In addition to building their roster through free agency and trades, the Nets also have to consider bringing back some of their own guys this summer. The NAS takes a look at the team’s current crop of free agents and determines who stays and who goes.
You Got To Go: Kris Humphries had a solid season in 2010-2011, but two major terms come to mind every time I think about it. Those terms are “contract year” and “fluke rule.” While I’d love to believe that Humphries’ performance this season is a good indicator for his future success, that’s not really a solid case. Time and time again, we’ve seen players really put their noses to the grindstone when the money’s on the line, only to shrink to replacement-level production as soon as they have guaranteed money for the next several years. Bobby Simmons comes to mind. Rashard Lewis comes to mind. Gilbert Arenas comes to mind. Anyone who ever wore a Knicks uniform during Isiah Thomas’ reign comes to mind. Too many times have NBA teams been bitten in the butt by trusting players who were trying their hardest just to secure livelihood, the success of the team be damned.
Beyond just that, though, Humphries’ tunnel vision is very concerning. Once he puts the ball on the floor toward the basket, you can guarantee he will take a shot. It doesn’t matter if someone’s open. It doesn’t matter if he’s 20 feet from the basket. Once he sets his sights on taking a shot, he’s going to take a shot. Unfortunately, he’s not good enough to be able to get away with that decisiveness. Sure, the last thing you want is a player to hesitate, but good decision-making doesn’t have to manifest itself as “shoot whenever you want.” With better players on the floor in Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, Humphries needed to learn to take his shots only when truly necessary. Too many times did he brick 17-foot jumpers off the side of the rim with 10+ seconds left on the shot clock.
Moreover, there’s the question of whether he and Lopez and coexist on the floor from a rebounding perspective. I’m fairly convinced Humphries’ selfishness on the boards directly influenced Lopez’s rebounding decline, and the last thing anyone needs is another year of Lopez bashing because someones robbing his rebounds. One of them should go, and anyone who thinks that one should be Lopez should also go.
I Guess You Could Stay: During the 2010-2011 season, Humphries embodied a lot of the qualities that the Nets sorely lacked. He hustled, he gave it his all, he was tough, and he cared on defense. The effort was always there, if not always the talent. That is, in being a solid rotation player, he made up for what he lacked in natural ability with grit, effort, and toughness. And that’s always a good guy to have on your team. Meanwhile, statistically, he averaged a double-double and became a rebounding machine as the season went on. It’s not often you want to let go of someone with stats like that. Despite his occasional cluelessness, he was undoubtedly a producer.
More importantly, Humphries seems to want to play for the Nets. His playing for the Nets has gotten his name out there and scored him an engagement with Kim Kardashian. It’s always great to have players on a team that really want to be there, especially when the team is so bad that it seems farfetched that anyone at all would want to be there.
The Final Verdict: Hump’s got to go. His effort and production are enviable, but the collateral damage could prove to be too much. Lopez will continue to struggle at his side, there’s a chance he won’t come close to duplicating his numbers with a lesser sense of urgency and money lining his pockets, and he’s going to require a hefty paycheck.
Really, I’d be perfectly okay with bringing Humphries back at no more than $6 million a year. Not a dime more. That makes the risk worth it and doesn’t cripple the salary-cap situation for later acquisitions. The problem, though, is that he’s sure to get more than that. He has garnered a lot of attention around the league — both on and off the court — and now he’s a notable, if not proven, commodity around the league. Every team needs rebounding and effort, and other teams can afford a bigger deal right now. Unfortunately, the Nets aren’t one of those teams.