2011 NBA Offseason: New Jersey Nets

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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New Jersey Nets (Last Year: 24-58)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

Marshon Brooks was a great value at No. 25 as the Nets moved up two spots to get him. He should be an instant backup for Anthony Morrow at the two. Buying Bojan Bogdanovic could pay off in the near future but is hard to judge right now. New Jersey got its power forward in the second, but there were a couple guys I had ranked higher than Jordan Williams that would have been better selections. (Team Grade: Makes sense)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

25. Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
The Nets acquired this pick from the Celtics. Marshon Brooks give them a needed scorer on the wing and will be a great bench option off the bench behind Anthony Morrow. At No. 25, this is a tremendous value. (Pick Grade: LOVE IT!)

31. Bojan Bogdanovic, G, Croatia (ACQUIRED FROM MINNESOTA)
The Nets add more depth on the wing by acquiring this pick from Minnesota for cash and a 2013 second-round pick. It is a pretty cheap price to pay for a potential role player. (Pick Grade: Don’t get it)

36. Jordan Williams, PF, Maryland
With Kris Humphries a free agent, the Nets are very thin at power forward for next season so they needed to add depth with one of their two picks. Williams is not a great athlete but has a nice feel around the basket. He could be a role player but could also be out of the league in a year or two. I am surprised Willams goes over a guy like Jon Leuer. (Pick Grade: Meh)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
A disappointing offseason in which the Nets were unable to land any of the marquee free agents with their plentiful cap space resulted in New Jersey struggling through their fourth-straight losing season. While their play on the court failed to draw headlines, a major transaction prior to the trade deadline stole the show.

New owner Mikhail Prokhorov made amends for the team’s air ball in the offseason by acquiring Deron Williams from the Jazz for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and a 2011 first-round pick. While Williams battled injury during his short time with New Jersey, his mere presence was the type of splash the franchise needed to make to try and set themselves for the future.

A key piece of that future is center Brook Lopez who continues to develop into an All Star-caliber player. The third-year pro topped the 20-point-per-game plateau for the first time in his career though his rebounding numbers took a serious dip as he averaged fewer than six boards per game. Still, Lopez proved that he is the center of the future and an integral piece of the Nets’ long-term puzzle.

His frontcourt mate, Kris Humphries put together a career year as he emerged as the team’s starting power forward in the wake of Troy Murphy’s injury issues and the trade of Favors. Outside of that, the overall production of the team was incredibly inconsistent.

New Jersey spent a chunk of their cap space last offseason on Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Travis Outlaw and Jordan Farmar. Morrow, Outlaw and Farmar had their moments, but also brought into question whether the multi-year investment the Nets made to each player was a wise decision. The Petro signing was an eye-raiser when it originally went down and that feeling was further brought to light as the backup center does not seem to be worth the 3-year, $10 million contract he signed.

The Nets also seemingly gave up on 2009 first-round pick Terrence Williams as he was dealt in a three-team trade that sent Sasha Vujacic and a 2012 first-rounder to New Jersey. Vujacic played well in the minutes he was given but is a free agent this summer and likely not a part of the team’s long-term plans.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Brook Lopez/Johan Petro

PF: Jordan Williams

SF: Travis Outlaw/Damion James/Stephen Graham

SG: Anthony Morrow/Marshon Brooks/#Ben Uzoh

PG: Deron Williams/Jordan Farmar/Sundiata Gaines

NBA Free Agents:

PF-Kris Humphries (UFA)

SG-Sasha Vujacic (UFA)

C-Dan Gadzuric (UFA)

PG-Sundiata Gaines (UFA)

SF-Stephen Graham (TO)

SG-Mario West (UFA)

PF-Brandan Wright (UFA)

#PG-Ben Uzoh (RFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Nets don’t extend Brandan Wright qualifying offer, making him unrestricted free agent

Nets acquire 25th pick (Marshon Brooks) from Celtics for 27th pick (JaJuan Johnson) and 2014 second round pick

Nets acquire G/F Bojan Bogdanovic from Timberwolves for Cash considerations

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $39.8 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Lock Up Deron Williams: The Nets somewhat mortgaged their future on Williams which was a risky move since he can become a free agent next summer. The franchise is trying to sell Williams on their future move to Brooklyn in hopes that he will sign an extension to stay with the Nets. If New Jersey is unable to lock the former Illinois point guard up for the long-term, they jeopardize losing him to the open market and possibly leaving next offseason. When you consider what the Nets gave up to get Williams, they cannot afford to let that happen. Plus, re-signing Williams will help draw better talent to the team.

2. Power Forward: The Nets entered the 2010-11 season with a ton of depth at power forward as Murphy, Favors and Humprhies gave head coach Avery Johnson plenty of options. With Murphy and Favors getting traded and Humprhies an unrestricted free agent, that suddenly leaves New Jersey with a gaping hole at the four. The team also rolled the dice on acquiring Brandan Wright who has been a major bust during his short tenure in the league, but he has a qualifying offer worth more than $4.5 million which means he too could be let loose.

Addressing this position is a must for the Nets who will have to decide if Humphries’ career season can be a sign of things in the future or whether it was just a one-hit wonder. If his price tag is too expensive, finding fresh faces at the four will be a challenge since the free agent class of power forwards is weak this offseason and the Nets’ highest draft pick is the 27th=overall selection in one of the worst drafts in league history.

3. Wings: The only wing players under contract for next season are Morrow, Outlaw and Damion James. Morrow battled through injury but was still productive at the two especially from downtown where he hit 42.3 percent of his triple tries. He is a suitable option to start at the two but the Nets still need find a solid backup.

An upgrade is needed at the three as well since Outlaw and James should not be starting for a team with playoff aspirations. The Nets once again have a good amount of cap space this offseason, but with a weak crop of free agents, they might be better off saving the money in hopes of swinging another key trade or spending it next summer when bigger names hit the market. Regardless, they need to find someone to improve their small forward play.

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