Published October 25, 2012
| Sports Network
Sometimes, even when you've got a clear plan on what you want to do, it falls apart and what you're left with might be even better.
The Brooklyn (that'll take some getting used to) Nets went all-in for Dwight Howard this past offseason. They re-signed All-NBA point guard Deron Williams, brought back Gerald Wallace, who was picked up at the trade deadline last season, and acquired All-Star Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. General Manager Billy King freed up enough cap space to make a run at this generation's Superman.
Then a funny thing happened.
The Nets got tired of waiting on the Orlando Magic and Howard to make a move, so they started bringing back their own free agents. The starting five was completed with the returning big two of Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez.
"It feels like my first year with the Nets because of the fact that each training camp, there was that distraction of Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard," King said. "The greatest thing for our players and the organization is that we are going to go to training camp focusing on preparing for opening night, not preparing for guys thinking, 'Am I going to be here on opening night?'"
The Nets improved just bringing Williams back to the fold, but they essentially were handed Johnson in a cap move by the Hawks. This backcourt is one of the best in the business and Wallace, Humphries and Lopez round out an upper echelon of starting fives in the NBA.
"You never know how fast a team is going to come together, how things can come together," said Williams. "But I think our veteran leadership is going to help. We've got guys who are proven at this level."
They don't have a proven bench, but when you either acquire or sign all five of your starters in the offseason, something has to take a backseat.
Perhaps the biggest change for the Nets this season is home base. They are out of the Prudential Center and are no longer the New Jersey Nets. This squad will be the Brooklyn Nets, playing out of the Barclays Center.
"We want to be a team this year that puts on its hard hat," Johnson said. "Even though we look good on paper, we want to be a team that takes on the personality of Brooklyn, which is a hard-working community."
2011-12 Results: 22-44, fifth in Atlantic. Missed playoffs.
KEY ADDITIONS: G Joe Johnson, G C.J. Watson, G Keith Bogans, G Tyshawn Taylor, F Reggie Evans, F Andray Blatche, F Josh Childress.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Deron Williams SG- Joe Johnson SF- Gerald Wallace PF- Kris Humphries C- Brook Lopez
KEY RESERVES: G MarShon Brooks, F Andray Blatche, F Josh Childress, F Reggie Evans, G C.J. Watson, G Keith Bogans
FRONTCOURT: Look at this group and it's hard not to snicker, but resist because this is the hardest-working starting frontline in the NBA.
Wallace came over for the No. 6 pick in this year's draft, a steep price for a defense-first, high-energy veteran. Since Wallace got traded to New Jersey in March, he averaged 15.1 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and shot 38 percent from the 3-point line.
He's still a great wing defender, and fine, he got traded for way too much and his four-year, $40 million contract seems steep, but Wallace is a guy a lot of teams would love to have.
Same goes for Humphries. Assume for a second he never married Kim Kardashian; here is a 27-year-old who has averaged a double-double the last two seasons, his only two as a starter. And the knock on him is he married the wrong girl? He's not the only guy in the NBA who would've married Kim, or made a marriage mistake, but he's one of just 11 who averaged a double-double last season.
(And they all would've probably married a beautiful, famous woman if given the chance.)
Lopez is still young and battled injuries last season. He played only five games in 2011-12, but each of his first three seasons were all at 15.4 PPG or higher. Lopez is a little slow and plodding, but at 24, he's still got the majority of his career to go.
BACKCOURT: Williams is a top-three point guard in the league and probably a top-10 player. Last season, with a poor supporting cast, Williams scored 21 a game, but posted a nearly career-low 8.7 assists.
Williams once again represented the U.S. at the Olympics. In his last five seasons, he's been in double figures in assists four times and over 18 PPG all five campaigns.
For the last nine seasons, Johnson has averaged more than 16 PPG. Last season, one-third of his shot attempts were 3-pointers and he made 39 percent of them. He's a valuable scorer, durable player and clutch shooter. He won't kill you on defense, either.
BENCH: This group is a tad thin.
MarShon Brooks can score as he displayed in his rookie season. Keith Bogans and C.J. Watson are adequate.
Andray Blatche and Josh Childress were nice later in the summer pickups and Reggie Evans is a monster. Every team he plays against hates him, while every team he plays for loves him. Evans is one bad dude.
But there isn't much else there.
COACHING: Avery Johnson took the Dallas Mavericks to the Finals in his career and, after two seasons on the bench for the Nets, it's time to produce. He's 46-102 in his two seasons, but now he's got a bona fide NBA roster. Players got tired of him in Dallas and he lasted only four seasons. We are inching up on that number with the Nets.
OUTLOOK: The Nets are one of the most improved teams in the NBA. Williams, Johnson, Wallace, Humphries and Lopez are one of the best starting groups in the league.
Problem is, the bench is so thin the Nets can't survive a long-term injury to any of them. They will be a tough team to play with Wallace, Humphries, Lopez and even Evans banging on the boards. Williams and Johnson are even big and tough for guards.
The Atlantic Division is wide-open. If they stay healthy, the Nets could easily win the division, but their starters would have to log heavy minutes to do it. That may not make them an attractive playoff team.
But in the regular season, this group can play with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and their now instate rivals, the New York Knicks.