It is clear by now that the New Jersey Nets have exceeded the expectations of the “so-called expert” NBA analysts.
Before the season, the Nets were predicted by ESPN, along with others, to finish last in the East with a record of 28-54. Their own beat writers believed the team will have trouble breaking 80 points in games.
Something funny happened since then. On their way to an 11-8 record with wins over Utah, Phoenix and Atlanta twice, Devin Harris has broke out into stardom in Lawrence Frank’s dribble-drive offense, which utilizes his quickness and ability to break down opposing defenses.
Vince Carter has grown into the leader that no one thought he could be. Brook Lopez looks to be the presence down low that they have been missing since Kenyon Martin’s departure.
And the bench is productive for the first time in years thanks to the off season acquisitions of Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling. First-round draft pick Ryan Anderson also has provided a spark off the bench with his three-point shooting.
This team appears to have great chemistry. They all seam to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. While Harris and Carter are always the stars of each game, there always seems to be that third guy who steps up and makes a major contribution.
That third guy can be anyone. Some nights it’s Yi, some nights Lopez, other nights Dooling, other nights, Hayes. One can go through their whole lineup.
At this point in the season, Frank has appeared to give everyone their fair shot in the endless rotation. Brook Lopez has capitalized on his time starting at center due to an injured Josh Boone and appears to have earned the rights to the spot.
Sean Williams, who was also given minutes, proved to be unproductive, he does remain however, the main cheerleader and seems to provide energy even when not playing.
Stromile Swift, due to Williams failures looks to have earned minutes. Eduardo Najera will probably get playing time once he comes back from injury simply because he is a veteran and has a defensive presence even though he lacks any sort of offensive game. Frank loves these kinds of players, see Jason Collins.
With Boone ready to come back from injury, and Najera coming back soon, it leaves a logjam of bigs. Who will Frank take minutes from? Even leaving Williams on the bench, the Nets have a stock of bigs that includes Lopez, Yi, Anderson, Boone, Swift, and Najera.
After looking at this situation, one has to wonder if they can possibly gain an advantage by trading away one of their bigs for that third point guard they are missing. Could this happen without messing up the team’s chemistry?
In mid-November, Nets beat writer, Al Iannazzone reported that the Warriors offered Italian guard Marco Belinelli for Williams or Boone. The Nets turned the deal down at the time because of health issues concerning their bigs.
Belinelli is a shooter who can handle the ball and would appear to fit right in. He would also help with the big-man surplus and would fill New Jersey’s shortage of ball handlers problem. At this point, they only have Harris, Carter sometimes, and Dooling.
If Rod Thorn is able to pull the trigger on this deal it could possibly add to his already successful rebuilding of the Nets.