2011-12 Season Summary:
The New Jersey Nets once again struggled this past season to become a relevant team in the Eastern Conference. When they landed Deron Williams last season via trade, the franchise thought that it had finally landed its bona fide superstar to lead them to the next level.
Williams was still missing a running mate though, and rumors were rampant about the Nets trying to acquire Dwight Howard to pair with Williams. That never happened though and Williams was unable to single-handedly lead New Jersey to the postseason.
With the dream of landing Howard evaporating, the Nets instead acquired Gerald Wallace from Portland in hopes of persuading potential free agent-to-be Williams that the franchise was serious about surrounding him with better talent. It was a ballsy move since Wallace, too, could potentially be a free agent this offseason.
Injuries played a factor in the Nets� struggles this season as Brook Lopez only appeared in five games due to an ankle injury, leaving the team with a rather depleted, undersized frontcourt. That forced New Jersey's hand, trading for Mehmet Okur, who was eventually sent to Portland, as part of the Wallace deal. Kris Humphries did produce a second-straight solid season averaging a double-double, but he is also a free agent this summer.
There were some pleasant surprises for the Nets. MarShon Brooks looks like he was a steal with a late first-round pick as he finished third among all rookies in scoring. Second-round pick Jordan Williams also showed progress late in the season while mid-season free agent journeyman Gerald Green made the most of his opportunity after being out of the league the previous two years.
Now the New Jersey Nets become the Brooklyn Nets. The change in city is concrete, but what the team will look like next season is a massive uncertainty. Its top three players are unrestricted free agents and the Nets will more than likely not have a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. With a ton of cap space and the possible allure of playing in Brooklyn, the Nets figure to have a very active offseason in hopes of jump-starting the next chapter of their franchise.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: #Brook Lopez/Johan Petro
PF: Jordan Williams
SF: *Gerald Wallace
SG: Anthony Morrow/MarShon Brooks/#Sundiata Gaines
PG: *Deron Williams/*Jordan Farmar/#Armon Johnson
NBA Free Agents:
*PG-Deron Williams (PO)
*SF-Gerald Wallace (PO)
*PG-Jordan Farmar (PO)
#C-Brook Lopez (RFA)
#PG-Armon Johnson (RFA)
#G-Sundiata Gaines (RFA)
PF-Kris Humphries (UFA)
SF-Gerald Green (UFA)
SG-DeShawn Stevenson (UFA)
SF-Damion James (UFA)
PF-Shelden Williams (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $8.7 million (in guaranteed contracts)
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Re-sign Williams:
Barring a shocking change of mind, Deron Williams will opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. Losing the face of their franchise as they make the move to Brooklyn would be crippling for the Nets organization, and they need to do everything in their power to re-sign him.
The Nets do have one major advantage in luring Williams back: they can offer him more money than any other team. Brooklyn can offer Williams a max contract of five years, $109 million, which is one year longer and $28 million more than any other team can offer.
I am not sure Williams is worth a max deal, but if that�s what it takes to re-sign him, the team might have to open up its checkbook. Expect Williams to make a decision on his future prior to the start of the Olympics since he doesn�t want to be playing in London without a contract in case he gets injured representing Team USA.
2. Find Williams a Running Mate:
The Nets struck out in their attempt to land Dwight Howard and instead rolled the dice on acquiring Gerald Wallace, giving up their lottery pick in doing so (unless the pick ends up in the top three, then Brooklyn keeps it.) The trade was incredibly gutsy since Wallace also has the opportunity to opt out of his contract and become a free agent, which he will likely due since he is seeking a long-term deal.
My question is whether Wallace is really the true No. 2 guy the Nets need. I�m not sure a one-two punch of Williams/Wallace makes Brooklyn a real contender in the East. If Wallace opts out, the Nets would be wise to see if they can find a better No. 2 option.
3. Frontcourt Help:
Kris Humphries only signed a one-year deal prior to the season and Shelden Williams is also a free agent, leaving Jordan Williams as the only power forward under contract for next season. On top of that, starting center Brook Lopez is a restricted free agent. Humphries will be looking for the long-term deal he did not receive this past offseason, but that could cost in the ballpark of 8-10 million dollars per year, and Lopez will be looking for a hefty pay raise as well.
Brooklyn needs to determine whether or not that duo will be a part of the team's future. Regardless of that decision, an upgrade in talent and the quality frontcourt depth the Nets lacked this past year is sorely needed.
4. Spend Wisely:
Two offseasons ago, the Nets were careless with their cap space, overpaying free agents like Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, and Jordan Farmar to multi-year deals. Brooklyn enters the summer with a ton of cap space and while the club desperately wants to become a contender right away, general manager Billy King needs to resist the temptation of blowing that money that might be burning a hole in his pocket. If he doesn�t spend wisely this summer, it could haunt the team for years to come.