NBA Free Agency 2011: 10 Bold Predictions for the New Jersey Nets This Summer
With a brazen owner, a new stadium in the works and a bona fide all-star on the roster in Deron Williams, expect the Nets to make some waves this summer. This is a franchise with a lot of upside and plenty of room to grow, so do not be surprised if they make some headlines in the coming months.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the club as they approach a crucial summer of negotiations.
1. Deron Williams Signs an Extension
Bring on the critics who laughed at the Nets when they traded for a superstar who may opt to leave after two years or who insist that he will indeed be playing in New York in 2012, just for the Knicks.
Sure, the Nets were just another lottery team this year, but according to a recent report, Williams likes the Nets. He enjoys being the face of a budding franchise that is willing to build around him for years to come.
This is his chance to own a team in an league where stars are too cowardly to be bold and instead chose the already green pastures.
If what Deron says is true, the Nets will serve him an extension on a silver platter the day the CBA is made, and the rest will start falling into place.
2. Dwight Howard Says He Wants to Sign with Nets
If and when Deron signs that extension, he will essentially become the Nets' biggest recruiter.
Dwight Howard is perhaps Williams' closest A-list buddy, and he just happens to be nearing the end of his contract.
Howard has already made it known that he may sign elsewhere if Orlando can't build a championship team around him, and it doesn't look like they have one right now.
If the Magic do not make a serious run in the playoffs this year, Howard could easily go the Carmelo Anthony route and do everything but say he wants to play for a certain team.
That team could be the New Jersey Nets, where Howard would join Williams in opening a new, exciting chapter in the organization's history with one of the most dynamic duos in the league.
3. Nets Trade Brook Lopez for Dwight Howard
If Howard does make this desire known, Orlando may try to end the drama before the season even begins, opening the door for trade negotiations.
Brook Lopez is a great trading chip, and Travis Outlaw's contract definitely helps the money match. Kris Humphries is also a solid trading piece.
If not this summer, this could be a trade deadline deal between the two teams.
4. Nets Sign Andrei Kirilenko
Here's a no-brainer. Kirilenko and Prokhorov have been drinking buddies for years, and the Nets held "Russian Culture Night" when they hosted the Utah Jazz early in the season.
With AK47's old teammate in Deron William's on the Nets, it would be more surprising if this signing didn't happen.
5. The Nets Find a Way to Trade Travis Outlaw
Four years, $28 million, 11 PPG.
I said these would be bold predictions, didn't I?
Travis Outlaw and his undeserved contract are the biggest speed bumps in the Nets' road to relevance right now, so a trade would be just as exciting as winning the draft lottery.
Every Nets fan would let out a sigh of relief if Billy King could somehow rid the team of Outlaw in return for two or three roster fillers. This would also make it possible to sign Kirilenko and keep the promising rookie Damion James.
6. Nets Trade for O.J. Mayo
It's no secret that the Memphis Grizzlies are shopping former USC star O.J. Mayo.
They actually almost had him moved...until of course the deal with the Indiana Pacers missed the trade deadline by 15 minutes.
This summer, Mayo should be on the market again, and the Nets could definitely make a run at him.
Anthony Morrow and a small contract or pick should suffice both financially and logically.
Mayo has proven scoring potential and would complement Deron Williams perfectly in the backcourt.
7. Nets Re-Sign Humphries and Vujacic
Around the same time that Deron Williams announced his happiness with the organization, both Kris Humphries and Sasha Vujacic added that they too would like to be part of the organization moving forward.
Re-signing The Incredible Hump, as the Nets tried to market him, is an obvious decision. The power forward is coming off a break-out year and the team is extremely thin at the position. He is also valuable to keep as a trading chip for a more prominent player (i.e. Dwight Howard).
Vujacic is the less obvious one. Some argue that he and Anthony Morrow are essentially the same player and that the Nets should seek depth at the two-guard slot elsewhere.
Yet, Vujacic is the ideal role player who can provide solid offense off the bench for a low price. Sure, one should probably think about adding star power to a roster before thinking about chemistry off the bench, but there aren't many players that play their role as Sasha in this league.
8. Ben Uzoh's Team Option Is Picked Up
Avery Johnson has repeated time and time again that he sees something in Uzoh and has constantly worked on developing the young point guard.
His maturation throughout the season was obvious, and it began to look like he could be a decent third string point guard moving forward.
However, the stellar play of Sundiata Gaines late in the season knocked Uzoh into the D-League, where he posted solid numbers until Gaines broke his hip with a few games left in the season.
While Gaines looked stronger out on the court, I see the Nets holding onto Uzoh for another year or two.
9. Nets Make a Run at Wilson Chandler
Wilson Chandler blossomed into a solid scorer and aggressive rebounder this season with both the Knicks and Nuggets.
The asking price is certainly going to be high, which means the Nets would have some clearing to do. If they can in fact move Outlaw, they would be in great position to sign Chandler and still have wiggle room under the cap.
Chandler is certainly a better acquisition than Kirilenko, albeit a riskier and less likely one.
Look for the Nets to at least make an offer for Chandler and try their luck on hauling a new scoring option at the three spot.
10. The Nets Leave Free Agency with a Playoff Caliber Roster
The New Jersey Nets and playoffs in the same sentence? Not as outlandish as it may seem. This year, the seventh seed in the east finished at exactly .500 and the eighth seed at a laughable 37-45. Needless to say, the bottom half of the postseason spots are completely up for grabs.
This year, the Nets went 24-58, a marked improvement over last season. Had Deron Williams been part of their roster the entire year, they easily win 30 to 32 games. See? Now they're only five games out of the playoffs.
With one or two smart signings in the offseason, the Nets could easily be in the conversation for one of the final playoff spots There's an air of excitement surrounding the growing organization, and I see that translating into more inspired play and a more exciting 2011-2012 season (if there is one, of course).