Nets Of the Round Table VII: Heat Forecast, Trade Impact, Best Value

Obviously, this is a New Jersey Nets blog, however, the NAS crew absolutely love the NBA in general. So, every week, Sebastian, Mark, Devin, and myself will answer questions regarding the L.

1) Since the Miami Heat locked up LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, are they automatically going to win the Eastern Conference?  Who will be in the hunt for the conference?

Sebastian: I don’t know if the Heat are a lock to win the East, but they are certainly the favorites.  In the playoffs I see a team like Orlando giving them trouble.  A team with a big man that can do work against either Bosh or Haslem.  Plus, that team can defend.

Mark: My heart says no, but my head says yes. I guess if the Celtics stay healthy, they can play “D” well enough to shut them down in a 7-game series, and despite some of the worthwhile signings they’ve made to fill out the roster, you have to question their depth if one of their big three goes down, but if Miami stays healthy and the East performs as it should, Miami is in the Finals.

Devin: It’s hard to say no. I’ve heard a few people compare them to the big three in Boston when they first got together, but there’s really no comparison – with all due respect to the Celtics, LeBron and Wade are far superior to Pierce and Allen (although Garnett was probably better than Bosh when he was first traded). Nothing is set in stone, of course – there are still egos, injuries, and games to be played – but LeBron and Wade are both guys who can play unselfish basketball as well as dominate a game single-handedly on offense. Their only issue now is interior defense – while Bosh is a monster offensively he’s an extremely poor defender and they can’t expect to start Z or Joel Anthony at center. But those issues pale in comparison to, you know, having two of the best four players in the NBA.

Miami is really the big bully on the Eastern Conference playground right now, and despite how the movies portray it the bully usually wins the fights. It will be interesting to see how they match up with Orlando and Boston, but I think they take the East relatively easily. Once that’s done, I’ll be rooting for Oklahoma City.

DV: Of course, for an NBA team, there are five players on the court at any time and not three.  So, when I watched “The Decision” like the rest of the world, I thought, I still like the Celtics to take the East.  But that was before they started filling out the rest of the team with great supporting players.

Udonis Haslem is coming back and will be a great player off the bench, subbing in at the four, maybe even five spots.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas will probably get the starting center spot and he’s good for boards and very good shooting percentages. And, finally, getting Mike Miller was a great pick-up.  All he’ll have to do is spot up and drain threes all game off the kick from either LeBron or Wade driving to the hoop and drawing defenders.

So, now I do think they’ll win the East.  However, I also think they’ll lose to the Los Angeles Lakers as they won’t be able to hang with their big men and that Kobe Bryant guy.

2) There have been a flurry of trades recently – Al Jefferson, Hedo Turkoglu, etc.  Which one will make the most impact in the upcoming season?

Sebastian: I like the Al Jefferson move.  Jefferson is a very good player who is now more than year away from his knee surgery.  He should be returning to form this year.

Mark: Personally, I was really wondering how Minnesota was going to solve their lack of depth at PG so the Ridnour signing is impressive to me…. oh I kid Kahn… This might sound weird, but I’m intrigued to see what a player like Turkoglu can do in Phoenix. He might be done… I wouldn’t be shocked. But if he still has something in the tank, he’s an interesting fit on that roster with Nash.

Devin: Do the sign-and-trades for LeBron and Bosh count? Just kidding. I think the Al Jefferson deal is a monster. The guy had been floundering in Minnesota the past two years and now gets a brand new start in Utah with Deron Williams. He’s still got arguably the best post moves in the NBA when he can stay on the floor. He’s a great Boozer replacement for that team, and although his jumper’s not as good as Boozer’s he can still step back and knock it down. It will be an interesting season in Utah if he can stay healthy all season.

DV: I like the Al Jefferson trade as well.  I think he can be better than Boozer if Jefferson can stay healthy.  He could be a 20/10 player like Boozer, but also bring blocks and altered shots for the Jazz.  He won’t be like Mark Eaton (and if we were talking looks, that’s a great thing), but he should prove to be a defensive presence in the block.

3) Which has been the most valuable contract signed during the free agency period under $40 million?

Sebastian: I really like the Morrow deal, but my favorite is probably Tiago Splitter to the Spurs.  While guys like Johan Petro and Darko are getting contracts well above what they are worth, the Spurs sign Splitter to a contract that his much less than his true worth.  I have no idea how the Spurs do it.

Mark: Although I hate all things Knicks, I like the Raymond Felton contract for them.  He’s a solid PG and that contract is extremely flexible for the Knicks if they choose to move him and make a run at Chris Paul later this season.

Devin: Maybe I’ve just got my homer glasses on here, but is Anthony Morrow not an awesome value signing? The Nets got the best three-point shooter in the NBA (46% from 3 these past two years) to agree to less money than Darko Milicic is making with the Minnesota KAAAHNs. Darko Milicic, people. At three years and $12 million, we got a guy who can light up the scoreboard night in and night out. Sure, he can’t do much of anything else, but man, can he shoot. The Nets were awful from behind the arc last year – second-worst in the league – and the signing of Morrow (along with the other perimeter guys the Nets signed) is a clear signal that they want to reverse that ranking next season.

DV: I actually answered this question for a post I wrote for Hardwood Paroxysm, which should show up soon (will add link later), but I think the San Antonio Spurs signing of Tiago Splitter was a steal.  He was the regular season MVP in the Spanish ACB league last season, as well as the championship series MVP.  He’s a proven winner and has been playing professional basketball since he was 15 years old.  He’s 25 now and has improved since he was drafted in 2007 by the Spurs.  The wait should prove to be worth it, and if it’s not, the money will because the contract (3 years/10.9 million) is cheap for a player of Splitter’s pedigree.