Can Lure Prince

    As a player who has won an NBA Championship, Prince can appreciate the phase the Nets are going through.

    They just brought in arguably the game’s best point guard in Williams and are developing Lopez and Humphries into sound big men.

    Prince thrived when playing with Billups in Detroit and would play well next to Williams.

     

    Odds: 5/1

1. Andrei Kirilenko, SF, Utah Jazz

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010-11 Stats: 11.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG

     

    Andrei Kirilenko has been battling a knee injury all season, which has limited him to 64 games.

    He also missed time due to injury the previous two seasons.

    When healthy, Kirilenko has proven he can be a 15-point, eight-rebound type player.

    He may fly under the radar this offseason due to his recent injury history.

     

    Role in New Jersey

    Kirilenko would be used as a swingman forward. He would likely start at small forward, but he can shift to the power forward spot to give Kris Humphries a breather.

    He would fit nicely into New Jersey’s system, since he has a good three-point stroke and can score in the paint.

    He may just be the missing link the Nets need to get back to the playoffs.

    How Nets Can Lure Kirilenko

    First off, Kirilenko played parts of six seasons with Deron Williams.

    Kirilenko consistently scored in double-digits when set up by Williams, and a reunion would allow both players to play at high levels.

    More importantly, Kirilenko is from Russia—just like Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

    Prokhorov would love to have a fellow countryman help lead the charge to Brooklyn.

    Due to these connections already with New Jersey, it might not be a stretch to picture Kirilenko in a Nets uniform.

    Odds: 3/1