When the Nets acquired Deron Williams from Utah it was the 1st time since Jason Kidd that the Nets had a legitimate superstar on the team. Derrick Rose is the MVP and most skilled player in the league not named Lebron James but he is a SG trapped in a PG’s body. Deron Williams is the best PG in the NBA. Like Steve Nash, Kidd, Gary Payton, John Stockton, and Magic Johnson before him, Deron has the rarest ability to make those around him better.
Trading for Williams was also the biggest risk the team has ever taken. Under contract for 2012 and a player option for 2013, Williams can leave the tem via free agency after next year and set the team back for years much in the same way Kidd’s departure did. Williams has made it clear that he want to play for a winner. Many of the Nets Daily bloggers feel that if we don’t acquire another all-star then Williams will leave. I am not of that opinion because we already have that all-star and his name is Brooklyn Lopez.
Brook had a well documented bout of mono last summer. While I don’t think it’s directly affecting him now you can’t deny its impact on him this season. I was a strength and conditioning trainer for many years and for most people his size keeping weight on is extremely difficult. With the amount of activity and energy an NBA player expends, he probably has to eat 8000+ calories a day. People with mono have trouble just moving around let alone eating 8 to 10 large meals a day. The effect of not being able to train and eat properly for an entire offseason had to negatively affect Brook's strength. The numbers would also suggest that. Coming into this season was an 8.5 RPG guy. While that's not great, it's respectable. It takes most big men with Brook’s build 3-4 years to develop enough strength to rebound consistently in the NBA. Players don’t get better at rebounding in season they get better with a regimented strength program in the offseason.
An improved Lopez won’t be enough to keep Williams from leaving in 2012 but I don’t think adding another All-star is necessarily the answer. Teams like Miami, New York, and Orlando have tied a large percentage of their salary cap to 3 players. This has made them unbalanced rosters and limits their flexibility to make adjustments if players like Bosh, Billups and Arenas don’t pan out. As bad as Outlaw’s 7 mil/yr contract is, it’s nothing compared to a Gilbert Arenas contract where you are stuck paying 18 mil for the next 3 years. Overspending for mid level talent like Zach Randolph is foolhardy for a team like the Nets who already have a much younger low post scorer. Does he put up all star numbers? Yes. Does he make this team better? Not enough to justify not spending that money elsewhere.
Team chemistry is built by having clearly defined roles. Ideally you would like to structure a team like LA, Chicago or Oklahoma City. Everyone has a specific role and isn’t expected to do things outside of those roles. Gasol is LA’s low post scorer. They don’t ask him to be the defensive stopper like they do with Bynum in the same way they don’t expect Bynum to put up 20 a night like they except from Gasol. This leads to accountability by the players. Miami is a good example of poor team chemistry because of poorly defined roles. On talent alone Miami should be the hands down best team in the league. Both Lebron and Wade are top 5 players in the NBA but Lebron the spot up shooter isn’t nearly as good as Lebron the playmaking distributor. Sure the Heat will be a top 4 team in the East but when they play a Boston or Chicago in the playoffs their flaws will be magnified because they are a poorly constructed team. It’s rare that you see a team like Boston bring in players who are willing to sacrifice their strengths for the betterment of the team. Most times its teams like the 2003 Lakers who brought Payton and Malone in and lost to a team with great chemistry in the Pistons. That’s why resigning Humphries is vital for the Nets if they plan to move forward with Lopez as the center. Humphries isn’t one of the top 10 power forwards in the league but his skill set compliments Lopez more than any of the “Star” forwards in the league.
So if the Nets don’t bring in another all-star then how do they improve? I’m a big believer in looking to the past to see what has been successful in the NBA. I think the old Pacer’s teams are a good model for how we should build this team because we have a lot of similar players. Lopez reminds me of Rick Smits, a 7 foot plus big man who had a strong inside/out game with soft touch. Both had similar limitations as defenders and rebounders also. Indiana was always at their best when they had a rugged PF like Dale and Antonio Davis next to Smits. Humphries is a good start but if we could somehow move up to get Faried then we would have the 1-2 punch the Pacers use to. If we are unable to land Faried then Kenyon Martin would be serviceable. Mark Jackson was one of the best distributors in the NBA when he played and was always a leader on the court. Deron Williams is similar to Jackson in that way but is a much better scorer. What made the Pacers so deadly was Reggie Miller. I am not trying to put Morrow on the same level as Miller but he is the 2nd best 3 point shooters in the history of the NBA. The biggest piece we are missing is a player like Jalen Rose. Rose did a little bit of everything well. He had a good handle, could shoot and drive, plus was a good distributor. I think the Nets should do whatever it takes to get Andre Iguodala to fit this role but if he is not available then JR Smith would fit the bill. I know I just spent the whole blog talking about chemistry, and Smith is one of the biggest knuckleheads in the league, but take a look at what he is doing in Denver this season. They might have the best team chemistry in the NBA right now and JR is a big part of that. He has shown he is willing to sacrifice by coming off the bench and playing PG because of injury. It takes some players longer than others to mature and it appears he has turned that corner. Another person who fits the Jalen Rose mode is Tracy McGrady. He isn’t playing at the level he use to but if you look at what he has done in Detroit this year he would fit the Nets nicely and played for less than a million this year.
Those old Pacer teams had one big weakness, defending quality centers. I like to use them as a model for this Nets team but they never won a championship so we would have to improve upon what they accomplished. One thing in our favor is that that generation had absurd amount of dominate centers; Hakeem, Shaq, Robinson, Ewing, Mourning, Mutumbo, Divacs, Sabonis. No one playing today other then Howard can approach these for mentioned goliaths but the Nets still need to address the position. An intriguing person who can be had for cheap is Greg Oden. I know he represents a huge injury risk but for the price he would come for he is well worth the risk. This is the type of move that can make very good team elite. Oden was miscast as the franchise savior in Portland and is more suited to be a defensive rebounder much in the same way Bynum is for the Lakers. Oden has once in a generation size and just turn 23 in January. The Nets tried to acquire him before the trade deadline so you know the Nets have interest. A sign and trade deal of Outlaw and a 1st round pick would get it done if they want to move on from Oden but want to get something in return. Other options include DeAndre Jordan and Samuel Dalembert but Oden should be a priority. I can see the Nets being very successful for years to come with the following lineup.
Lopez, Oden, Petro
Williams, Farmar, Gaines