To start the 2010-11 season, the relatively unknown Kris Humphries played his role off the bench, doing anything he could to get noticed.
Humphries ended the season fifth in the league in rebounds per game, earning consideration for Most Improved Player. He even found billboards advertising him as "The Incredible Hump."
Oh, and he is engaged to Kim Kardashian.
There is no doubt Humphries' career is on the rise, and the Nets need to lock him up for the next few years as they rebuild this team.
What stands out most about Kris Humphries' game is the constant energy he brings on the defensive side of the floor.
When he moved into the starting lineup following the Deron Williams' trade, there were questions regarding Humphries' ability to sustain the energy he brought to floor over an increased share of minutes. He answered critics by boosting his statline up to 10 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, becoming one of the Nets' keys to success.
Players with Humphries' fierce work ethic on defense are hard to come by, especially players with his potential for growth.
Let's face it—Brook Lopez is soft. As a finesse seven-foot center, Lopez averaged fewer rebounds than the Knicks' rookie shooting guard Landry Fields.
While some say it was actually Humphries who "stole" rebounds from Lopez, the third-year big man from Stanford looked slow all season and could not read shots off the rim.
If Lopez continues to average merely six rebounds a game, the Nets are going to need to play him alongside someone who can consistently snatch the ball and limit the oppositions' second-hand opportunities. Humphries fits the bill perfectly
Two years ago, Kris provided solid defense off the bench—and not much more. Shooting only 43 percent from the field and averaging about eight points a game in 20 minutes of action, he was almost a liability on the offensive end.
However, he looked like a completely different player last year, posting a double-double average and 53 percent shooting in just under 28 minutes a game.
He played with confidence, knocking down mid-range shots he would not have earlier in his career. Starting alongside Williams should only improve that confidence.
One of the intangibles most of the Nets players have lacked these past few years has been enthusiasm and energy.
Humphries is not one of those players. Although there was never much to be excited about, Humphries brought the heat to every opponent and made visible differences in the Nets' play on the floor.
His emphatic dunks, jaw-dropping blocks or even momentum-swinging hustle plays seemed to inspire his teammates to keep grinding for the win.
In many interviews, Lopez credited Humphries for keeping the team in the game with his constant effort and hustle.
Great point guards like Williams can make any player better, but the improvement in Humphries' game once Williams came on board was shocking. Just look at these stats:
Pre D-Will: 8.8 PPG 9.3 RPG 0.9 BPG
Post D-Will: 14.8 PPG 15.2 RPG 1.8 BPG
Humphries is one of the few players Williams was able to establish a solid connection with in his short stint with the team, and it is important the Nets keep players with whom Williams has rapport. They have one year left to entice Williams to stay, and good team chemistry can only help.
One of the positions the Nets will certainly have to address this summer is the power forward slot, and their options look pretty bleak right now.
New Orleans Hornets' big man David West was almost a lock to sign with New Jersey until he tore his ACL late in the season. It now looks like he might take his player option and wait a season until he knows where Chris Paul will be taking his talents.
With West off the board, Humphries suddenly becomes the most attractive option, certainly more intriguing than the likes of Glen Davis, Kenyon Martin or Josh McRoberts.
This leads to the next point...
Kris Humphries' asking price increased with every double-double he recorded last season. At this point, it looks like he and his agent will be demanding something around five years and $40 million.
Considering the Nets just gave Travis Outlaw similar money, Humphries looks like a bargain at that price. Barring a huge splash signing, the Nets should have the money to make this happen.
If Humphries can continue to produce the numbers he did last season, there is no reason for the club to shy away from signing him.
Almost immediately after the final whistle of the season, Sasha Vujacic and Humphries vocalized their excitement about the Nets' future and their desire to sign another contract with the team.
In Humphries' case, he seems to have found his niche on this squad and would like to stay on a team where he could receive solid minutes. It was not long ago Humphries found himself buried on the Dallas Mavericks' bench, waiting for his big break.
OK, maybe this does not actually factor too much into a decision to sign the guy, but let's think about it.
The international celebrity Kim Kardashian breaks up with Heisman-winner Reggie Bush and gets engaged to...who?
This man is clearly a champion.
Let's not forget that a sideline featuring Beyonce, Maria Sharapova and Kim Kardashian would be unparalleled.