After surprisingly challenging the Los Angeles Lakers for about 30 minutes or so, the New Jersey Nets reverted to their familiar place as losers, this time 103-84.
Truthfully, little that happens on the court for New Jersey matters this season. With all the expiring contracts and cheap, young talent on the roster, the Nets will be major factors in free agency next season.
So while the Nets are atrocious, at least they aren’t a middling veteran team that might miss the playoffs, but has long expensive contracts—say, the New Orleans Hornets.
In fact, if this is a throwaway year, the Nets should focus on developing the young players that might stick.
However, the embarrassment of being the worst team in NBA history not only dulls the lure for free agents to go to New Jersey, but also may stick in the minds of their young players for years to come. Because of this, the Nets also must field a roster that can grab eight more wins.
Let’s use the game against the Lakers to see which players have long-term staying power, who can provide a boost in the short term, and who needs to be dumped ASAP.
Harris—7-11 FG, 1-4 3FG, 6-6 FT, 3 AST, 1 TO, 21 PTS—is easily the Nets most talented scorer. He’s among the quickest players in the league, is a clever finisher, and has a nifty right-handed push shot which he used with success against the Lakers.
Harris is much more of an attacking scorer than a playmaker. He forced several drives, tended to overhandle, and threw two awful lob passes.
He also misfired on four of his six jump shots, and only went 1-4 from behind the arc. He’s a career 30 percent shooter from behind the arc and is a non-factor spotting up.
Defensively, Harris offered little resistance to the machinations of Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, Kobe Bryant, and Shannon Brown.
Harris at his best as a drive-and-kick point guard, but with a dearth of shooting on the roster, he has nobody to kick it to.
For Harris to be at his best, he needs to be surrounded by shooters all over the floor to provide the space he needs to go one-on-one.
Without those shooters, Harris frequently is forced to crash into the paint against multiple defenders and create something out of nothing.
Lopez—6-16 FG, 6-7 FT, 11 REB, 4 AST, 2 TO, 2 BLK, 18 PTS—is supposed to be the next great post player, but his flaws are more pronounced on this sad-sack bunch. For starters, while Lopez is big with broad shoulders, he has no quickness.
If he can’t get his shoulder past his defender on his initial move, he’s forced into lumbering turnaround hooks, or fade away jump shots.
Also, while Lopez is a decent passer on simple give-and-go’s, he doesn’t read double teams well and misses open teammates.
Lopez’ defense is capable when he doesn’t have to move, but he’s a slow jumper, and even slower laterally.
His ineffective interior rotations led to a slew of layups for the Lakers, and his leaden feet allowed the Lakers to have their way on the offensive boards.
Lopez has a soft jumper and touch around the hoop, but he’s essentially a stiff. He too needs shooters around him to create space, or playmakers to feed him cookies. Defensively, he needs a power forward with pogo sticks for legs.
Lopez is good enough to be a keeper. Even so, he doesn’t have the athleticism to become what people think he’ll become.
Boone had an uneven game against the Lakers—3-8 FG, 0-4 FT, 9 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO, 4 BLK, 6 PTS. He ran the floor, set solid screens, boxed out, blocked shots from the weak side, and played with admirable effort.
He also may have the most limited offensive game in the league (aside from Ryan Bowen), and is a psychological mess from the free-throw stripe—you can see how he gets disgusted with himself and loses confidence with every missed freebie.
Boone isn’t a bad counterpart to Lopez, and has a place as a potential banger for the future Nets. For a team that needs more explosion though, he shouldn’t play more than 20 minutes per game.
Lee—3-11 FG, 0-2 3FG, 1-2 FT, 2 AST, 7 PTS—was the main chip brought back in the Vince Carter trade, but he’s been a major disappointment. The majority of his shots were uncomplicated—layups or open jumpers—but he bricked most of his looks.
Perhaps his injuries have held him back? Perhaps he’s still psychologically scarred from the abuse he took at the hands of Kobe Bryant during last season’s NBA Finals? Or perhaps he’s simply not as good as expected to be?
Whatever the case, Lee hasn’t come close to replacing Vince Carter’s production, and doesn’t look to be a player on any good future Nets team.
Douglas-Roberts—8-20 FG, 0-1 3FG, 4-4 FT, 20 PTS—is a fearless slasher and high riser who can get into the paint and finish at the rim.
Confident and aggressive, CDR’s held back by an ineffective jump shot and inexperience. He forced several assaults against a fortified rim, and carried the ball twice attempting a hesitation dribble.
Because his jump shot isn’t up to snuff, CDR doesn’t project to being a starter with the Nets, but he’s certainly a keeper as a sixth-man scorer off the bench.
Alston—2-8 FG, 0-1 3FG, 1 AST, 4 PTS—has taken his inconsistent shooting, layup-missing game to New Jersey. Of Alston’s eight attempts, one was a running clanger off the backboard, and three were bricked layups.
In Orlando and Houston, Alston could afford to miss layups with Dwight Howard and Yao Ming hovering around the basket, but he doesn’t have that luxury in New Jersey.
Alston has no place in Jersey’s future, and he isn’t doing much for their present. He should be traded or waived whenever the Nets get the chance.
Hassell—0-4 FG, 0 PTS—is an above-average defender and extremely limited offensive player thrust into a role that’s too big for him.
Hassell should only be playing spot minutes throughout the season as a defensive specialist. This will keep his body fresh, and give him an offensive spark when he does see minutes.
Being the only good perimeter defender on the roster, it’s understandable why Hassell gets minutes, and he did a commendable job defending Kobe Bryant.
But given the ineptitude of New Jersey’s perimeter scoring, the Nets need as many shooters as possible to space the floor. Hassell doesn’t provide that, though he should be kept around for spot minutes and as a hard-working practice player.
Simmons—1-2 3FG, 3 PTS—is ordinary in every category, but he’s a 40 percent career shooter from the outlands. That alone is reason to play him this season.
Dooling is a streaky scorer on offense, and a decent defender with quick hands on defense. He’s a useful fourth guard in a four-guard rotation.
Williams has slow on-court reaction times, isn’t a hard working practice player, and doesn’t appear to have any real passion for the game.
He should be banished to the D-League, except the time he was sent there last season, he was such a disruption, the Nets were forced to recall him. He has no future on the Nets, or in the NBA.
A major project, Williams has no court IQ, and no real offensive skills. It says a lot that for a team playing for the future, its first round draft pick’s minutes have diminished over the course of the season.
Williams’ potential is supposed to lie in his defensive prowess, but for a team thirsting for offense, drafting a defensive specialist looks like a mistake. Regardless, Williams is a keeper for better or worse.
This leaves the Nets with a starting caliber center (Lopez) and point guard (Harris), a fourth guard (Dooling), two backup wings (Douglas-Robert and Williams), and a backup big man (Boone).
This means the Nets will need to acquire a starting shooting guard, two starting forwards, and one more bench player. The Nets should have a high enough draft pick where whoever they select will come in and start.
That leaves two starters that the Nets will afford with their cap space, and a bench player to fill out in free agency.
All things considered, that isn’t a horrendous place to be. Perhaps they can pry LeBron with their Jay-Z connection. Perhaps they can pony up the cash for Amare Stoudemire or Joe Johnson.
Or perhaps, they’ll be stuck with wads of cash and nobody who wants to play in the Jersey swamp.
Which means the Nets’ future could be bright, or it could be desolate. There’s no pondering over the Nets’ present state. They’re one of the most impotent teams in NBA history.