So the common theme surrounding the New Jersey Nets is that after shipping out Rafer Alston, Sean Williams and Eduardo Najera, they’re not even close to being done with their roster makeover. According to numerous league sources, Josh Boone, Tony Battie, Trenton Hassell and Bobby Simmons could all be shipped out at any time, provided the Nets get what they’re looking for in return (younger players who won’t put in a dent in the cap flexibility for the summer). Heck, ESPN's Chad Ford suggested that even Devin Harris could be on the block if he nets the team a superstar.
But looking at more realistic roster scenarios, ESPN’s Marc Stein recently suggested the Nets are trying to dump their veterans and free up roster space for “fresh blood from the D-League.”
Whenever I see firesales of this magnitude it seems to indicate one thing – a team is tanking the season in an effort to secure a top flight pick in the draft. The fact that the Nets appear more interested in importing D-League players, who they can likely sign on super short-term 10-day contracts, in favor of winning a few more games with some of their veterans, is a clear indicator that they’ve officially given up on trying to salvage any respectability this season.
Or is it? There’s one huge whole in this logic that must be considered for fans and spectators who criticize the “tank” strategy. The Nets have been incredibly awful with their current mix of young up-and-coming players and veteran, playoff –tested guys. At 3-34, is there really any reason to believe the Nets are a better team with Rafer Alston and Eduardo Najera rather than Chris Quinn and Kris Humphries?
The Nets are in a unique situation that a “tanking” strategy could actually make them better. What’s better for a team that’s currently built around five 20-something guys in Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian and Chris Douglas-Roberts (provided they're not on the block too)? Picking up players for their bench who have been overlooked for playing time in playoff towns like Miami and Dallas, and filling out the roster using D-League guys who are trying to prove that their NBA-caliber? Or having a veteran guy like Alston who only seemed to succeed in New Jersey at alienating the immature young-uns like Terrence Williams and CDR. Eduardo Najera was supposed to bring toughness and grit off the bench, but he couldn’t keep his body from breaking down long enough to be an example for anyone.
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