New Jersey Nets Preseason Preview 2011

Team Name: New Jersey Nets
Last Year’s Record: 12-70
Key Losses: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Courtney Lee, Yi, Rod Thorn
Key Additions: Travis Outlaw, Derrick Favors, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Damion James, Troy Murphy

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season

The New Jersey Nets are a 12-win team that is only returning four players from last year’s team. Just about every player brought in is significant in his own way. Anthony Morrow brings an outside shooting presence to one of worst three point shooting teams from last year. That shooting threat will open up driving lanes for Devin Harris and prevent double teams from heading over in Brook Lopez’s direction. Travis Outlaw is a guy who brings a willingness to play defense and hit big shots late in game to a team that ended up plenty of close games last year because they didn’t have that go-to guy. Despite not being a starter in Portland, he was always in the game if it was close at the end. Troy Murphy is the perfect compliment to Brook Lopez, a guy who can grab rebounds and step all they way out behind the three point line and hit a shot. This is what the Nets were looking for when they brought in Yi, but it just never worked out. More importantly, Murphy’s arrival means that we don’t have to see Derrick Favors or Kris Humphries in the starting lineup day in/day out. Jordan Farmar comes in and brings depth to a spot where we did not have it a year ago. After a year where we had to watch Rafer Alston play 40+ minutes for a stretch of the season, it will be nice to see a competent point guard both backing up Devin, and be able to step in and start if Devin goes down due to injury.

Even with all these additions, you could argue that the biggest additions came off the court. Avery Johnson is a coach that I think is very well suited for the roster that the Nets have built. He is a guy who has built his reputation on defense, but is still very competent on the offensive end. And of course there is Mikhail Prokhorov. We have already seen what his money can do. Sure we didn’t get LeBron, but the Nets have added both scouts and assistant coaches to their staff this offseason (something that wouldn’t have happened under Ratner).

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

The Nets’ biggest strength going into the season is going to be the play of the center and power forward. Brook Lopez is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the game, and he is only 22 years old. He averaged 18 points a game last year while facing constant double and triple teams. This year, with better players around him, Lopez is going to see less one on one coverage and should be able to take advantage. Something that doesn’t get mentioned is his health, as he hasn’t missed a single game in the first two years of his career.

Troy Murphy is a former all star who is one of the best rebounders in the NBA. As mentioned earlier, he can stretch the floor, but is also able to score from the inside. Brook and Troy’s skillsets mean we should see a lot of high-low action this year, and it could be very successful.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

The wings. All the wings on the Nets’ roster have the potential to be very good this year, but they also have the potential to be very average. Travis Outlaw is going to be a full-time starter for the first time in his career. Is he going to be able to handle it? Anthony Morrow has always been known as a shooter, but hasn’t been able to do much else in his first couple seasons. Can he add a dribble-drive or some defensive ability to his game? Terrence Williams was fantastic during the later portion of the season. Can he be consistent and become a better defender? Damion James is a physical player who used to the play the 4 and should be playing the 3 for the Nets. He is a very strong defender and can hit a shot. Can he improve his ball handling skills? A lot of questions for this group.

4. What are the goals for this team?

– Win back fans. This one might be the most important. With the Nets leaving New Jersey, they turned away a lot of fans from the Garden State, and that was before the 12 win season. With the Nets playing in a new stadium that is more accessible to them, they could be able to draw some of those fans back. But only if they show they can be competitive and fun to watch.

– Win more games. 12 wins in one season is absolutely terrible. You know the guys who were on this roster last year are going to want to win in bunches this year to help erase the memory of 70 losses two years ago.

– Develop. The Nets have one of the youngest rosters in the NBA (though the Joe Smith signing hurts that average), and all of them outside Brook and Devin are still developing their skills, looking to become very good NBA players (most of them do have the potential to do so). Turning potential into skill is a very hard thing to do though

5. Should Nets’ fans even be thinking about the playoffs?

No. If everything goes right, this team has a chance to compete in the playoffs. You need T-Will to turn into a legitimate starter, have Travis Outlaw be a threat on both ends, and turn Derrick Favors from raw rookie into sixth man tornado. However, that is a lot of things that need to go right, and even if that does happen, they are just competing for a spot, there is no lock. Instead of worrying/thinking about the playoffs enjoy watching a young team develop from a bunch of guys into a nucleus being lead by one the most passionate coaches in the NBA. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, you should be entertained.

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