NEW JERSEY NETS
PACE #23 92.5
OFFENSE: #27 100.2
DEFENSE: #22 107.0
The New Jersey Nets doubled the number of wins that they had achieved in the previous season, but it seems only important to me to analyze the Nets season since the moment Deron Williams was traded to New Jersey.
The Nets managed to be a decent defensive team during some stretches of the past season, but overall their roster was unbalanced and they ended up belonging to the final part of the defensive ranks. Offensively, the team was really a disaster. Brook Lopez was simply clueless when other teams sent a double team to cover him and the Nets were an easy team to shut down all season long. Then, Deron Williams came to the rescue. However, Deron played injured in the 12 games he played for New Jersey last season and in fact, he was shut down late in the season because he couldn’t handle the pain caused by a wrist injury on his shooting hand. That’s why Deron shot just 35% from the field in those 12 games. However as a great PG that Deron is, he turned his teammates into better players. During that stretch, the Nets averaged 105 points per 100 possessions vs. the roughly 100pts per possessions for the season.
For this season, a healthy Deron Williams will make a huge difference for the Nets. Do not forget that a couple of seasons ago, we were discussing who was the better PG between him and CP3! Deron is coming from a really tough season, but he looks healthy and he has played oversees in Turkey for a while, so he should be ready for this season, having even scored 50 points in a game there!
Other than Deron Williams, the Nets don’t have great star quality. We are waiting for Brook Lopez to have a breakout season, but he actually regressed last season. He has the physical tools to be a dominant player, but he is playing very far from the basket. Lopez took just 33 percent of his shots from within five feet of the basket last season, a decrease from 49 percent the year before! More absurd than that are his rebound numbers. After averaging 8.6rpg in 09-10, Lopez regressed to just 6.0 rpg last season! There were 27 games last season where Lopez grabbed 5 or less rebounds during the game and 4 games where he failed to grab a single defensive rebound! Several time head coach Avery Johnson talked about Kris Humphries’ job allowed Brook Lopez to do other stuff on court, as Humphries is also a good rebounder, besides being a reality TV star. However, some advanced stats show that Lopez was a bad rebounder even with Humphries on the bench. To make things worse, Lopez got injured and some reports suggest that he will miss 6-8 weeks. Because of this, New Jersey wasted no time and traded for veteran center Mehmet Okur, who will join Deron Williams after a long stint from this duo back in Utah. Okur hasn’t had an injury-free season for a long time, but for the Nets to be competitive, they need Okur to be consistent and healthy right from the start of the season.
The remaining supporting cast of this team is almost one-dimensional. We have Anthony Morrow who is a tremendous 3pts shooter – one of the best in the league, but he is a defensive liability. On the other side, the Nets signed DeShawn Stevenson in the free agency and he is the anti-Morrow type of player: good on defense, but limited on offense. If the Nets could merge these two players into one, then they would have an excellent shooting guard.
On the frontcourt, the Nets re-signed Kris Humphries who is a good rebounder, but far from being an above average PF in this league. Johan Petro, Shawne Williams and Jordan Williams will complement the frontcourt and oh boy, Deron Williams will have a lot of hard work to do in order to fight for the right spots for these guys to score. If the lack of quality on the frontcourt is evident, things get even worse at the SF position: Damion James, Shawne Williams, Ime Udoka and Stephen Graham are the four players currently on the roster who can play at small forward: good Lord…
I have no doubt about the quality of individual skills of Deron Williams and what he can offer to his teammates, but we are talking about a roster with limited talent. So, I don’t believe the Nets to be a legit team with clear aspirations to reach the postseason. There have been rumors about Howard going to the Nets and these rumors will continue going on for the next weeks. If somehow the Nets land Howard on their team, then everything changes and you can simply delete the last paragraph of this preview.