Saturday, December 29, 2012

What's Next For The Nets?

Avery Johnson (right) has been fired as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.
His top assistant, P.J. Carlesimo (left), has been named the interim head coach.
      Brooklyn Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov claimed he made his decision last week, but the other day signified the end of the Avery Johnson era with the Nets. After posting a 60-116 record in less than three seasons with the Nets, Johnson was relieved of his head coaching duties. His assistant, P.J. Carlesimo, was named the interim coach and led the Nets to a dominating win against the Charlotte Bobcat in his debut, 97-81. The Nets started out the season great, so well that Johnson was named Coach of the Month for October/November. In December, however, the Nets have won four out of 14 games played which led to Prokhorov's quick, brash decision to fire his head coach. Let's examine what could be next for the Nets.

1. The Head Coaching Carousel

      Now that Johnson is no longer associated with the Nets, Brooklyn will be searching for a new head coach immediately. Prokhorov stood by Carlesimo in a recent media conference and seems to want to give him a fair chance. But, he did not deny rumors or speculation of looking for a new head coach including one of the most hailed coaches of all-time, Phil Jackson. According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the coaching list of the Nets includes Jackson, Brooklyn native Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Van Gundy and Nate McMillan. Obviously, the Nets are going to pursue Jackson more than any coach ever before. McMillan and Dunleavy have had pedestrian yet respectable coaching careers, but neither are truly the big name Prokhorov covets in his head coach. Van Gundy is an intriguing option, but reports are that the former New York Knicks head coach would rather gauge the possibility after the season. For now, it figures that Carlesimo will get his audition over the next few weeks. Whether he capitalizes on it or not will determine who coaches the Nets for the rest of this season.

2. The Trade Market

      Could the Nets be in the market already? When a team has an owner determined to overtake the crosstown rival Knicks and win a championship, a fan should not be surprised of any bold moves the team might make. General Manager Billy King has plenty of work to do over the next few months, but the team has very little assets. Forward Kris Humphries and guard MarShon Brooks are the Nets' most attractive pieces and the Nets might be willing to trade them for a more skilled power forward like Atlanta's Josh Smith, Utah's Paul Millsap, Toronto's Andrea Bargnani or Indiana's David West. The Nets could also be in the market for shooters off the bench, because Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse have shown to be the only real threats. As of late, the veteran Stackhouse has struggled after suffering an injury, but Bogans has been proficient from behind the 3-point line. Bosnian forward Mirza Teletovic, the one the Nets viewed as a threat shooter off the bench, has been a bust in the early stages of his NBA career. The Nets could target, as previously mentioned, Bargnani of the Raptors, as well as Phoenix's Jared Dudley, Boston's Courtney Lee or Orlando's J.J. Redick. If the Nets decide to deal the much-embattled Humphries, a trade would take place after January 15th because of his current contract. Brooks, an offensive talent with the potential to become a juggernaut, could thrive in a sixth man role if given more playing time. However, his lack of defensive prowess finds him on the bench more often times than not and it may hurt his value to other teams. Several analysts have thrown out the possibility of the Nets trading one of their "core players" (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez) but the situation would be highly unlikely unless one of them is absurdly struggling or an offer is simply too good to pass up.

3. Getting Deron Williams Back to All Star Form

      Any true NBA fan, not just Nets fans, know that Deron Williams is a better player than he has been this season. Before Carlesimo's coaching debut against Charlotte, Williams expressed his lack of confidence in his jump shot. However, he scored 17 points in the first half and his jumper looked as sweet as it ever has all season. Williams will have several tough tests ahead, where he'll be facing some of the NBA's top point guards in Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. If Carlesimo can motivate Williams properly and get him good-looking, open shots against these talented point guards, Williams might be able to string solid consecutive performances and be recognized again as the All Star that he truly is. His confidence would build and he'd single-handedly make the Nets a definitive force in the Eastern Conference again.

      Do you think it was the right move for the Nets to fire Avery Johnson? Who do you think will be the Nets' new head coach for the 2013-14 season? Because of their struggles, do you think Humphries and Brooks could be sent out the door and in exchange for whom? And how do you think the coaching change will affect the game and reputation of Deron Williams? Sound off in the comments section below!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Net Gain: Is Brooklyn A True Contender?

Is Brooklyn in the house? Gerald Wallace (left) and the Nets shut down
Carmelo Anthony (right) and the Knicks late en route to an overtime win.
      After completing a thrilling overtime victory against the Knicks 96-89 in the first "Clash of the Boroughs," the Nets jumped to a pleasant 9-4 record and sit atop the Atlantic Division over their cross-city rivals. This game was important for many reasons, but for Brooklyn, it meant a chance to make its presence felt around the NBA. Knicks fans will point to the injuries of Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudemire, who seems like an afterthought because the Knicks started this season scorching hot, but the Nets claimed bragging rights and made a statement in their win Monday night. Riding a three-game winning streak, the Nets travel to Boston for a Wednesday night matinee against the division-rival Celtics, who lost to the Nets in Brooklyn earlier this season without All Star point guard Rajon Rondo. The Nets have had several key victories, but also some bad losses. After 13 games, do you believe the Nets are true contenders in the Eastern Conference? Let's break down Brooklyn and determine if they already are what they were built last summer to be...

Brook Lopez Is Ascending to "Elite" Status

      If you've been a Nets fan for at least the past five years and have truly gotten to watch Brook Lopez develop, you have to be excited about his future after the first 13 games of the season. Lopez had arguably the most well-rounded stat line of his career in the win against New York, totaling 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Lopez is one of the NBA leaders in blocks per game and has grown into a better defender under Avery Johnson. He has become a versatile offensive weapon and the team's leading scorer. Lopez is playing like an All Star, and his continued growth will carry the Nets to new heights this season and beyond.

Jerry Stackhouse Has Proven Me Wrong

      During the off season, I ripped Nets General Manager Billy King for signing the veteran swingman. Stackhouse has bounced around in the league for the past couple seasons and I thought his arrival to Brooklyn wouldn't do much. He came in as a "player-coach" but has transcended that role better than I think anyone could have ever imagined. He has served as a sensational mentor and shooter for Brooklyn and I hope that when he eventually hangs up the laces, he becomes part of the Nets' coaching staff. Last night, Stackhouse had arguably his best game during his short tenure with the Nets, scoring 14 points and shooting 4-5 from behind the three-point line. He played crucial minutes down the stretch for Brooklyn and hit big shots throughout the game. I, for one, am certainly asking for a Nets Jerry Stackhouse jersey this Christmas.

Deron Williams Playing Well Through Injury

      His field-goal percentage isn't great and his three-point shooting is probably the worst of his career, but Deron Williams has shown he is the Nets' alpha dog and can do terrific things with a basketball in his hands. Williams has battled wrist, calf and ankle injuries since the preseason, but has performed admirably in the first 13 games of the season. He uses his impressive strength to man up against opposing guards and can usually take advantage of most of his matchups. Williams has stated that he is "fine" and the injuries are nothing to worry about, so Nets fans should not be worried either. If Williams can get fully healthy, keep leading the Nets to victories and improve his shooting percentages, he could become a legitimate MVP candidate. Maybe it's premature, but Williams did receive MVP chants near overtime's end against the Knicks.

Toughness: Something You Can't Teach, Unless You're Reggie Evans

     The Nets' acquisition of Reggie Evans has provided the fans and organization much joy. His swagger and toughness is just what the fans in Brooklyn love and as a result, Evans has become an integral part of the Nets rotation and a fan favorite. Evans has exhibited excellent rebounding and sound defense, which has rubbed off on his teammates. Brooklyn is the top team in points allowed in the NBA, according to stats from

Joe Johnson is Yet to Find His Role in the Brooklyn Offense

      After two exceptional games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, it looked like Joe Johnson was on the precipice of breaking out in his first season with the Nets. However, his shooting woes from before that two-game burst reappeared against the Knicks. Johnson scored a mere eight points on 3-12 shooting Monday evening against New York. Neither he nor head coach Avery Johnson seem too concerned, but fans remain scratching their heads. However, let's remember that it took time for even the Miami Heat to jell and the same case could be made for Joe with the Nets. The six-time All Star will look to bounce back against a former team, the Celtics, on Wednesday night. Teamed with a dynamic point guard in Deron Williams and several other scorers on the Nets, I'm sure Johnson will soon break out of his early season slump. When Johnson eventually finds his groove, it may help Brooklyn enough to capture its first Atlantic Division title in seven years.

Jay-Z's Controversial Tweet

      Last night, the Brooklyn Nets minority owner and rap genius took to Twitter to express his excitement about his (well, somewhat his) franchise. Considering Mr. Carter has tweeted only 36 times in four years, the Nets victory certainly meant a lot to him. Per his Twitter account:

"The city is under new management."

     As an avid Nets fan, this tweet helped me sleep even better last night, while Knicks fans were probably face palm-ing themselves after what is most likely a night they want to forget. Could this serve as motivation for Brooklyn throughout the season? I don't know about that, but it certainly adds fuel to the fast-growing fire in the Nets-Knicks rivalry.

Overall Assessment

      The Nets have achieved a surprising amount early in this season and they continue to improve. The main knock on Brooklyn this past summer was that they would not be a great defensive team, but if you believe that numbers never lie, the Nets -- at the moment -- are the best defensive team in the Association. Brooklyn has built a solid core of veterans and players hitting their prime. Their growing chemistry gives Nets fans even more hope for future success. The Battle of the Boroughs will go on for a long time, but for now, the Nets are winning in the early stages. The Nets have a tough week scheduled ahead in which they'll face Boston, Miami and Oklahoma City. If Brooklyn can win or compete at a high level in those games, they could jump into the elite echelon and get involved in the discussion of title contenders. As of now, however, the Nets have taken advantage of their weaker strength of schedule and are second place in the Eastern Conference. The Nets like to play at a grind-it-out type of pace and will typically slow into a half court offense. If the Nets can consistently perform like they have on defense and play at their tempo throughout the season, they will be a playoff team for the first time since the 2006-07 season. From there, as Kevin Garnett once said, anything is possible.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keys for the Nets In Their First West Coast Trip

Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez (left to right) have led
the Brooklyn Nets to a fast 5-2 start.

      Early in the season, the Brooklyn Nets have started to make their own mark in the NBA. After a complete franchise overhaul during the past summer, the Nets showcased their new team in a season-opening victory against the Toronto Raptors. After two tough, unimpressive losses to Minnesota and Miami, the Nets have bounced back, beating Orlando (twice), Cleveland, and the Rajon Rondo-less Boston Celtics in their first appearance on TNT since January 2008. Brooklyn stands at the third seed in the Eastern Conference after two weeks and will embark on a road trip in which they will face the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. Here are key areas of focus for the Nets during their road trip and what they will need to do to come back home on a high note:

1. Interior Defense

      This is probably the most obvious, especially because the Nets have not been incredibly impressive against players like Andrea Bargnani, Nikola Vucevic and Anderson Varejao. In Sacramento, they'll have to face double-double machine and growing young star DeMarcus Cousins and an athletic rookie in Thomas Robinson. In the second game of the road trip, the Nets will be taking on the Lakers, who will be running a more potent offense under Mike D'Antoni. Steve Nash being injured certainly limits the pick-and-roll creativity, but the Nets will need Gerald Wallace back for this game to help Lopez and Kris Humphries defend All Stars Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the paint. In their last game of the trip, the Nets take on David Lee, Andrew Bogut and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are a very talented offensive squad and will look to incorporate their inside-outside attack at the beginning of the game. Lopez has averaged nearly three blocks per game this season and Humphries has been the tenacious big man on the glass that he has been during his tenure with the Nets, but both will need to step up immensely for the Nets to return home on happy terms.

2. Gerald Wallace's Health

      Wallace is Brooklyn's best defender and will be called on to cover several talented wings on the Nets' west coast swing including Tyreke Evans, Harrison Barnes and Metta World Peace. His health and productivity will be crucial during the latter stage of the three-game set, when the Nets play back-to-back games against the Lakers and Warriors, two much-improved teams.

3. Joe Johnson's Scoring

      Seven games into the season, Johnson has performed modestly, averaging 16.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest. His field goal percentage is just under 39%, which is not exactly great for a player who will be paid $89 million over the next four years, but Johnson is still developing chemistry with his new teammates. However, he has stepped up in the final minutes of games and led the Nets to several solid victories. Johnson could have a particularly good game against the Warriors, a bad defensive team, but it will be more of a measuring stick to see how he plays against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Expect Johnson to progress throughout the season, but there's no denying this will be a critical stretch for the six-time All Star.

4. Brooklyn's Bench Mob

      Andray Blatche's self-proclaimed "Bench Mob" has been a strong suit for the Nets for much of the season. He, C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans and even Jerry Stackhouse have performed well and given the Nets a formidable, dependable second unit. In the Nets' close victory against the Celtics last Thursday, the second unit did not execute on offense or defense very well and let Boston take their first lead of the game in the third quarter. It will be an interesting sub-plot to see if Brooklyn's "Bench Mob" will be able to bounce back on the road trip.

5. Dwight Howard Faces Brooklyn

      If you have NBA TV on your television, you'll be able to watch the Nets take on the Lakers Tuesday evening on NBA TV's Fan Night game of the night. It will be the first time All Star center Dwight Howard gets a taste of the team he pushed to be on. It will be intriguing to see if Brook Lopez can battle in the paint against Howard. Lopez was the major trade chip in the Nets' multiple trade scenarios for Howard, but the Magic never wanted to deal Howard to the Nets. TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal has given Lopez high praise, saying he is better than Dwight Howard. That is probably a stretch, but nobody with knowledge about professional basketball can say that Lopez is a very promising, talented offensive center. But can he match up against Dwight Howard and the Lakers? We'll have to see.

6. Can Deron Williams Take Advantage?

      During the Nets' road trip, Williams will go up against Aaron Brooks, Darius Morris and Stephen Curry. It's nearly blatant to see that Williams should be able to rack up sensational statistics against these point guards. As the franchise player, he is expected to carry this Nets team on his back and I expect him to have a successful west coast trip.

      As the first west coast swing of the season, this will be an important time frame for the Nets. When they return to Brooklyn, they will face the New York Knicks for the first time in the Battle of the Boroughs. How do you think the Nets will fare on their first west coast trip? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and predictions!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Andrew Bynum Out Until 2013?

Bynum can produce, but he has yet to step on the court for the Sixers.

     According to multiple reports, Philadelphia 76ers All Star center Andrew Bynum -- the team's most prized trade acquisition over the summer -- will continue to be sidelined because of a nagging knee injury until at least December. ESPN's Brian Windhorst claims that Bynum will not be suiting up for the Sixers any time soon and projects him to resume basketball activities in five weeks. However, Philadelphia needs another additional one to four weeks to get Bynum in game-shape through training and conditioning exercises, which could possibly push the big man's debut date until after January 1, 2013.

     Bynum was part of the four-team trade that sent disgruntled superstar Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Lakers. In the trade, the Sixers dealt their on-court leader Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, as well as Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a first-round pick to the Magic for Bynum and guard Jason Richardson, who has also been hampered by injuries through the first two weeks of the 2012-13 season. Fans, coaches, players and executives of the Sixers organization are counting on Bynum to step in and elevate the team into "title contender" status, but Philadelphia's hopes could be dashed if Bynum's right knee continues to trouble him. The Sixers are currently second in the Atlantic Division behind the only remaining undefeated NBA team, the resurgent New York Knicks.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Brooklyn Nets Win Season Opener

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez led the Nets to an opening night
victory against the Raptors.

      In their first regular season game at the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets pulled off a gritty victory against their Atlantic Division rival, the Toronto Raptors, winning by a final score of 107-100. Here's some quick highlights and analysis of the game:

- Before the game, Deron Williams and NBA commissioner David Stern presented concise speeches to an exuberant Brooklyn crowd. Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace then exchanged jerseys with former Brooklyn Dodgers Ralph Branca, Joe Pignatano and the son of legendary Dodger Gil Hodges, Gil Hodges Jr.

- Deron Williams scored the first official basket of Brooklyn Nets history, hitting a 20-foot jumper from the left wing early in the first quarter.

- Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry has proven in the first two games that he can be an effective starter for the Raptors. In their first two games, he's scored 49 points, dished out 16 assists and collected 15 rebounds while also being a stout defender. Deron Williams is the better, flashier point guard, but Lowry has proven over the past couple seasons that he can be an effective starter and on-court leader and shall provide Williams good competition throughout the Brooklyn-Toronto matchups this year.

- Center Brook Lopez led the Nets in scoring with 27 points. However, he grabbed a mere five rebounds. After looking impressive on the glass in the preseason, Nets fans should hope that he doesn't revert back to his rebounding efficiency -- or lack thereof -- of the past two seasons.

- In only 16 minutes of play, Nets big man Reggie Evans grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Not one player on either team corralled more than ten rebounds in tonight's contest except Evans.

- After accomplishing a double-double in his first NBA game, Raptors rookie center Jonas Valanciunas struggled against the Nets, scoring two points and collecting three rebounds in a brief dozen minutes of play.

- The Nets dominated the Raptors in scoring in the paint 52-34.

- Nets guard/forward Joe Johnson, a six-time All Star, had a modest stat line in his Nets debut, scoring 14 points, grabbing five rebounds, distributing four assists and getting one steal in a team-high 40 minutes of play.

- After recently signing a 4 year/$40 million contract extension to stay with the Raptors after this season, guard DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points at the Nets' new home. Toronto General Manager Bryan Colangelo has been widely criticized after re-signing DeRozan, but Raptors fans hope that he can prove doubters wrong and consistently produce exceptional scoring numbers.

- Point guard C.J. Watson provided the Nets with a huge spark off the bench by scoring 15 points. He connected on three of his four three-point attempts. Watson also contributed heavily on the defensive side of the ball, getting one steal and two blocks in 28 minutes of play. He and star point guard Deron Williams showed exciting chemistry while on the court together.

- Nets forward Gerald Wallace suffered an apparent ankle injury late in the fourth quarter. The X-rays were reported to be negative and he is listed as day-to-day. His status for Monday night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves is unknown.

      The Nets opened the season with a bang, starting their re-branding in Brooklyn with a symbolic victory. The Raptors endured for most of the game, but couldn't hold up in what would turn out to be their second consecutive loss. The Nets are 1-0 on the season and the Raptors are 0-2. Both teams' next games will be against Minnesota.

Have a question or comment about the Brooklyn Nets? Send me some feedback in the comments section below or shoot me a tweet on Twitter @TheSkiReport.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Knicks vs. Nets Season Opener Officially Cancelled

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, previously known as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel,
is still flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
      On November 1, the Barclays Center will be empty. Last year, the Nets were accustomed to seeing small crowds at home at the Prudential Center in Newark during their last season in New Jersey. However, bad play is not the reason why people won't be in attendance on Thursday. The NBA has decided to postpone the Brooklyn Nets' scheduled home-opener against the New York Knicks at the request of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In a phone interview on Sportscenter earlier today, Nets guard Deron Williams expressed his disappointment that his team would be unable to play against the inner-city rival Knicks, but also addressed the situation at hand. He noted that his house is still without power and that teammate Tyshawn Taylor, a rookie guard raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, is still trapped in his house with family because of high flood levels. This will strike as a disappointment for most New York City basketball fans, but Williams is right, there are other huge dilemmas that need to be taken care of primarily.

      As a resident of New Jersey, I was able to experience the storm that maybe some of the readers didn't. The damage is truly unlike any other storm I've ever been a witness to. My favorite boardwalk in Seaside Heights, notoriously known as the place where MTV's "Jersey Shore" is filmed, is severely damaged. Most boardwalks that stretch from Long Island, New York to Cape May, New Jersey have suffered incredible damage. Atlantic City, New Jersey, known for its casinos and energetic nightlife, is practically underwater. Over two million people in New Jersey lost power at some point during the past 48 hours. I was one of the few lucky ones who didn't lose power. Most of my friends and family who live in different areas of New Jersey have lost power for days and for some, weeks. Transformers have exploded, trees have fallen, power lines have snapped and even been the causes of fires. The water is yet to recede in many locations and people are lining up at gas stations for hours because of the damage Hurricane Sandy instilled and left during Monday and Tuesday. It has been a tough past week for much of the East Coast and I wanted to explain the severity of the storm so people would have an idea of how bad it has really shaken up things in this portion of the country. There have also been several reported casualties in New Jersey, so this storm has proven to be fatal. Sandy is now weakened and classified as a tropical depression, but it has wreaked havoc and most of the damage is probably done. Here's to hoping that the families who suffered losses of lives and possessions and the places that have endured through Sandy will come back stronger than ever in the near future.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are the Rockets Done Dealing?

James Harden is the newest Rocket, but he might not be the only star headed to Houston.

      Are the Houston Rockets done dealing? In a short answer: No. During Harden's introductory press conference, General Manager Daryl Morey said he viewed Harden as a "foundational player" who he could pair in a flashy backcourt with Jeremy Lin. Morey hopes that this summer's acquisitions could be enough to corral another big-name star in Houston. What other big names could the Rockets possibly go after? Here are a few players I think could be headed to "Space City."

Paul Millsap

Overview: Sure, Millsap isn't a marquee name, but I think building a core of one or two All Stars and players with potential -- similar to what the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies are doing -- can give a franchise a good shot at having long-term success. One of the reasons why I think Millsap fits in Houston is because he is a solid power forward on both sides of the court. He can score, rebound and play defense well. The Jazz might be more willing to let Millsap go, rather than star center Al Jefferson, because young phenom Derrick Favors is waiting in the wings. Favors's playing time will only escalate in Utah, so the Jazz could ponder offers for Millsap. For Houston, they have a bevy of power forwards, but not one that is a legitimate starter. Patrick Patterson is tabbed as the current starter, but I don't think he's shown enough to take command of his position. The Rockets also have rookies Royce White and Terrence Jones, two hybrid forwards, who could be used as trade bait.

The Deal:
Utah receives Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Greg Smith, Shaun Livingston and a second-round draft pick.
Houston receives Paul Millsap.

Tyreke Evans

Overview: Tyreke Evans may not be a natural small forward, but he and James Harden could become a dynamic duo. Evans is a slasher and creator, meanwhile Harden is a shooter and facilitator. Their games could work well together if they developed good chemistry. The Kings have stated that they don't plan to re-sign Evans before the Halloween deadline, so why shouldn't the Rockets try to swoop in and nab him before he becomes a free agent? Marcus Morris is a hybrid forward and while he didn't perform very well during his rookie season in Houston, reuniting in Sacramento with former Kansas Jayhawk teammate Thomas Robinson could help him out psychologically in the long run.

Could Evans be on the move soon?
The Deal:
Sacramento receives Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Daequan Cook and one future first-round draft pick.
Houston receives Tyreke Evans.

Andrew Bynum

Overview: This is when Houston GM Daryl Morey literally puts all of his eggs into a basket. Any deal for Bynum would probably have to happen after the season, because Philadelphia just acquired the 7" big man and there is probably no shot he would get traded mid-season. For Houston to get Bynum out of Philadelphia, he would have to underperform and have an injury-plagued season in which he couldn't put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Then, Houston would have to try trading several pieces to acquire the All Star center. This deal is a long shot, but because of the bold moves Morey has made this offseason, I wouldn't be suprised to see Bynum in a Rockets jersey next season.

The Deal:
Philadelphia receives Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Patrick Patterson, Royce White, Cole Aldrich and future first-round draft picks.
Houston receives Andrew Bynum.

      Is Houston a contender? No. Is Houston a playoff team? Probably not yet. However, Houston is back to relevance and that's something that cannot be overlooked. The Rockets aren't anywhere near where they want to be as an organization, but they should not be slighted by the public. Houston may have overpaid for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, but they are no joke. General Manager Daryl Morey is determined to make them a playoff contender for the first time since the "Big 3" of Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and Yao Ming. Watch out NBA fans, the Rockets are set for liftoff.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Winners and Losers of the James Harden Megadeal

Kevin Martin (left) and James Harden (right) are the headline pieces of yesterday's trade.

      In a deal that shocked many circles, reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti seems content about the trade, albeit disappointed that his organization and Harden couldn't reach an agreement on a contract extension. In the blockbuster trade, the Thunder received shooting guard Kevin Martin, rookie guard Jeremy Lamb, two 2013 first-round draft picks and one second-round draft pick. The Rockets picked up Harden, three-point specialist Daequan Cook and big men Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward. Here's my edition of Winners and Losers for the James Harden trade...


Kevin Martin: Martin will finally be able to play for a top-flight contender after being dealt to the Thunder. He is a good scorer and has the ability to replicate Harden's scoring averages. Martin isn't quite the finesse passer that Harden is, but he will add firepower to an already dynamic Oklahoma City offense. If Martin can contribute well for the Thunder, he will be in position to receive a considerable contract this summer during free agency.

Oklahoma City Thunder: GM Sam Presti is known for being a decisive front-office leader, but I think he made a good move in this deal. In the short-term, subtracting Harden from the equation will affect the team's chemistry, but Oklahoma City will still be a legitimate contender because of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. Expect this team to still be near the top of the Western Conference at the start of the postseason. In the long-term, this trade benefits the Thunder much more than the Rockets. Martin's contract will allow the Thunder to free up significant money this summer. Jeremy Lamb, their new rookie guard, was a highly touted prospect in the 2012 NBA Draft and has the potential to blossom into a very solid player. The Thunder also received three draft picks -- including two 2013 first-round picks -- that could be used to bring in growing, young players or as trade bait. More and more each day, it looks like the Thunder are starting to build a dynasty.

Cole Aldrich: Aldrich was never a big piece of the puzzle in Oklahoma City, but in Houston he might be able to live up to his first-round potential. He'll have to battle a much wealthier Omer Asik for playing time, but at least Aldrich will be able to see some minutes and possibly carve out his own role as a member of the Rockets.


Houston Rockets: Well, this is interesting. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has taken a lot of risks this offseason and this trade only adds fuel to the fast-growing fire. The Rockets will start a backcourt of fan-favorite Jeremy Lin and James "Fear the Beard" Harden. I like Morey's daring behavior, but I don't think he made the most beneficial deal for his team with this trade. I think Harden will produce in Houston, but can he be the first option on a team when in Oklahoma City he was arguably the fourth option? I'm skeptical about Harden being that type of leader. However, his Olympic experience might help him to become a top-flight shooting guard and establish chemistry in the Houston locker room. The other risks Morey has taken is what really makes the Rockets losers in this deal, though. We know Harden can produce -- maybe the max contract he'll receive will be justifiable -- but the backloaded contracts of Lin and Asik will prevent this team from building a true contender. Giving up two draft picks that could have been used as trade bait to acquire All Stars may also hurt this franchise in the future. Can Houston sneak into the playoffs? It's possible, but it hinges on the development of many of their "core" players. It's yet to be seen if this team can be a formidable force in the future, but as of now, this organization is dependent on the growth of their players and it's very rare that everything always works out in the end. That's why I'm tabbing the Rockets as "losers" of this deal.

Kevin Durant: This one hurts Durant emotionally, you better believe that. His team will still be a contender as long as he's prepared, which I think he is, but this is definitely a setback for the superstar's psyche. His tweet about the trade pretty much says it all.

Foot Locker: Guess we won't be seeing ads featuring Westbrook and Harden anymore.

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

James Harden: The main player of this trade is now stuck in the middle of things. In Houston, he'll receive the max contract he covets, but have a much, much lower chance of possibly winning a championship this season. I truly don't think Harden wanted to leave Oklahoma City because their team was so interwoven, but at the same time he just wouldn't be able to receive the money he was going to get on the free agent market in Oklahoma City. Because he will be paid like that of a top option in Houston, he will be expected to play like an All Star for the Rockets. Can he do it? Only time will tell.

      Now that the deal is done, do you think the Thunder are still as legitimate contenders as they were before the trade? How do you think this trade affects both teams going forward? Because of this trade, do you think other growing stars like Brandon Jennings or Tyreke Evans are more likely to be dealt before the Halloween deadline? Sound off in the comments section and let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moves That Could Make the Nets True Contenders

Can Brooklyn's Backcourt lead the Nets to a championship?

      Over the summer, the Nets had easily made the biggest transformation in the NBA and possibly in all of sports. The hype might be overwhelming and predetermined, but to say this team won't be pushing for a playoff spot is borderline disrespectful. Plenty of NBA organizations work hard to position their squad for short and long-term success, but the Nets franchise has been completely overhauled. Despite some poor play during the preseason, Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett said the Nets will be "a force to be reckoned with" this upcoming season. If a future Hall of Famer says the Nets will be good, then why are fans questioning them? The Nets have moved to a new location, are wearing new jerseys and have added several new pieces including Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche. Most importantly, however, they kept their superstar point guard Deron Williams. The reason why most NBA fans aren't ready to respect the Nets is for two reasons: the current Nets roster still needs to become a cohesive unit and out-of-nowhere bandwagon fans are blowing this team up out of proportion. As a longtime Nets fan, I've been content with the moves this franchise has made and the position they are now in. Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson has said continually that he thinks the Nets are a championship-caliber squad. While I adore his confidence in this team, I don't believe the Nets are there just yet. They should be in contention for a playoff spot in the growing Eastern Conference, but because of other very formidable NBA teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls (when healthy with Derrick Rose), I don't think the chances of them reaching the NBA Finals are as likely as some may suggest. However, with a couple tweaks to the roster, this Nets squad could be in a better position to dethrone the Miami Heat come playoff time. Here's some moves that I think could help improve this squad.

Trade Keith Bogans and a conditional second-round draft pick for Jermaine O'Neal

Overview: This move certainly does not push the Nets into "championship contender" but it improves this team if O'Neal could stay healthy. O'Neal has regressed offensively, but that shouldn't be much of a worry with the number of scorers the Nets have on the roster. Even though O'Neal is injury riddled and a shell of his former self, he provides interior defense and a veteran presence in the locker room. Keith Bogans is an above-average defender on the wing, but MarShon Brooks is on a fiery path to gain more playing time. Joe Johnson is a suitable mentor for Brooks and Bogans could be a helpful addition in Phoenix by helping out their new shooting guard, Wesley Johnson. This is a risk-reward move, but I think it would improve the Nets come playoff time.

Trade Mirza Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor and cash considerations for Ekpe Udoh

Overview: Unless you're an NBA junkie, you've probably never heard of Ekpe Udoh. The Baylor product is a 6'10" big man who averaged 5.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21 minutes per game for Milwaukee and Golden State last season. However, due to the additions of rookie John Henson and center Samuel Dalembert, it will only get harder for Udoh to earn playing time. He provides a solid interior defensive presence and at 25, is yet to hit his prime. The Nets like Teletovic and Taylor, but at the end of the day, this gives Milwaukee a young point guard who will replace Beno Udrih as Brandon Jennings' backup and a shooter off the bench and Brooklyn receives a growing, young defensive presence behind Kris Humphries.

Trade Reggie Evans, Josh Childress and a future first-round draft pick for Al-Farouq Aminu

Overview: This one is a little radical, I will admit, but it could work out for both the Nets and Hornets. In one respect, Evans could provide the Hornets a tough, veteran mentor for their #1 overall pick Anthony Davis. He wouldn't push Davis for much playing time, but he could help quicken Davis' growth process. A future first-round pick would give the Hornets another asset as they continue to rebuild. So far in his career, Aminu has been a bust -- his performance for the Nigerian team in the Olympics didn't help -- but he's shown flashes of potential. I think some pressure came upon Aminu when he was sent to New Orleans in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade and that could be why he hasn't gotten his game all together. He is a young, suitable forward who would have a good mentor on the Nets in Gerald Wallace. This trade probably wouldn't happen unless Aminu doesn't improve in New Orleans.

Trade Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, rights to Bojan Bogdanovic and a future first-round draft pick for Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson

Overview: Here's where it gets interesting. Varejao has spent his entire career in Cleveland and at 30, is nearing the end of his prime. However, last season he averaged a double-double and was an anchor for the Cavaliers. Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, the self-proclaimed King of Cleveland after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, hasn't really become the King of Cleveland but is an adequate shooter off the bench who can play both guard positions. The Cavaliers are looking to unload Varejao's contract and get younger players on the roster. Kris Humphries, 27, has averaged a double-double in the past two seasons and is hitting his prime right now. Bogans was a starter two seasons ago in Chicago and although he has regressed, he could become a good mentor for Cleveland's top 2012 NBA draft pick, shooting guard Dion Waiters. During the summer, Cleveland had shown some interest toward Kris Humphries but was unable to land the power forward. Varejao, a stout defender who landed a spot on the 2010 All NBA-Defensive second team, would provide the Nets with a stable anchor down low next to Brook Lopez. This is a deal that would drastically improve the Nets' interior defense and propel the Nets into the higher echelon of NBA teams. Nets general manager Billy King, get this deal done, unless you can...

Trade Kris Humphries to the Hawks, as well as Tornike Shengelia and a future first-round draft pick to the Kings for Hawks forward Josh Smith

Overview: Here's the biggest, blockbuster, possibly most rational trade I can think of and I'll explain. This is a three team trade involving the Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings. In this deal, the Nets would receive Josh Smith. The Hawks would then receive Kris Humphries, Hamady Ndiaye and Tyreke Evans. The Kings would receive Hawks guard/former Net Anthony Morrow, Nets rookie forward Tornike Shengelia, a Nets future first-round draft pick, a Hawks future second-round draft pick and cash considerations. Here is why the deal makes sense for all three teams. For the Nets, it gives them a hybrid forward who is very good on defense. Smith isn't bulky, but he's quick and agile and can match up well against most power forwards in the NBA. He is infamously known for his mid-range jumper woes, but when attacking the basket, "JSmoove" is one of the most dangerous in the Association. For the Hawks, this provides them with two young assets going forward. There's been conflicting reports about Josh Smith wanting to stay or leave Atlanta, but it has been reported that he is unlikely to sign an extension before this season's end. If Smith reiterates previous trade demands, then it should be in the best interest for general manager Danny Ferry and the Hawks to move him. Getting Humphries, Evans and Ndiaye would be a solid return for Smith. Humphries, as stated before, has been improving each of the past two seasons by averaging a double-double and is hitting his prime right now. Evans, a former Rookie of the Year, has regressed each season in Sacramento, but to be fair, the Kings have had significant turmoil the past couple seasons. Evans hasn't been in an environment where he could really thrive and show his true talents in Sacramento. In Atlanta, Evans can play at shooting guard or small forward and contribute immediately. Surrounded by shooters in John Jenkins, Lou Williams and Kyle Korver, two solid point guards in Jeff Teague and Devin Harris and workhorse big men in Al Horford and Kris Humphries, Evans would be more likely to succeed with the veteran presence and collective talent assembled on a Hawks roster that would push for a playoff spot. For the Kings, it would at least give them some prospects in return. The Kings management has even stated they don't plan on offering Evans an extension. If the Kings don't plan on re-signing Evans, why not trade him and attempt to get a good return? Anthony Morrow is a guard/forward who can shoot from any spot in the building. One of the better three-point shooters in the league, he could start or come off the bench and provide immediate offense. Shengelia is a rookie, but a small forward who will continue to learn how to translate his game to the NBA. The small forward is also a position where the Kings have little depth, so he would be a decent insurance option in case a player suffered an injury. The Kings would also receive two draft picks, one first-round and one second-round, that could be used as trade assets or to pick up young, talented pieces for the future.

      It's a whole new thing for the Nets in Brooklyn, but can they win a championship in three years like their owner Mikhail Prokhorov says they can? Only time will tell. Whatever the result, though, the Nets' first season in Brooklyn will be an exciting one.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brooklyn Nets Win Inaugural Preseason Game

Brooklyn's Kris Humphries (left) and Joe Johnson (right) during the Nets' first preseason game.

     On a Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, history was made. Atlantic City is widely known for its beautiful beaches and extravagant casinos, but tonight, it was the city that featured the Nets in their first preseason game with the word "Brooklyn" across each of their players' chest. This has been one of the moments Nets coaches, owners and players alike have been waiting for since the summer. Their first preseason game was against an Atlantic Division rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.

      At the start of the game, the Nets came out roaring, outscoring the 76ers 30-17 through the first quarter. Philadelphia retaliated in the second quarter and cut the Nets' halftime lead to seven points. In the third quarter, the Nets responded and took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter. However, the 76ers fought back and sent the game to overtime. Late in the overtime period, Nets reserve point guard C.J. Watson sunk two free throws in the closing seconds to give the Nets a 108-105 lead, which would turn out to be the final score. Here's some other notes from the game:

- Brook Lopez and C.J. Watson led the Nets in scoring, putting up 19 points each.

- Lopez also led Brooklyn in total rebounds, with nine.

- Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, now known as "Brooklyn's Backcourt," combined for 27 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals in tonight's effort.

- Nick Young led the 76ers in scoring, contributing 21 points in the loss. Young made only 5-14 shots, but converted all nine of his free throw attempts.

- Philadelphia guard Evan Turner scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists while playing a game-high 33 minutes for the 76ers.

- Notable Nets that did not play due to injury include MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor. Philadelphia's Andrew Bynum was also sidelined because of recent knee surgery.

      The Nets' first preseason game proved to be a success, as well as a good experience for the team's players. The starting five seemed to be comfortable right from the start, which is an assuring sign for Nets fans. Their next game will be the team's debut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, when they take on the Washington Wizards Monday night. The game will be televised live on the YES Network.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Power Ranking the Best Point Guards in the NBA


      Earlier in the summer, there was a raised debate about who is the best point guard in the National Basketball Association. I read over various networks and sites that bought attention to the subject as well as comments that basketball fans around the country had made. Some people say Chris Paul, some say Rajon Rondo, some even say Jeremy Lin. Here's my list of the top 10 point guards in the NBA. There will be several acronyms used in this list, including PPG (points per game), APG (assists per game), RPG (rebounds per game), MPG (minutes per game) and SPG (steals per game). Make sure to leave a comment if you have any disagreements or your own custom list!

10. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

2011-12 stats: 12.7 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG

Overview: Conley is a solid floor general and technician. He does what he has to do and doesn't make too many mistakes. He is a big key on the Grizzlies, who are looking to make a statement in the Western Conference this season. He's also underrated on defense, as his steals per game average has risen every year. Last season, Conley had played 35 MPG and it escalated to 39 per game in the postseason. With the additions of Jerryd Bayless and rookie Tony Wroten, Conley will play less minutes but should have more rest and energy to perform well when the Grizzlies need him to. Expect another good season from Conley in 2012-13.

9. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

2011-12 stats: 18.5 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG

Overview: Last season, Kyrie Irving shined and was the obvious choice for the Rookie of the Year award. On an injury-riddled Cavaliers team, Irving found a way to thrive. Many people questioned whether or not Irving could translate his game sufficiently enough to the NBA because of his little in-game experience during his freshman year at Duke University. Irving, however, proved his critics wrong and played well, even though he suffered from injuries. With the additions of Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Tyler Zeller to go along with a healthy Anderson Varejao and a growing Tristan Thompson in the paint, expect Irving to grow in his sophomore season -- despite having hand surgery this summer -- and make a run for a spot on the Eastern Conference All Star team.

8. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

2011-12 stats: 16.4 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG

Overview: Ty Lawson is a solid, young point guard. He's taken some major steps forward into becoming the starting point guard of the Denver Nuggets, but can he take the next step to become an All Star? Due to the presences of Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and fan favorite Jeremy Lin in the Western Conference, I don't think Lawson will garner enough votes to be an All Star. He might turn out to be like Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, who was stymied an opportunity in the All Star game last year despite having a sensational first-half of the season. With the additions of All Star Andre Iguodala and French rookie Evan Fournier on the wings for the Nuggets, expect Lawson to be an even better distributor and lead Denver to a top 4 seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs.

7. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

2011-12 stats: 18.3 PPG, 7.7 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG

Overview: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are like fine wine, because they seem to get better with age. Parker, the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, helped lead the Spurs to the top seed last season in the Western Conference and was considered by many a dark horse to win the MVP award. I expect Parker to fully take the leadership reigns from Duncan and lead San Antonio to another high seed for the NBA playoffs. At 30 years old, Parker is hitting the end of his prime, but I still believe he will be a solid, key contributor for the Spurs for several years to come.

6. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

2011-12 stats: 12.5 PPG, 10.7 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG

Overview: In his last season in Phoenix, Nash almost led the Suns to a playoff berth. Nash is easily one of the best facilitators in the league, despite being 37 years old. His defense is very mediocre, but with Dwight Howard behind him now, he won't have to worry as much. However, his offense is what makes Nash a top point guard in the NBA. He's still one of the league's best pure shooters on the free-throw line and behind the three-point line. Teaming up with Kobe Bryant, Howard and Pau Gasol on the Lakers gives Nash the best chance he's ever had to win an NBA championship. I expect Nash's scoring output to slightly decrease, but he could average the most assists per game in the NBA with the amount of weapons he now has at his disposal.

5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

2011-12 stats: 23.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG

Overview: There's no doubt that Westbrook is an athletic freak of nature. He will be the key when the Thunder play the Lakers because he can easily beat Steve Nash off the dribble. However, Westbrook is a streaky player and this is why he ranks at #5. His scoring output has increased every season, but last year he averaged nearly three assists per game less than he averaged in the 2010-11 season. Though his field goal percentage has increased, he's also taking more shots. Westbrook is an intriguing, special talent, but he must realize that he is not the best player on his team and that he has to become the better distributor that he was in 2010-11 again for his team to win the NBA Finals. It's not all his fault that the Thunder lost to the Heat, the entire team could have certainly performed better, but Westbrook cannot play at lightning-quick speed the entire game, so he must slow down the pace at times and become the creator that he's proven before he can be.

4. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

2011-12 stats: 21.8 PPG, 7.9 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG

Overview: Last season was an injury-plagued year for the 2011 Most Valuable Player. Rose performed similar to his MVP campaign at the start of last season, but once he suffered his first injury, it went downhill for the stud point guard. Rose played in only 39 games in the lockout-shortened season. In the playoffs, his knee took a turn for the worst when he tore his ACL against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was clear that when Rose returned from his first injury that he was not the same player. Rose's game runs on his incredible athleticism, so it will be interesting to see if he returns with that same kind of athleticism later this upcoming season. I have no idea what kind of production to expect from Rose this season -- I don't believe anyone does -- but I do believe that he will come back with an intense vengeance to prove he is still a capable superstar who can lead his team to the promised land. Rose can be the top point guard in the NBA, but until he proves he can thrive after an injury, he will stay at #4 on my list.

3. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

2011-12 stats: 11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG

Overview: This was an incredibly tough choice to place Rondo at #3, but I think I have a good enough argument for him to be placed here. In the past, Rondo has said he believes he is the best point guard in the league. However, I do not. One reason is because he's an atrocious shooter. According to Hoopdata, which breaks down the court area into five ranges of 0-2 feet, 3-9 feet, 10-15 feet, 16-22 feet and 23+ feet, Rondo shoots about 10 percentage points lower than the league average in all areas except the 16-22 feet range, where he is nearly one point better than the league average. I'm not trying to disrespect Rondo by any means, these are just statistical facts. I do believe, though, that Rondo is the best distributor in the NBA, which makes up for his shooting stuggles. He is also stellar on defense, as he's been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2010 and 2011. Rondo is arguably the most dangerous force on the Celtics and will be a great contributor for Boston this season in their pursuit for another championship.

2. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

2011-12 stats: 21.0 PPG, 8.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG

Overview: I was unsure to put Deron Williams this high, but I'm giving Williams the benefit of the doubt because he played on a depleted, not-so-talented New Jersey Nets squad. Even if the Nets were fully healthy, it'd be hard to argue that they were better than the Jazz during Williams' tenure there. Say what you want about Williams -- like how he's turnover prone or that he shot 40 percent from the field last season -- he's what ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith calls a "baller." Williams is the perfect blend of size and speed. He thrives in transition, but he also has the size to post up against smaller guards. Williams also has some of the finest dribble moves in the Association. He's gotten better defensively under Nets coach Avery Johnson and I expect Williams to have an impressive season while leading the Nets to a playoff berth during the franchise's first season in Brooklyn. He now has the talent (on paper, that is) to complement him and I believe he will prove any doubters wrong.

1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

2011-12 stats: 19.8 PPG, 9.1 APG, 3.6 APG, 2.5 SPG

Overview: Paul is the quintessential point guard and there's absolutely no other way to define him. He's a legitimate threat to average 20 points and 10 assists every season and is a perennial member of the Western Conference All Star team. When Paul played for the New Orleans Hornets, he did indeed average 20 PPG and 10 APG in two separate seasons. He's spectacular on defense, as he's averaged over two steals per game in six of seven NBA seasons. He's also been a crucial member of Team USA for the past two Olympic Games and helped the United States win gold medals at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Paul is almost as decorated as any point guard in the history of the NBA, except he's never won a championship. Paul is the best player in the Hornets' franchise history as well as arguably the best point guard of this generation. If he wins a championship during his career, it will certainly cement his status as a Hall of Famer. That's how great Chris Paul is.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Analyzing the Revamped Bench of the Brooklyn Nets

      For their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets have a revamped bench with new players at nearly every position. Besides keeping young swingman MarShon Brooks and retaining Keith Bogans for the veteran's minimum salary, the Nets have a bench comprised of many new faces. Let's take a look at the options the Nets will have on the bench this season including overviews and projections for each player. Some acronyms that will be featured in this article are minutes per game (MPG), points per game (PPG), assists per game (APG), blocks per game (BPG), steals per game (SPG) and rebounds per game (RPG).

C.J. Watson

Overview: Watson is arguably one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Last season, he filled in admirably for the Bulls during Derrick Rose's multiple absences. He averaged almost 10 points per game to go along with four assists and two rebounds. In the NBA Playoffs, Watson saw his points average drop to just over seven per game, but he averaged 5.5 assists in the first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Jordan Farmar, last year's backup to Deron Williams, had several nice performances, but suffered a season-ending injury like several of his teammates did last year. At times, the Nets would be giving too many minutes to fringe NBA players in Sundiata Gaines and Armon Johnson. Watson is a significant upgrade over Farmar, Gaines and Johnson and has proven in the past that he could step in to start and help his team during the biggest moments, as evidenced by this shot. He also comes in at a nice bargain after accepting a minimum-salary deal.

Projections: 20 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.1 RPG

MarShon Brooks

Overview: Last year, the Nets rookie shined and earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Brooks is a flat-out scorer. Some people have nicknamed him "The Young Mamba," because his ball-dribbling moves are Kobe Bryant-esque. I think that's a stretch for a comparison since Bryant is an eventual Hall of Famer and Brooks is just growing into his own. Brooks will most likely be the sixth man for the Nets this season, but he will still see significant minutes. I can see him sharing time with veteran All Star guard Joe Johnson like San Antonio guards Danny Green and Manu Ginobili do. Brooks will be coming off the bench now that the Nets have added Johnson into the fold, but he's still a budding, young player. With proper mentoring, look for Brooks to continue to improve.

Projections: 24 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 2.9 APG, 4.4 RPG

Can Brooks make strides of improvement in his second season
despite having All Star swingman Joe Johnson in front of him?

Mirza Teletovic

Overview: Teletovic has greatly impressed during the past several years in Europe, so the Nets have decided to take a chance on the Bosnian star. Most recently in a FIBA Eurobasket tournament, Teletovic averaged more than 24 PPG and nearly 11 RPG. He's known for his long range and ability to score both on and off the dribble. Where Teletovic's game lacks, however, is on defense. I think head coach Avery Johnson will prepare Teletovic well and help him carve out a role on the Nets' bench. Teletovic might have some growing pains as an NBA rookie, but Deron Williams will get him open shots.

Projections: 18 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG

Reggie Evans

Overview: Evans is a rugged, tough man on the glass and that's pretty much it. But, he's good at it. Evans is one of the best per 48 minute rebounders in the league and last season averaged nearly two points per game to go along with five rebounds per game in limited minutes. He was a fan favorite on the Los Angeles Clippers for his demeanor and was a crucial member of the team during their playoff run. Don't expect Evans to be on the floor too much, but expect him to play hard when he steps on the court.

Projections: 14 MPG, 1.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.3 BPG

Andray Blatche

Blatche posing in all-Brooklyn attire
after signing a deal with the Nets.
Overview: If anything is a hit-or-miss for the Nets this season, Blatche is probably it. Two years ago, Blatche had a career season with the Washington Wizards, averaging nearly 17 points and eight rebounds a game. Last season, Blatche dealt with injuries as well as on-court problems, which led to the Wizards amnestying him. Blatche has always been a mysterious talent, but his attitude has hurt him. With the Nets, he'll be given a second chance by being one of the first big men off the bench. Although he's not a natural center, he could step in if Brook Lopez were to get injured again. I think Blatche, in a new, exciting environment, will bounce back and prove his critics wrong.

Projections: 22 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG

Josh Childress

Overview: The swingman with the funky afro haircut will be playing in Brooklyn this season. Last week, the Nets rounded out their roster by signing Josh Childress to a one-year contract. Childress is the only natural small forward behind Gerald Wallace but could see some playing time. He adds depth to a spot where the Nets lacked very much last season.

Projections: 12 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.2 APG

Tyshawn Taylor & Tornike Shengelia

Overview: These two rookies will probably not see much playing time, but instead will learn how to succeed in the NBA. Taylor has two solid point guards in front of him from whom he will learn how to efficiently control an NBA offense, while Shengelia will learn from multiple players and coaches how to adjust to the NBA. Both players had exceptional Summer League performances, however, expect the Nets to use them in garbage minutes or in case of an injury.

Projections for Taylor: 8 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 2.1 APG, 0.7 SPG

Projections for Shengelia: 6 MPG, 2.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.6 APG

Keith Bogans & Jerry Stackhouse

Overview: Last season, Bogans played five games for the Nets until he suffered a season-ending injury. Stackhouse was at the end of the Atlanta Hawks' bench and did not see much playing time. Bogans, whose game is predicated on defense, was once a daily starter for Chicago. He could be a solid mentor for MarShon Brooks. Stackhouse will be more of a player-coach and will help in the development of the younger guys on the team. Don't expect either Bogans or Stackhouse to see much time on the court.

Projections for Bogans: 6 MPG, 1.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.5 SPG

Projections for Stackhouse: 3 MPG, 1.2 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.3 APG

      Several people have criticized the Nets' bench unit for various reasons, but I would throw most of it out the window since it's a new team with an incredible amount of hype. The Nets, as an organization, are focused on winning a championship in the near future. Multiple players on their bench, including C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche, have signed lower-salary contracts because they've bought into the idea of Brooklyn hanging up a banner soon. It seems to me, at least, that each player on this team is excited about the opportunity in Brooklyn and is serious about succeeding in the short term by making the playoffs and winning the NBA Finals. If they're serious about Brooklyn, then why aren't we?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nets Update: Free Agent Rumors, Uniform Unveiling and More..

      As the summer winds down to a close, the Brooklyn Nets are still making headlines. Here's the latest of what's going on around the franchise...

1. Free Agency

- Earlier in the week, it was reported by multiple sources that the Nets agreed to a minimum salary, non-guaranteed contract with former Sacramento Kings forward and Syracuse Orange alumni Donte Greene. Unfortunately, it turns out that Greene suffered an ankle injury while working out in Charlotte and his pending surgery has put his expected signing with the Nets on hold. Greene and his agent, Chris Luchey, have expressed high hopes that the 6'11" athlete will be in a Brooklyn Nets uniform this season. Will the Nets take a chance on Greene though? Stay tuned for more details.

- In the aftermath of discovering Donte Greene's fractured ankle, the Nets have ventured back to the free agent market to find another small forward. Brooklyn has been linked to several players, including swingmen Sam Young and Josh Childress, as well as the oft-injured Damion James. Young has played with the Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers, while Childress has played for the Phoenix Suns since his return from playing basketball in Greece. Damion James was acquired in a draft-day trade by the Nets two years ago, but had been injury prone during his time in New Jersey.

- The Nets are still searching for a natural center to play behind Brook Lopez, with several rumors being connected to Eddy Curry. Curry, 29, played very little minutes during his tenure with the NBA champion Miami Heat last season. He has also played for the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls during his career. He's a big body down low, but weighing in at 295 pounds might be too big (in a bad way). Curry has been criticized for his ineffectiveness lately, but with the Nets he'd be nothing more than insurance to Brook Lopez. Could Curry be headed back to the Big Apple?

- In the growing search for a center to play behind Brook Lopez, according to ESPN, Nets head coach Avery Johnson has reached out to Andray Blatche, 26, who was amnestied this summer by the Washington Wizards. At 6'11", Blatche has the height and talent to play at the center position, but his maturity issues and questionable off-court behavior have crumbled his career with the Wizards and the interest of several possible suitors. If the Nets offer him a contract, it will be a minimum, non-guaranteed deal with a camp invite where he'll have to earn a spot on the roster.

2. Uniform Unveiling

- The Brooklyn Nets' highly-anticipated uniform release will be on September 28th, the last Friday of the month.

- Could this be the Nets' newest home jersey? A toymaker from McFarlane Toys' NBA figurines leaked a picture of a Deron Williams figurine in a Brooklyn Nets jersey. Since the figurines have official NBA licenses, this could be what the Nets will be wearing in their first home preseason game against the Wizards next month. The Nets' first preseason game will be on October 13th in Atlantic City against the Philadelphia 76ers.

3. Projections for the Nets

- In a recent magazine interview, Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov called out New York Knicks owner James Dolan, labeling him as "that little man." Prokhorov stands at 6'8", while Dolan stands at a mere 5'6", so Prokhorov does have some leverage there. Prokhorov remains optimistic about his team, stating that the Nets will win a championship in the near future.

- ESPN NBA analysts project the Nets to be right in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but the only team they think can challenge the 2011-12 NBA Champion Miami Heat are the Boston Celtics. However, the Nets are projected to make the biggest turnaround in the NBA. Joe Johnson, the Nets' newest shooting guard, is ranked as one of the best newcomers and worst newcomers in ESPN's Summer Forecast series. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Johnson neglected the analysts' opinions and offered his own, saying that he expects the Nets to compete for the title. Check out the full Q&A here.

      This summer has certainly been one for the ages for the Nets franchise. The Barclay's Center is almost complete, the roster is nearly filled and the team will be a safe bet to be contending for the playoffs in the upcoming season. With only one month remaining until training camp starts, the hype around this organization might be higher than it's ever been.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Josh Smith's Possible Trade Destinations


      The Atlanta Hawks freed up an enormous amount of salary cap when they traded All Star guard Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for several role players with expiring contracts. However, Johnson may not be the only star headed out of the ATL. Hawks hybrid forward Josh Smith is an expiring contract, but a high-impact player on both sides of the court. He is the kind of player who could propel a playoff team into a true contender. Some of the superstar 2013 free agents, including Chris Paul and Dwight Howard among others, will most likely not be moved because their respective teams have NBA title aspirations. This makes a solid, borderline All Star in Josh Smith even more valued. General Manager Danny Ferry will probably hold onto Smith until the trade deadline, so he can get a better assessment of how his team produces with Smith and big man Al Horford as the offensive focal points. The Hawks aren't necessarily rebuilding, nor are they contenders. Moving Josh Smith could reel them in young prospects, possibly clear up even more cap room for free agency or put them in position to get multiple first-round draft picks. What teams might pursue the southpaw? Here are numerous possible destinations and trade scenarios...

Houston Rockets

Some people overlook the fact that after the Rockets roughly overpaid Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, they still have many young prospects in their rookie deals and cap room for the upcoming summer. General Manager Daryl Morey is known for doing what he can to get the big fish, and Smith is certainly one of them in the upcoming free agent class. Houston tried pulling out all the stops for Dwight Howard, and would, maybe questionably, pull out many of the same stops to acquire Josh Smith. While Houston can offer Smith a max contract next summer, if they acquired him during the season, they could offer him a heftier, longer contract at the end of next season. Here's a possible deal:

Hawks receive: Kevin Martin, Terrence Jones, JaJuan Johnson and a 2014 (Top 10 protected) first-round draft pick.
Rockets receive: Josh Smith and a 2016 (Lottery protected) first-round draft pick.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings have several talented players, but no All Stars just yet. Sure, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Thomas Robinson could get there one day, but they need more veterans in a young, inexperienced locker room. Josh Smith is the ultimate hybrid forward that would solve the Kings' problems at small forward and help mentor Robinson to become a force in the NBA. Evans has had a tumultuous tenure in Sacramento, but would be a starter in Atlanta and could maybe fulfill his All Star potential there. Here's a possible trade:

Hawks receive: Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, James Johnson and a 2013 (Top 10 protected) first-round draft pick.
Kings receive: Josh Smith and Jordan Williams.

Boston Celtics

Boston has always had a knack for thwarting Atlanta's postseason runs, and frankly, it'd be almost laughable that the Hawks would trade their young star to the Celtics. However, Boston does have interest in Smith, as well as pieces that could be available for a trade. If the Celtics swung a deal for Smith, it might be able to put them as co-favorites of the Eastern Conference with their arch nemesis, the Miami Heat. Here's a possible move:

Hawks receive: Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Fab Melo.
Celtics receive: Josh Smith and a 2014 (Lottery protected) first-round draft pick.

Brooklyn Nets

 Let me just clear this up first: This is not because I'm a Nets fan, rather, it's because I know Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to shell out as much money and resources possible to field a championship team. General Manager Billy King is also willing to part with resources; have you seen the original Dwight Howard deal? It included Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and FOUR first-round draft picks. Josh Smith is not a center, but he is lengthy and the defensive presence in the paint that this franchise hasn't had since Kenyon Martin donned a Nets jersey. King and the Hawks' GM Danny Ferry are also close friends, that's why the Joe Johnson trade happened so quickly, and that might benefit King in getting a deal done. This following move would give the Hawks a mix of young players, veterans and a draft pick, the Nets a legitimate inside defensive presence that could make them a contender, and the Mavericks even more cap space and assets for the highly anticipated summer of 2013. Here's my 3-team trade involving the Nets, Hawks and Mavericks:

Hawks receive: Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets' international prospect), Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, cash considerations and the Nets' 2014 first-round draft pick.
Nets receive: Josh Smith and Dominique Jones.
Mavericks receive: Johan Petro, Jerry Stackhouse, Jordan Williams and the Hawks' 2015 (Lottery protected) first-round draft pick.

Philadelphia 76ers

Wow! Another Atlantic Division team! But in all seriousness, the Sixers would benefit with a player like Josh Smith on its roster. His defense would only improve their already smothering defensive sets and his explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball would coincide well with Andrew Bynum. Philadelphia is in need of an established, natural power forward, so don't be surprised if they put their neck in the running for Smith. Here's a possible deal:

Hawks receive: Spencer Hawes, Nick Young, Arnett Moultrie and a 2014 second-round draft pick.
Sixers receive: Josh Smith

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are a borderline playoff team. They have some solid players, headed by John Wall and Nene Hilario. But, they are still a young team and have a ways to go before becoming a contender. One quicker step into becoming a contender would be for this team to bring in Josh Smith. Just imagine how deadly a fastbreak being pushed by Wall and Smith, with rookie Bradley Beal getting open for three-pointers in the corner, would be. The Wizards would become one of the better transition teams in the league. Here's a trade that I think would benefit both sides:

Hawks receive: Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Chris Singleton, Shelvin Mack and future draft picks.
Wizards receive: Josh Smith, Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson.

Chicago Bulls

This might be a tough one for the Bulls to pull off. Carlos Boozer is not a good defender at all and not even defensive guru head coach Tom Thibodeau can make him look average. Josh Smith, however, fits the Bulls' mold perfectly. His outstanding defense is something Thibodeau covets in his players. Could the Bulls get a deal done? Here's my suggestion:

Hawks receive: Carlos Boozer, Nazr Mohammed, Marquis Teague, cash considerations and a 2013 first-round draft pick.
Bulls receive: Josh Smith and Johan Petro.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Many analysts have projected the Timberwolves to be right on the cusp of the playoffs. You know who would get them in? Josh Smith. In Smith, the Timberwolves would form their own "Big 3" of Smith, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Smith would play at small forward for the Timberwolves and easily become their best defender. With Smith, Minnesota would have one of the best front lines in the NBA. He could propel them into the postseason for the first time in a long time. Here's a possible deal:

Hawks receive: Derrick Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Malcolm Lee and future draft picks.
Timberwolves receive: Josh Smith and DeShawn Stevenson.

Detroit Pistons

Some fans believe the Pistons can make the playoffs this year. Toward the end of last season, the Pistons started to make a run. Ultimately though, they are still at the bottom depths of the Eastern Conference and did not make enough moves to considerably put them in the playoff conversation. But, that can all change if they acquire Josh Smith from the Hawks. If they could manage to keep Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the process of trading for Josh Smith, this team would have a huge shot to claim one of the last playoff seeds in the East as well as to become one of the best young frontcourts in the NBA. Here's my suggested trade for the Pistons:

Hawks receive: Corey Maggette, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler and two future first-round draft picks.
Pistons receive: Josh Smith, Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro.

      Josh Smith has had a solid, productive career in Atlanta. It might be time for a change, though. There have been swirling rumors that teams are interested in him but also that he might choose to stay in Atlanta. After all, he is from Georgia and it might be in his best interest to stay with the Hawks' organization for the long haul. But, he will arguably be the most talented, touted player available at the trade deadline and Hawks GM Danny Ferry might get an offer that is simply too good to refuse. Will Josh Smith be traded before the season or at the deadline? Or will he not be traded at all and stay with the Hawks for the entirety of next season? Leave a comment with your opinion of the Josh Smith rumors or of which trade proposal you think is the best. If you think there's a better trade the Hawks can make, comment a proposal of your own!

How the New-Look Nets Fare in the Eastern Conference


     During the summer, the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the most talked about franchises in the NBA. They re-signed numerous players, most notably superstar point guard Deron Williams. At the start of free agency, the Nets acquired six-time All Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, which was supposedly the reason why Williams stayed with the Nets. They brought in veterans like C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans and Jerry Stackhouse to provide bench depth. They also have young, growing players in Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor. The Nets haven't sniffed the postseason for the last several seasons, but this year their talented roster is primed to seed in the NBA Playoffs. Let's take a look at how the Nets stack up against each team in the East and where they can be logically projected to seed. The teams I'm putting the Nets up against are all teams I project to be in the playoffs for the Eastern Conference.

Nets vs. Miami Heat

Overview: The Nets' starting five is talented enough to at least compete against the Heat. Brook Lopez, known as a very talented offensive center, would have to dominate for the Nets to win against the defending NBA Champions. The difference, though, is between each team's bench. The Nets have some decent players, but the Heat have players like future Hall of Fame member Ray Allen, low-post anchor Udonis Haslem, and solid shooters in Rashard Lewis and Mike Miller.

Advantage: Heat

Nets vs. Boston Celtics

Overview: This will be the first game on Christmas Day, and an exciting one in that. Rajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams is a point guard duel for the ages, and Joe Johnson will look to avenge previous postseason shortcomings with the Hawks against the Celtics with his new-look Nets. This one, again, will be decided by the bench, where the Celtics are in my opinion, the deepest in the league.

Advantage: Celtics

Nets vs. Indiana Pacers

Overview: Had Dwight Howard not been injured for the postseason, I think the Pacers would have lost in the first round last year. The Pacers are a solid team, and built on a bunch of good players similar to the Denver Nuggets. However, they lack a superstar who could push them over the hump. Can Danny Granger return to All Star form? Can Roy Hibbert become an offensive monster? Until this team can get a superstar, they will be continuous early-round exits for a while. But, this team is a collective unit and the Nets are all brand new and have to gel, so I'll give the Pacers the edge for now.

Advantage: Pacers

Nets vs. New York Knicks

Overview: The Battle for New York starts this year with two teams that are looking to make a statement. Expect this rivalry to be bigger than it ever was before and very entertaining to watch. I don't believe the Knicks have as deep a bench as many believe they do, and I think the Nets' bench could actually go toe-to-toe against the Knicks bench. Their starting fives are both star-studded, but I believe the new culture, hype, and talent on the Nets roster will be able to propel them over the Knicks in the East.

Advantage: Nets

Nets vs. Chicago Bulls

Overview: This season will be a very tough pill for Bulls fans to swallow. In the playoffs, an injured Bulls squad was outmached by the Philadelphia 76ers. Chicago must make sure that when MVP point guard Derrick Rose returns, he is fully healthy. They need him more than anyone for a deep playoff run. The Bulls have lost several key bench players like C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik in free agency, but if the current team can stay healthy, they could claim a lower seed in the playoffs. However, with a healthy Rose ready for the playoffs, this team will bloom into a contender once again.

Advantage: Bulls

Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Overview: The 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum, arguably the second best center in the league, in the Dwight Howard megadeal. However, they still have questions. Can Jrue Holiday become an All Star player to get the max contract he wants? Can Evan Turner make that incredible third-year jump to become an All Star now that Andre Iguodala is gone? Can Spencer Hawes stay healthy? And how will the other acquisitions like Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Kwame Brown affect the team? The Sixers have an exceptional coach in Doug Collins, but I'm not banking on everything going right for them. They will be in the playoffs, but right now I think the Nets are just a little bit more talented.

Advantage: Nets

Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks

Overview: I believe, in the aftermath of the Joe Johnson trade, each of these franchises will benefit. The Hawks are now built around All Star caliber players Al Horford and Josh Smith, who will be surrounded with a bevy of shooters including Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins. The Hawks won't have as great a season as last year, unless Smith or Horford can become clutch performers, but GM Danny Ferry is gearing his team for success in the longer term. I expect this team to be decent and sneak in as the #8 seed in the East. The Nets have a more talented starting five and a bench that could, for the most part, match the Hawks bench.

Advantage: Nets

After going through the matchups, here's who I think the Nets are better than and not as good as:

Better than: Knicks, Hawks, Sixers, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, Pistons, Cavaliers, Raptors, Magic

Not as good as: Heat, Celtics, Bulls, Pacers

     If everything stays relatively the same and there are no major injuries involving any Nets players or the best players on each team in the East, I think the complete conference standings will look something like this...

1. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. Philadelphia 76ers
6. New York Knicks
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Milwaukee Bucks
10. Toronto Raptors
11. Washington Wizards
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
13. Detroit Pistons
14. Orlando Magic
15. Charlotte Bobcats

     I think the Nets will be a playoff team who could possibly squeak into the Eastern Conference Finals, but this newly-constructed team will need at least a year to gel. Nets fans have a lot to be excited about this season, as their team can finally make the playoffs again after a six year hiatus. What is your opinion on the new-look Brooklyn Nets? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!