Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov is at it again, spending 34 million dollars on 4 players over the offseason, most of which are at the end of their respective careers. For the last 2 years, Prokhorov has given a “blank check” to GM Billy King, basically demanding a championship at any cost. Last year, King did what he could by re-signing all-star point guard Deron Williams for around 20 million dollars per year, re-signing an aging Gerald Wallace for a 4 year 40 million dollar deal, re-signing young center Brook Lopez to 15 million dollars per year, and acquiring the enormous contract of shooting guard Joe Johnson, which amounts to over 21 million dollars per year over the next 4 years. When you are spending that kind of money, success is demanded. Despite turning around the direction of the franchise, leading to a fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, The Nets were booted in the first round by an injury depleted Chicago Bulls team. A complete disappointment to say the least.
So how is the addition of Garnett, Terry, Pierce, and Kirilenko going to make The Nets a better team than last year and push them over that hump? Well, let’s take a look at last year’s roster. Billy King did what he could to retain the most skill on the roster as possible, at any cost. Re-signing Wallace and Humphries were his only options at the time, they came at steep prices, but offered the most skill at the small forward and power forward positions.
Although they are skilled, they did not mesh into the Nets system. Wallace was an athletic freak during his prime. A great defender and excellent floor-runner, Wallace earned his nick-name “crash” from his physical play and relentless effort. Although he was a very solid NBA player during his prime, he was 31 years old last year, and a player that relies on his athleticism quickly falls at age 31. He still held value, being a solid veteran, but that brings me to my next big problem with the re-signing of Wallace. He cannot shoot. For his career, Wallace averaged a dismal 31% from beyond the arc. For the small-forward position, that is way below average. And for a Net’s offense that revolved around all-star Brook Lopez in the post, shooting is what spreads the floor. Because Wallace cannot shoot, defenders could shade on Brook and disrupt the flow of the Net’s offense. Wallace simply did not fit the Net’s system offensively.
Same goes for Kris Humphries. A solid rebounder and energy player, Humphries is nothing less then a solid NBA role player at power forward. But starting at the forward position, Humphries was a terrible defender and had an inconsistent mid-range jumper. His play-style did not compensate Brook Lopez’s style, which was strong in scoring but weak in defense. Because Humphrie’s and Lopez’s lack of defense, The Nets had trouble defending all year especially opposing big men.
Now with Humphries and Wallace off of the roster, The Nets have sold their future (2 first-round picks and Marshon Brooks) along with their wallets (34 million dollars) amongst 4 players that have been rumored to reaching the end of their careers. Kevin Garnett is one of my favorite players of all time. “The Big Ticket” is 37 and still going, regardless of what people are saying. He averaged a solid 15 points and 8 rebounds last year, but brings so much more to the court than just his rebounding and scoring numbers. On offense he has a smooth mid-range jump shot that will help spread the floor with Lopez down-low, but also is one of the best defenders to ever play. His leadership and defense will play beautifully along side Lopez. Garnett is a proven leader and brings the intangibles of intensity, something that was missing from last year’s Net’s team.
Paul Pierce, the new starting small-forward, is a sharp-shooter. Everything Wallace is not Pierce is. A pure scorer and shooter that will help spread the floor, giving The Nets a starting line-up of all 3-point shooting threats in Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett all around Lopez. That is scary. Then bringing in proven veterans Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko to help provide depth along side Andray Blatche will give much needed rest to Garnett and Pierce who are likely to be conserved until the playoffs arrive.
This roster may be more costly, but on paper and in theory, these players should play extremely well off of each other and The Nets should benefit as a team. Each player’s style and game compensate with the other’s on the roster. Their leadership, defense, and shooting will all be much improved from last year. This team is extremely intriguing and will be very exciting to follow throughout the year. Go Nets!
What seed in the East will the Nets finish in this year? Comment on this post!