The Nets will be unrecognizable within the next two years. To go along with their shiny new, extremely enthusiastic Russian owner, the NBA team soon to be formerly known as the Nets have a shiny new, extremely enthusiastic coach in Avery Johnson.
Expectations are they will soon have a new home in Brooklyn and a nifty new nickname to boot. But what about the on-court product? The good news is Mikhail Prokhorov seems committed to running a good franchise, something Donald Sterling has never seemed interested in during his long tenure in the league. And, believe it or not, the Nets may be sitting in the best spot in the draft. While John Wall is the consensus No. 1, the Nets already have a good young point guard. Their biggest needs come on the wing and at the power forward spot. Fortunately for New Jersey, help will be available at both of those positions when they pick at No. 3.
The cornerstones of the roster are already in place with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez; the latter being one of the best young big men in the league. Lopez averaged 18.8 points and 8.6 boards a game in his second season out of Stanford. His defense prowess isn't bad either as noted by his 1.7 blocks per contest.
In addition to that tandem, the Prokhorovs have a solid collection of young talent that can fill key roles throughout the roster. Courtney Lee averaged 12.5 points a game from the two-guard spot in his first year with NJ. Josh Boone is far from a world beater down low, but he does provide solid energy and rebounding off the bench. While he is a restricted free agent, it is hard to foresee anyone signing him to an offer sheet in this class. So he'll be around for another year. Jay-Z's favorite squad also brings back Yi Jianlian, who put up a tidy 12 points and 7 rebounds a game last season. The team will likely pick up the option on Chris Douglas-Roberts. He, along with youngster Terrence Williams, provides productivity at both the guard and forward spots. And either could start at the small forward if need be.
Even better for the Nets is that they shed the contracts of Trenton Hassell, Jarvis Hayes, Bobby Simmons and probably Keyon Dooling.
So what does the team do with the No. 3 pick? That answer is entirely dependent upon what Philadelphia does at No. 2. If the Sixers take Evan Turner, as most are predicting, or trade the pick to someone else who wants the Ohio State product, then the Nets get Lopez a running buddy. The best two on the board are probably Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. The latter is more NBA ready and more polished offensively. However, I'm not entirely sure how his game would complement Lopez's. The New Jersey big man is a space eater down low and really hovers around the basket. Cousins is very similar in that regard. What the Nets appear to need is a power forward who can play in the high post and rely upon athleticism to make plays. That description fits Favors. He is not exactly there yet offensively, but all indications are that he will be. Besides, the presence of Yi means that the Nets do not have to rush Favors. They can allow him to develop at his pace. Drafting Favors would also allow Yi to step outside and log some minutes at the small forward spot, giving New Jersey three players 6-10 or above on the floor at the same time. Under this scenario, look for the Nets to have free agent flirtations with any two-guard that will listen, starting with Joe Johnson. If they swing and miss at some of the bigger names at the position, they could well make a run at a restricted free agent like Anthony Morrow or Josh Childress.
But there is always the possibility that the Sixers pass on Turner, as I am predicting they will. If they do so, that makes New Jersey's decision easy. Turner is a tremendous fit on this roster. He can shoot from the outside, something the Nets need badly. He steps in immediately as the starter at shooting guard, allowing Courtney Lee to become a very solid bench player. Turner's selection would also allow New Jersey to use its free agent dollars on a power forward, a position where the market offers much more depth. Names like Stoudemire, Nowitzki and Boozer will probably be thrown around. And Bosh is likely the best fit. But all of those seem improbable options. However, the acquisition of a guy like David Lee. If all of those efforts fail, there are still options like Udonis Haslem and Ian Mahinmi, who could be a sleeper steal this summer.
But the direction of the Nets all starts at No. 3 and Turner is absolutely the best fit. If he is there, and I think he will be, they will take him. If not, look for New Jersey to draft Favors and take its chances in the free agent derby.
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