The New Jersey Nets have traded away their franchise players in Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson and are in a complete rebuilding stage. Losing two players the magnitude of Kidd and Jefferson would cripple any team, but the Nets actually have enough pieces to contend for a Playoff spot. New Jersey still has a star player in Vince Carter, and with Devin Harris, they have a capable leader from the point guard position. Jason Kidd took the Nets to places they had never even dreamed of going, but his departure was eminent, and acquiring 25 year old Devin Harris in the process was perfect for the future. The Nets also added some nice young talent in Yi Jianlian, Brooke Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Jarvis Hayes, who will all play vital parts in the teamís rotation. With Vince Carter, Devin Harris, and all the young talent on the team, the Nets could make a run at the Playoffs, but the future is what theyíre aiming for.
Offense: If Devin Harris is able to run the ball, the offense will be full of firepower. Devin Harris has great speed, and is a solid passer, who will probably remind many of a younger Jason Kidd. Vince Carter is still the star of this offense, though, and if heís not jacking up threes, and constantly avoiding contact, this will be his offense. Carter can score in any way imaginable, but many nights he just doesnít give a full effort. The team lacks a consistent post scorer for now, unless Yi Jianlian and rookie Brooke Lopez start producing at a high level early on. Sean Williams will get plenty of alley-oop passes from Harris, but other than that, his post game is very raw. Despite the absence of a solid post scorer, the Nets will be talented on offense, and a very fun team to watch.
Defense: The Nets are very young, but do have some nice defensive players. Devin Harris is a great perimeter defender, and new addition Eduardo Najera is a seasoned vet known for his tough post defense. Other than those two, the rest of the team is a bit shaky. Sean Williams is a tremendous shot-blocker, but has trouble bodying up against bigger players, and lacks the fundamentals at this point for being a great post defender. Yi showed signs of being a solid defensive stopper while playing for China over the summer, but it remains to be seen if he can do it for a full 82 games with the Nets. Brooke Lopez is big, but his game seems to be better suited for offense, rather than defense. Lopez will block shots and rebound, but it will take a while for him to adapt to the NBAís defensive sets. Even though this team is young, they could have an impact defensively, but that remains to be seen.
Strengths: This team is very young, and very talented, which points to a bright future. The future is this teamís strength. Devin Harris is the future for this team at the moment, and his continued growth will be great for the future. The Nets have loads of talent, and at the same time are clearing up money for a run at LeBron James when the team moves to Brooklyn.
Weaknesses: The lack of experience on this team will lead to many defensive lapses, and confused offensive sets. Until these guys play a few years together, the experience factor will drag this team down. A bright future is ahead, but the team will struggle this year.
Five Players to Watch:
Devin Harris - Harris is a former lottery pick who had the luck to be introduced to the game gradually in Dallas. In New Jersey, he will be a leader, and this year his full talent will be unleashed. Harris is solid on both ends of the floor, and will be a catalyst for this teamís future. Harris has always been a good player, but this year he could possibly take the next step in becoming a star player.
Vince Carter - At current standing, Vince Carter is still the man in New Jersey. He is one of the greatest offensive talents in the game, and when he feels like it, can be a force on the defensive end. If Carter puts some effort into this season, and works alongside Devin Harris toward improving this team, they could snatch up a Playoff spot. Otherwise it will just be a wasted year for Vinsanity, and his days with the Nets could be numbered.
Brooke Lopez - Lopez will bring size to a small New Jersey team, which could be his biggest asset. He has a nice touch around the basket, and if he works on his defense he could be a great stopper in the post. With Lopez, there are many more questions than answers, but if he can live up to his potential, he will be a great starting center in this league for years to come.
Yi Jianlian - Along with Bobby Simmons, Yi was traded from Milwaukee to New Jersey for Richard Jefferson. He should see plenty of minutes this year in the rotation, and could be great on both ends of the floor. He has shown signs of solid defense in the post, and offensively he has a nice shooting touch which will spread the floor for the quick Devin Harris to create. Yi will need to continue to develop, though, and he will be looked upon to produce this year. After all, he was traded for Richard Jefferson.
Eduardo Najera - Eddie was a very underrated pick up over the offseason and will provide experience and a solid defensive game in the post. Most importantly, though, Najera will be a teacher to all the young big men on this team. He is a great model to learn from, and will be one of the most essential pieces for the transformation and growth of this team over the next few years. He will be a major player in New Jerseyís rotation this season, and with his energy, he will set a great example for this team to follow.
Playoff Hopes: The Nets will probably be back in the lottery once again, but there is a ray of hope for this season. It seems, though, that they are so dead-set on signing LeBron James in 2010 that they are losing sight of this teamís potential in the current time frame. Devin Harris will do everything he can to get them a Playoff spot, and if Vince Carter isnít lazy, they will probably sneak right in. They probably will not make the Playoffs, but hey, at least they look better than the Knicks.
Prediction: 4th Place, Atlantic Division