TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Season Preview: New Jersey

Last Year’s Record: 34-48

Crystal Ball
The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of NetsAreScorching.

Crowd Says: 29-53
NetsAreScorching Says: 35-47

Yes We Can!

The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

When it comes to building an NBA roster, the cornerstones of most teams are the point guard and the center. In Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, the Nets have two young affordable talents who make them the envy of most teams around the league. And that’s why the Nets are going to exceed expectations this season.

A lot of people wrote off the Nets in 2008-09. After disposing of two-thirds of their “big three” in Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, the Nets proceeded to win 34 games, hanging around in the Eastern Conference playoff race until the final six weeks.

The biggest roster change going into this season was the trade of Vince Carter, whom the Nets sent to the Orlando Magic for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. Carter’s offensive production will be difficult to replace, but by trading the aging star, the Nets managed to get a younger guard in Lee, who put together a solid rookie campaign, while also obtaining the expiring contracts of Alston and Battie, who can provide cap flexibility for the Nets headed in the 2010 offseason when a number of elite stars may hit the open market. Those expiring contracts, along with Bobby Simmons’ deal, could also make for attractive trade chips if the Nets are in a position to make a run for the playoffs this year. The Nets may also be in a better position to spend now. With Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, ready to take a majority stake in the franchise, the organization could soon have access to a wealth of resources.

While Lee has supposedly told buddy Dwight Howard that he’s still hurting afterleaving an NBA Finals team, he helps strengthen the Nets’ perimeter defense, which plagued the team at points last season. The Nets will also get help from lottery pick Terrence Williams, who may struggle initially without a true position or a great jump shot, but will likely get minutes if his collegiate defensive and passing games translate to the NBA.

Then there’s Yi, the x-factor. Yi packed on some bulk and had a strong run for Team China in the FIBA Asia Championship, posting a double-double in the tournament. The development of Yi is the key for the Nets building on their 34-win season and becoming a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference.

No You Can’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

Last season, Devin Harris said, “I knew we were going to be a playoff team.” The Nets won 34 games and finished 11th in the East. And without Vince Carter, they might not even be that good this season.

Matt McHale, By the Horns

A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

“In a tow truck w/a guy who looks like dustin Pedroia driving 100 miles. I’m living a movie. I’m w/my dog Tone Boogie so I’m half way good.”

– In mid-July, CDR’s tweet reflected a Coen Brothers’ movie when he was stranded in Stoudsburg, PA

On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

“The feeling I get when I make a pass for an assist is like the one you’d get if you had a baby brother and every time he tried to walk, he fell down, until one time, he finally walked and you were there to see it. That’s the kind of happiness I get from seeing other guys score.”

– Terrence Williams on the feeling he gets when he makes a perfect pass.

The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.

New Jersey Nets
Offense: 16th
Defense: 24th
Pace: 23rd
Team Factor Strength(s): Turnovers (10th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Free Throws Allowed (29th), Offensive Rebounding
(22nd), Shooting Allowed (22nd)

The Play
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

Without Vince Carter to dominate the ball in the final seconds, the Nets can run a pick and roll with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez at the high post on the right side. Spacing the court would be Courtney Lee on the ball-side wing and Yi in the ball-side corner a few steps in from the 3-point line. Coming off the screen, Harris would have plenty of options. He could attack the hole, take the jumper, hit Brook Lopez rolling, or find either Courtney Lee or Yi stepping in for a jumper if their defenders drop in to help on Devin coming off the screen.

The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Sean Williams’ game has never been the reason why he has been glued to the bench. Despite showing flashes his first two seasons, Williams has been marred with legal troubles. This athletic 4 has now been buried on the depth chart behind Yi, Battie and Eduardo Najera. If these three struggle fans could be clamoring for Sean Williams.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

Is there anything looming larger for the Nets right now than their proposed move to Brooklyn? Years after first announcing their plans to move, ownership is still fighting legal battles and seeking financing to get ground broken for the Barclays Arena by the end of the year. The announcement that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov intended to purchase a majority stake in the team could help get this project going, but any lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any chance the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer.