With the Nets unable to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Amare Stoudemire, they must now turn from hopes of running the offense through a dominant player to building a more balanced attack, with a strong defense to support. Instead of signing and overpaying second tier free agents, such as Carlos Boozer and David Lee, they have instead opted to sign role players Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, and Jordan Farmar while targeting Kyle Korver, Tyrus Thomas and Udonis Haslem, and drafting Damian James and Derrick Favors. Quinton Ross was acquired in the trade that sent the Yi player to Washington.
Nets Unofficial Slogan: It's All Two!
The Nets roster, as currently constructed, consists of Harris, Lee, Outlaw, Favors, Lopez, Williams, Morrow, James, Humphries, Ross, and Petro. Two things stand out about that roster -- all players are under 30, and the main rotation players are all capable of running the court and willing to do so. To get on the break, of course, a team needs to get defensive stops and rebounds. The Nets were clearly aware of this, and have seemingly focused their off season moves on this. The Nets began these efforts on draft night, and have continued to pursue defense and rebounding since.Favors could be a defensive game changer, and will contribute defensively and on the glass right off the bat, while James also has a reputation as a defensive stopper and rebounder. Ross has been a defensive stopper throughout his career, and may get increased playing time if the Nets are committed to a defense and break team and are willing to overlook his short comings on offense. Petro, while being inconsistent throughout his career offensively, is very strong defensively and on the boards, and should provide the competent back up Lopez has lacked throughout his career. Farmar plays pesky defense and is athletic and quick enough to cover quick guards as well as bigger guards, and is great on the break. Given Harris’s propensity for getting injured, Farmar will also provide an admirable fill in for Harris. Although the Nets were absolutely awful defensively last season -- they allowed110.5 points per 100 possessions, good for 25th in the league -- the addition of these players gives them the opportunity to improve drastically on that end of the floor.
Set Shot Willy born again? The Nets can only hope.
Even if the plan is to create a team predicated on defense, rebounding, and running the break, the Nets entered the off season with major needs in the half court as well . With the signings of Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw, the Nets were clearly addressing the biggest of their many half-court needs, outside shooting. Outlaw scorers most of his points on spot up three point shots, and by creating his own long range 2s off the dribble with his great length and lift on his jump shot. Outlaw’s defense is lackluster, as he has trouble covering quicker small forwards and stronger power forwards. Ideally Outlaw is instant offense off of the bench, but the Nets starting line up needs his offense; the only other players who can create their own offense are Lopez and Harris. Morrow is one of the league’s best three point shooters, and a welcome addition to a Nets team that was hurting for outside shooting last season. Unfortunately Morrow’s game is limited beyond that and, like Outlaw, Morrow is weak defensively. Still, his incredible shooting touch makes him well worth his three year, $12 million dollar contract. Farmar received a similar deal, and shoots at a clip of 36% from three point range for his career. With improved shooting, and with one more player who can create his own offense at a high level, the Nets will open up drives to the basket, the pick and roll, and will make doubling Lopez in the post a decision the opposition will regret.
Summer league has shown us that Favors, at least for now, is not ready to start in the NBA. This leaves a hole at power forward that must be filled if the Nets wish to compete. A power forward starting with Harris, Lee, Outlaw, and Lopez would ideally be able to play tough defense, rebound at a high level, and convert the midrange shot to open up the inside for Lopez and Harris. Luis Scola is by far the best power forward free agent remaining, averaging 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, and is, coincidentally, a perfect fit next to Lopez and Harris. Scola does not need the ball to be effective, and gets the majority of his points off of put backs and from a very smooth mid range jump shot, shooting in the low 42.2% from 16-23 feet in his career.
If the Nets are unable to obtain a power forward in free agency, they will likely obtain one through a trade. Andrei Kirilenko of the Jazz could be obtained, given his large, $17.8 million dollar deal. The Jazz are already right at the salary cap with $58 million in salary, but only have 8 players with guaranteed contracts in 2010. Clearing Kirilenko’s deal would allow the Jazz to fill their roster through either trades or free agency, so a Humphries for Kirilenko deal would be beneficial for both teams. If the impending Al Jefferson deal is consummated, the Jazz’s payroll will be around $71 million in salary, just above the luxury tax. Getting rid of Kirilenko’s contract in this scenario would give valuable financial flexibility to the Jazz and would create a massive trade exception, which could be used to acquire free agents in sign and trades, as the Nets did when they acquired Keyon Dooling. Kirilenko has the ability to be a game changer defensively when he plays power forward and can stay close to the rim. He also has a serviceable mid range shot, shooting 40% from 16-23 feet. For a forward, he is a very good passer, so he will be able to take some of the pressure of creating off of Harris, Williams, and Farmar. The Jazz, however, might be unwilling to deal Kirilenko in fear of displeasing star point guard Deron Williams-- who voiced his displeasure when Ronnie Brewer was dumped-- so the Nets may have to look in a different direction.
Brandon Bass of the Magic, is another option the Nets should look at. Bass has two guaranteed years left at $4 million each, and a third year player option at the same rate. Bass is a bit undersized in height at power forward, but has great size otherwise and is quick enough to get shots up versus slower forwards and centers. Bass’s midrange shot is one of the best in the game; he has shot an outstanding 47.7% from 16-23 feet over the last three years. Though he is not the rebounder Scola is, he is still able to get offensive boards and defends well. Bass played a paltry 13 minutes per game last season for the Magic, so they may not be opposed to clearing his deal for a trade exception.
When Favors is ready to start, hopefully a year or two down the road Scola and Bass will still be under contract, and would be some of the most competent third big men in the league, which is absolutely necessary to have if a team wishes to contend.
The man be hind the Nets' recent magic? Who needs Billy King?
Though the Nets failed to acquire the hyped, high profile free agents we all hoped for, fans should be thrilled with the job the Nets Front Office has done this off season given the circumstances. It has laid the foundation to a well balanced, well constructed young roster while maintaining the financial flexibility that could allow them to compete for a playoff spot as soon as the coming season.