Friday, April 27, 2012

NBA Playoff Preview

     In a lockout-shortened season, the hype surrounding the 2012 NBA season came nothing short of humongous. Several teams exceeded expectations, while some did not. Much focus was spent on trade rumors, whether it was about Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, or Pau Gasol, none of whom got traded from their respective teams. Now the season is coming to a close, but the "second season" will start soon. Here's a breakdown of each first round matchup in the playoffs, as well as predictions...


#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Utah Jazz

Overview: Both teams are coming into the playoffs on a hot streak, and so I expect this to be a suprisingly close series. Both teams have great depth at each position, which will be important in determining who will win this matchup.

X-Factor: Manu Ginobili. Last year, Ginobili was unhealthy during the playoffs and the Spurs were knocked out early by an underrated Grizzlies squad. This year, coach Gregg Popovich has played his cards right when it comes to resting his stars for the big stage. Ginobili is fresh and ready for the playoffs, and his success is crucial to the team's chances of going deep this year. If he can be consistently good, this team can go all the way.

Prediction: Spurs over Jazz, 4-2.

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

Overview: The defending champion Mavericks head into the playoffs with a very daunting matchup against the Thunder. This year will be certainly hard to repeat, but the Mavericks shocked the world last year by beating this team in the Western Conference Finals. If James Harden is out for the entire series, however, this series can get very interesting.

X-Factor: James Harden. This guy is a great facilatator and can shoot from any spot on the floor. He is the Thunder's most efficient scorer behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Harden's status for this series can change the dynamic completely, and make this series a close one to call if he is absent from play.

Prediction: Thunder over Mavericks, 4-3.

#3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #6 Denver Nuggets

Overview: The Lakers come into the playoffs hot, but also with a suspension of Metta World Peace. Denver has steadily climbed up to the #6 seed, but have been quiet since they moved Nene to the Wizards. This series can get very suprising and interesting. Don't count the Nuggets out.

X-Factor: Javale McGee. This is his first time on the big stage. The usually mocked athletic freak of nature center has the tools to be an incredible player, but just hasn't been able to put it together yet. So far, he hasn't worked out great in Denver, but if he can handle and diminish Andrew Bynum's effectiveness in the low post, it will be a major plus for the Nuggets' chances of winning this series.

Prediction: Lakers over Nuggets, 4-3.

#4 Memphis Grizzlies vs #5 Los Angeles Clippers

Overview: If Chauncey Billups wasn't injured, the Clippers would probably be in the #3 slot in the Western Conference. However, they have gotten efficient production from most of their players and can make some noise. The Grizzlies come in as a dark horse this year, with a full, healthy starting lineup. This might be the most intriguing first round battle of the entire playoffs.

X-Factor: Blake Griffin. This insane dunker has captured the excitement of NBA fans with an incredible arsenal of rim-rattling slams. However, his game besides that isn't that great. A poor field goal and free throw shooter, Griffin has to hit some jump shots to spread the floor and open up the lane so Chris Paul can penetrate and create havoc for the Grizzlies.

Prediction: Grizzlies over Clippers, 4-2.

Durant and James are the frontrunner MVP candidates, but can either
of them lead their teams to the NBA Finals this year as expected?


#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers

Overview: Chicago is simply amazing when it comes to defense, and I believe they'd be able to beat the 76ers even if Derrick Rose was hurt. Since starting out 20-9, Philadelphia has been abysmal since, and luckily snuck into the playoffs. I expect the Bulls to win this showdown easily.

X-Factor: Luol Deng. If Deng can play his normal game and shut down 76ers all star forward Andre Iguodala, then this series will be short and sweet for the Bulls.

Prediction: Bulls over 76ers, 4-1.

#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 New York Knicks

Overview: Ugh. I don't know who I can't stand worse, Heat bandwagoners or Knicks bandwagoners. Anyways, this matchup features two of the most covered teams of the season, and is expected to be a fun, invigorating battle. With the recent return of Amare Stoudemire for the Knicks, this matchup can become very close and intriguing. The Knicks' defense has improved, while Miami is slowly cruising into the playoffs.

X-Factor: Chris Bosh. Often criticized as one of the softest players in the NBA, Bosh has put up decent numbers through his second season in Miami. However, if the Heat want to win it all, this guy might be the most important piece of their "Big 3." Bosh has to impose his will against Stoudemire, and knock down shots from all different spots to spread the floor for isolation specialists LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Prediction: Heat over Knicks, 4-2

#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #6 Orlando Magic

Overview: If Dwight Howard was playing for the Magic, this would be an incredibly tough series to judge. But now that he is not due to back surgery, look for Roy Hibbert to show why he was selected to be in the All Star game this season. The Pacers are the most improved team in the East, and are a mysterious but dark horse team this year.

X-Factor: Danny Granger. If Granger can average between 15 and 20 points during this series, as well as play tight defense on Magic forward Ryan Anderson, the Pacers can finish the Magic off quickly.

Prediction: Pacers over Magic, 4-1.

#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks

Overview: These teams have met before in the playoffs and have always had exciting battles against each other. Look for this year to be no different. The Hawks are one of the most enigmatic teams in the league, and this is going to be an even harder series to judge due to the nagging injuries many of the Celtics players have.

X-Factor: Avery Bradley. The Celtics combo guard shined against the Hawks recently, scoring 28 points in a close loss. Take note of the fact that Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo were all sitting out that game, while Atlanta was playing with its usual starters, except for Al Horford who has missed a majority of the season. If Bradley can play the tough defense he's known for on Joe Johnson and score a little bit each game, the Celtics have a good shot to beat the Hawks.

Prediction: Celtics over Hawks, 4-2.

     Thanks for reading! I'm in the process of writing other stories that aren't necessarily about this year's playoff race, but if you'd like to stay more in depth about the playoffs, I'll post another story with reactions to who's in and who's out of the second round, as well as storylines for matchups and predictions of who will advance to their conference's championship game and why after the first round is completed. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And Then There Were the Bobcats..

     This season took a turn for the worst for the Charlotte Bobcats. Sure, legendary owner Michael Jordan knew this team was in rebuilding mode, but I don't think that even he thought his team would be so incapable of winning some games. When the best player on your team is Corey Maggette, well, we know you're probably not going to win many games in the first place. If the Bobcats lose their last four games of the season, they will end the year on a 23 game losing streak. Possibly a tribute to their owner? I don't think he'd take it very well. The team will also have the worst winning percentage in the history of the NBA, even though it was a lockout shortened season. Although this season was an indisputable failure for the franchise, I believe that with a couple of moves this offseason that they can at least not be as historically bad as they were this year.

1. Hire a new head coach.

Sometimes basketball this bad just makes you want to cry,
especially if you're Bobcats head coach Paul Silas.
      Let me just say this first, it is not all Paul Silas' fault. Yes, you have to blame the head coach on any sports team if his or her players do not perform well, but Silas does not deserve the full blame. He came into this season with a very short training camp and a bunch of young or underachieving players. Everybody knew that he was in a bad situation this year, but still, he has not disciplined his team hard enough or motivated them to play the game hard enough. His team is historically bad, and I am honestly suprised Silas wasn't fired earlier in the season. I respect Silas for being a tough, gritty coach, but I think his best option is to enjoy retirement. Coaching a team, especially one this terrible, is a lot of stress for a man getting up there in age. He shall pass on the reigns of the coaching job to his son, if Bobcat's management decides that is what they feel is best for the team. If the Bobcats decide to part ways from the Silas family, I think a fairly nice option would be Nate McMillan. The former Trail Blazers coach has proven his capability with his former team. Injuries to this year's Portland team affected their record and have knocked their hopes at a playoff berth, as well as McMillan's occupancy, away. McMillan will not do great short-term but once their players develop properly he can be a sufficient coach. Also notable considerations include Stan Van Gundy, Mike D'Antoni, and Paul Westphal.

2. Re-sign players that you can use in sign-and-trade scenarios.

With the emergence of Kemba Walker,
DJ Augustin becomes expendable.
     The biggest problem with the Bobcats is that they don't have any respectable, talented veterans on their team right now. They have young players like Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, and Gerald Henderson that they might like to build around, but as for now, they need to bring in more veteran presence. They can look into re-signing and trading some of their players, including DJ Augustin, DJ White, and Derrick Brown. Deals they can seek to make should be in order to obtain a big man who can play alongside Biyombo, and mentor him to become what the Bobcats hope to be the next Dwight Howard. I think the Bobcats should target Utah big man Al Jefferson. In a potential deal, they can give up Corey Maggette, Derrick Brown, and a first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft for the established veteran Jefferson. Another deal that would be interesting to ponder would be between the Bobcats, Magic, and Rockets. The Bobcats would acquire Luis Scola from Houston and Earl Clark from Orlando. The Magic would receive Kevin Martin from Houston, as well as DJ White and DJ Augustin from Charlotte, and the Rockets would get Glen Davis and Jason Richardson from the Magic, as well as Tyrus Thomas, Byron Mullens, and a second round pick from the Bobcats. There are other deal possibilites that might be available as well, but I believe the Bobcats should attempt to re-sign a couple players and try to put them in trade packages to get some established veterans.

3. Don't mess up in this year's draft.

     For the Bobcats franchise and its fans, they don't expect it to be as bad as it was this season for a while after this offseason. Unless the team makes smart trades, they probably won't be able to lure in any All Star caliber players, so they must draft well. Just because they will finish with the league's worst record, it does not mean they will get the #1 overall pick, but if they do, they have to select Anthony Davis. Pairing him with Biyombo will be a nightmare for teams and will make them resent attacking the rim. Davis and Biyombo would be a dynamic block duo, and would make the team a defensive force in the NBA. If they don't get the #1 overall pick, I think the Bobcats should select either Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal. Drafting either of these players give them savvy young stars who can come in and make solid impacts. Beal can become a proficient scorer, while Kidd-Gilchrist's defense will make him coveted while his offensive game develops. If they select either Beal or Kidd-Gilchrist, suddenly Maggette and Henderson become tradeable assets.

     This season was something most Bobcats fans dismiss and shrug their shoulders about. They were the laughing stock of the NBA, with many basketball fans mocking the team in various ways. The franchise and its fans are probably wishing for the NBA Draft Lottery selection show to come on television already. The Bobcats are young, but they have pieces. With a couple smart trades and solid picks in the NBA Draft, this team can get a lot better in a short amount of time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Unmagical Magic Show

     For the entire season, the focus on the Orlando Magic hasn't been about the team's record, but instead on the future of their center Dwight Howard. The superstar continued to mull decisions left and right until he finally signed a waiver last month that got rid of his early termination option, and allows him to stay in Orlando throughout next season. However, the drama hasn't ended as many would have thought. It has gotten even worse, and conflicting reports from analysts and the rest of the paparazzi have only confused basketball fans more than they already were. Instead of getting resolved, the situation has taken a turn for the worst. The three main figures of this dispute in the franchise are Dwight Howard, head coach Stan Van Gundy, and general manager Otis Smith. Although the bulk of the attention is directed toward Howard and Van Gundy, I believe the culprit behind this conflict is neither of them, rather it is the faulty of Smith that has caused this entire extravaganza.

Otis Smith (left) is the biggest piece of this puzzle, as
he will be the one who will call the shots that forces
Howard (right) to decide whether he wants to stay
long-term in Orlando.
     Once Dwight Howard decided to stay with the Orlando Magic after his rookie contract expired, the team knew it would become a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. Its superstar had taken them to heights they had only reached when their former first pick, Shaquille O'Neal, had taken them. With solid players around Howard including Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson, Orlando made a run to the 2008-2009 NBA Finals, only to lose to the Los Angeles Lakers. Since then, the team has been successful during the regular season, winning more than 50 games in each of the past two seasons, but have had disappointing results in the playoffs. Howard has insisted that he loves Orlando and he would love to bring a championship there, and his expectations are worthy because of that recent trip to the NBA Finals, but management has not made many significant moves to improve the team. Smith has been saying he is trying to improve the team, but he has not. He has bought in overpaid former all stars who are now past their prime, and playing for a new team now anyways. He had let go of Turkoglu, much to the dismay of Howard, and although Smith has bought the Turkish athlete back to the team through a trade with Phoenix, Turkoglu is already past his prime. He traded Rashard Lewis to the Wizards for Gilbert Arenas. This move was a non-fit for both teams, and the Magic suffered harsh cap salary damage. Arenas was not the point guard they envisioned him to be in Van Gundy's system, and his tenure on the Magic could be considered a failure. The only move that has benefited this team was the trade with the New Jersey Nets a couple of years ago, where the Magic received Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson, while giving up the young shooter Courtney Lee, as well as bench players Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. Anderson has developed tremendously in the Magic's system, and has become a legitimate starter in this league, but he is not good enough to be arguably the second option on a team. The problem with this franchise is that they bring in players who were once All Stars, who can still produce, but not at the level they need to be if they want to win a championship. This team has gotten progressively older, and it needs to bring in some young talent, or a superstar. Because of all the older, overpaid players on the roster, the Magic don't have many assets besides Ryan Anderson, whom Smith refuses to trade away. Howard has been controlling and pressuring at times, but the belief that you need two superstars to thrive in this league is true.

     Now onto the "resentment" between Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy. Multiple reports have said the two have feuded for not only this season, but also in seasons past. If you look at the records, I think Van Gundy is a very capable coach in this league, but he doesn't seem to carry that kind of flare or influence that will shut Dwight Howard up. Howard is simply unhappy because he hasn't won a championship and is constantly starting drama. I don't think he truly dislikes Van Gundy, and I believe the two will try to work through the current dilemma, but both of them know they need better players around Howard to get this team to the promised land, and they're just having a hard time dealing with the reality that they don't have those players who can get them there. This is why it all comes back to Otis Smith, because he is the one who makes the moves, and he has failed to make one great trade since he has been in Orlando. I think both of them should be kept in Orlando if the team's main goal is to win a championship, because I think they can do it, but they need better players around Howard if they want to do it.

     So what should Otis Smith do? Owner Rich DeVos is 87 years old and wants to see his team hang up a banner before he passes. If Smith wants to live up to his owner's and Howard's wishes, he has to get a superstar to play alongside Howard, because it's the only way Howard will stay after next season. So what is the best move? I don't know if I can say Rajon Rondo is a superstar but he is a young all star who is signed long-term, and I think he could mesh well with Dwight Howard and the Magic's system. If you can swing a deal involving Anderson, Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, and a first round pick for Rondo, I think it'd be a fair deal for the Magic. Smith needs to accept the realization that his superstar will move if he doesn't greatly improve the team. The Magic are also in a hole because their biggest asset, Anderson, is a free agent this year. If he signs with another team, the Magic will be in an even bigger hole. This year's free agent class is not the best, so bringing back Anderson might be the best move the Magic can make. There are also other free agents I believe the team should look at including Steve Nash, Michael Beasley, and Landry Fields. This year at the trade deadline, the Magic stood pat and did not make any trades. I believe Smith wants Howard to stay, but he is using poor judgement in trades and is not making enough good efforts to improve his team, and that's why I think he is the reason why there has been such enormous conflict in Orlando.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sactown Struggles

     Once a proud, decorated franchise, the Sacramento Kings cannot seem to get it together nowadays. It's hard to believe that only a decade ago Chris Webber and company were challenging the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Sacramento is one of those teams that you just wish can escape the gutterhole and return to prominence, because their fans are so loyal that they would do anything to keep their team from relocating. So what can the Maloof brothers and the Kings franchise do to return to decency? Here's a number of things I think they can do.

1: Stay in Sacramento.

     The fans have been loyal to the Kings ever since they got there. Mayor and former Phoenix Sun star Kevin Johnson is more than willing to work with the team to find a way to stay in Sacramento. What is your best alternative? Anaheim? Anaheim?! Really? There's two teams in the Los Angeles area. Both are solid playoff teams. One has been consistently good, and the other is on the rise. Tell me how a team who is under .500 who has no shot at the playoffs is going to, in lack of a better term, "steal" Lakers and Clippers fans? There's no way the Kings would make money in the short term if they moved to Anaheim, absolutely none. What other alternatives are there? Seattle? Well the Thunder formerly known as the Supersonics moved out of there less than five years ago, and the Seattle Mariners owner is trying to stop a San Francisco millionaire from constructing a new arena in the neighborhood that would be home to a basketball and hockey team. So Seattle is probably out of the picture. Las Vegas? You wouldn't have anybody showing up because they're either at the casinos or they're too drunk for security to let them into the game. There are other possible inquiries as well, but I think the Sacramento fanbase is truly loyal to its team and the Kings should stay there.

Isaiah Thomas (left) and Tyreke Evans (right) on the bench.
Both are important pieces on the team, but can they revive the Kings?

2: Get a respected veteran power forward/center to babysit DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins is a great young center, but
immaturity issues can crumble him.
Can anyone set him straight?
     Ever since his days at Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins has always had problems with immaturity. Some teams in the draft passed up on him simply because of that. They questioned his work ethic, leadership, and if he could really be one of the cornerstones that can turn around a franchise. His skill set is definitely worth the pick where he was selected, and he has been playing well since he was drafted, but he still has immaturity issues. Cousins has the ability to be such a game-changer, but he's still getting technical fouls, and he was one of the reasons former coach Paul Westphal was fired earlier in the year. I think the perfect options for Sacramento would be Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison or Rockets center Marcus Camby. Both of these guys are on the tail end of their careers, but I think each of them would like to take on that "teacher" role. They're both very humble and can still play at a nice level. Jamison also fills a hole at the power forward position for the Kings. He gives solid minutes and is efficient in all areas of the game. The Kings are still in rebuilding mode, and this move won't necessarily make them a playoff contender, but if Jamison can straighten out Cousins and his antics, it would be a very good move for the future of the franchise. Marcus Camby is also still a nice player. He would probably come off the bench in the Kings' system, or start at the 5 and move Cousins to the 4, but I think he'd be a great mentor for Cousins as well. Camby's game is predicated on defense, something that is hard to find in the league nowadays. If Camby can teach Cousins how to become a defensive force, as well as other things, I think that would also be a great move for the franchise. I don't think either of these players would ask for a ton of money, but I think they'd help the direction of the franchise by having a veteran input and presence in a young, inexperienced locker room. This leads to my next subject.

3: Get older.

     It's as simple as that. The Kings are one of the youngest franchises in the NBA. The only truly unselfish player on that team is suprisingly a rookie, point guard Isaiah Thomas. I don't get the feeling that Sacramento has that "team influence" yet. They need to learn to work together, and what better by getting veterans on the team? I think a nice trade would be to deal John Salmons, Hassan Whiteside and Terrence Williams to the Bobcats for Corey Maggette. Maggette is still a good player in this league who can automatically come in as a starter for a rebuilding team. Another trade I think could be even would be Francisco Garcia and a second round pick to the Raptors for power forward Amir Johnson. With Ed Davis emerging as the starting power forward for the Raptors, they might be willing to move Johnson, who is an understated rebounder and a fairly decent scorer. I believe Garcia is also unable to produce because of all the guards on the roster, so a change of scenery might be useful for him. I don't think either of these trades necessarily makes the team an automatic shoe-in for the playoffs, but they get rid of bad contracts while getting some veteran experience and potential in the locker room.

     The Kings have a bunch of players that can bid well for the future, but they need veteran experience to not only set DeMarcus Cousins straight, but also to insert a team influence in the locker room. With a couple smart trades and careful planning this offseason, I believe the Kings could return to decency quicker than a lot of people would expect.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

So Just Who Is Damian Lillard?

     Anthony Davis. Thomas Robinson. Austin Rivers. Harrison Barnes. Any avid college basketball fan knows who these players are without hesitation. All of them were big-time difference makers for each of their respective teams. They played hard and gave their all, which makes them each a projected top 20 pick in this year's NBA Draft. Given, each of them played for a powerhouse collegiate basketball team that only enhanced their draft status if they were able to do well there. However, there are a bunch of small school players who do just as well as these guys in the stat department, but don't get much recognition. The biggest name of the small school players in the 2012 NBA Draft is Damian Lillard.

Lillard is ranked by ESPN as the top
point guard in this year's NBA Draft.
     So just who is Damian Lillard? He's a 6 foot 2 inch guard from Weber State University. I wouldn't be shocked if many people don't know where it is, so I'll give a brief summary about the college. Weber State is located in Ogden, Utah, about 45 minutes away from the state capital, Salt Lake City. The Wildcats have 15 different sports teams, and compete in the Big Sky Conference of Division I. This year, their men's basketball squad led by the NBA-bound Lillard posted a 25-7 overall record, while notching 14 wins against in-conference teams. Their season suffered a huge blow when they lost to Montana in the Big Sky conference championship game, ending their hopes of a bid to this year's NCAA Tournament. Weber State then lost to Loyola Marymount in the second round of the Tournament (CIT), officially capping off their season.

     So what separates Damian Lillard from the rest of this year's crop of point guards? This polished junior does it all, literally. This season, Lillard averaged just under 25 points per game, along with five rebounds and four assists. He also averaged nearly two steals a game, and his field goal shooting percentage was just under 47 percent. Did I forget to mention that he shot better than 40 percent from three point range? I guess it also helps to shoot over 88 percent from the free throw line too. Those are just the stats. What really makes Lillard so highly regarded is his ability to create. He is lethal from any spot on the floor, and his quickness makes it even harder for defenders to lock him down. His dribble penetration moves are as sleek as anybody else's in the country, and when double teams collapse upon him, his excellent court vision helps him to make the best pass.

     Lillard is more of a score-first point guard, but many believe he has the best potential out of all the guards in the upcoming draft. His speed and all around skill have drawn him comparisons to young All Star point guards in the league like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall.

Offseason Plans the New Jersey Nets Should Consider

Since the trade deadline, many analysts and writers have called the New Jersey Nets "losers." Maybe the trade for Gerald Wallace was a questionable move, considering they gave up a lottery pick in this year's upcoming draft for a physical, one-time All Star who can choose to walk after this year along with the likes of point guard Deron Williams, but we don't know that for now. In a recent interview, Williams was optimistic about the Nets' future, and by no means ruled out a return to the Brooklyn-bound team. He stated he and his family love living in New York City and are enjoying the area and all its marvels very much. The one thing Williams wants most though is to win. A playoff berth this year would be a miracle, but with a strong finish, can that alone persuade Williams and Wallace to stay long-term? Here are some others ways the Nets can keep them:

1) Re-sign your team's core players.

Most of the focus on the Nets' free agents this year are on Williams and Wallace, but there are also other key core players that also have the option to leave the team. First is Brook Lopez. Yes, he was injury prone this season. Yes, he is not the best center when it comes to rebounding. And yes, he does not have the best haircut either. But, he scores. One of the Nets' biggest problems the past couple of years has been inefficient offense. Lopez has been if not the only, one of the few consistent scorers in the Nets' system. He averages around 20 points per game, is a legitimate scorer at any spot inside the 3-point line, and even his free throw shooting is fairly nice for a big man. Without an argument, he is the focal point of the offense. Fans saw flashes of what he could have been this season in the nail-biting victory against Dallas earlier in the year, when Lopez scored 39 points. If the long-term plan for GM Billy King is to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, he must re-sign Lopez or another All Star center like Roy Hibbert because Orlando will not accept any package if it doesn't include one of them. Second is Kris Humphries. He will most likely never be an All Star, but for the Nets, he plays like one almost every night. Humphries was usually the guy who saved Lopez on the glass last year, and is outplaying his numbers last year this year. He averages a double-double, works hard, plays good defense, and has improved his all around game. He is a big, gritty player who is an impact and a force when he steps onto the court, and could be an important part of a possible trade for Howard. Third, and lastly, is Gerald Green. This high energy wing player was bought up from the D-League, and has played spectacular since. When he was on the Boston Celtics, he was known best for his high-flying dunks. He still does that now, but his game has vastly improved since. He is a good 3-point shooter, and can become a dangerous isolation player when he gets in a groove. He attacks the glass, and like Humphries, plays at 110 percent every night. He is a cheap, young player whose game is still developing, but he can become a nice role player off the bench in the future like a Jason Terry of the Mavericks or Lou Williams of the 76ers.

2) Make good use of the NBA Draft.

In a couple months, the NBA Draft will take place in the Net's current home arena, the Prudential Center. This year's talent that is coming out is regarded as very high and has players that are full of potential. If the Nets wind up lucky and attain a top 3 pick, they should select Thomas Robinson from Kansas. This forward is quick, lengthy, and hustles every night. He is not the greatest scorer, but rebounds and defends well. His game should translate nicely at the pro level, and although he is still developing, I believe he will be a solid player in this league for years to come. If they end up with the #1 overall pick, it is without a question they should select Anthony Davis from Kentucky. The high-octane forward/center was the reason the Wildcats won the championship this year, and is a defensive monster. Pairing Davis with Lopez would be a great luxury for the Nets. However, if the Nets do not end up with a top 3 pick, they do have a pick that will likely end up between #15-18, but only if the Rockets make the playoffs. If the Rockets don't, then the Nets are shut out completely from the first round in a deep draft. But let's not worry about that for now. If the Nets do indeed get this pick, I think there are several nice options the team could look at. First is Jared Sullinger. This is a reach, but if the former Ohio State big man falls down this far, the Nets have to grab him. He has size, toughness, and a satisfactory all around game. He was a dominant force in college, and is not a project like other inexperienced collegiate players. I believe his skills, if paired with a quality point guard like Deron Williams, can translate effectively to the NBA. Second is John Henson from North Carolina. The former Tar Heel power forward is lanky and a great defensive player. He can jump, block shots, and rebound. He needs to work on his strength and offensive game, but his defense will translate smoothly at the next level. He is projected to be drafted right around where the Nets would pick. Thirdly is Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague. Some scouts have said he's already better than his brother, Jeff, the starting point guard for the Atlanta Hawks. Marquis can do it all. He can shoot, pass, and can be the biggest steal of the draft when it's all said and done. This is arguably a high value for him, but this move might be necessary if the Nets can't re-sign Deron Williams, so they won't be left with nothing. They could also include Teague in a trade for Howard, because the Magic are looking for a point guard for the future. In the second round, the Nets have the Heat's pick, which basically means it's at the bottom five of the draft. Most teams that low usually waste the pick on a player people never heard of, but there are diamonds in the rough, like rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas of Sacramento, who has by far exceeded expectations. There are numerous options that the Nets could use this pick on, including Scott Machado. The senior from Iona is a pass-first point guard who can fill up the stat line on any given night. He does a little bit of everything, and could be a nice compliment to Deron Williams. Next are a couple big men from the Big East, Henry Sims from Georgetown and Herb Pope from Seton Hall. While some scouts believe Pope won't fall this far, the undersized forward is a tough player who can score and crash the boards. He can shoot from the outside, and has improved his free throw shooting. Sims is similar to once Georgetown center Roy Hibbert. Sims plays a similar style to Hibbert and really came on the scene this season. His potential seems nice, so I think he'd be a good contributor off the bench and possibly become a starter one day.

3) Use your money wisely in free agency.

Please Billy King, use your cap room wisely. Don't panic and sign players like Travis Outlaw and Johan Petro to unworthy long term deals. The problem with the Nets is that they tend to wait for the dust to settle. This season, they waited until Dwight Howard ensured he was staying in Orlando and made what many think was a "panic move" by trading a lottery pick for Gerald Wallace. Two years ago, they were shut out after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, and last year, they only signed short term role players like Shelden Williams and DeShawn Stevenson. This year, the Nets need to make a move right away if they want to keep Williams and Wallace in New Jersey/Brooklyn. Williams, especially, has no time for games and waiting around. He wants to win now. Billy King must realize that actions speak louder than words. The fans know you're trying to do a lot of things to improve the team, but I don't see results Mr. King. Gerald Wallace was a nice acquisition, and Billy King's logic to the trade is controversial, but understandable. Wallace, however, cannot be your second option on a team. He is a nice player, but he is not a superstar like Dwight Howard or Carmelo Anthony. This year's class doesn't have the immense pool of talent like two years ago, but there are some quality players. Most are solid but cheap role players who I think the Nets should go after like Raptors combo guard Jerryd Bayless, Cavaliers wing Alonzo Gee, Trail Blazers big man J.J. Hickson, and Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. However, I think there are three main targets the Nets must pursue. First is Roy Hibbert. The Pacers center is having the best season of his career, and was deservingly named to his first All-Star game earlier in the year. This towering athlete has a solid, efficient post game and is a defensive beast in the paint. The small-market team has a lot of young talent it might prefer to invest in, but they might want to go for a veteran point guard like Steve Nash and draft a young center like Meyers Leonard from Illinois instead of signing Hibbert. There are multiple scenarios that Indiana can go through, but many teams in the league will make a run at Hibbert. I believe the Nets should go after him because he is better than Brook Lopez. There, I said it. If the main goal is to get Dwight Howard, I think Magic GM Otis Smith would want Hibbert over Lopez any day. Hibbert is having a great year, and is a much better rebounder, while Lopez has been injured nearly all season and hasn't shown any GMs what he can be capable of. Hibbert is a rising star, and I think he is more attractive to play with than Lopez. I think signing him would appease to Deron Williams more than to signing Lopez. If I was Billy King, I would probably overpay Hibbert just to get him, because down the road he can be worth a max contract, if that's what is offered to him. Second is the Hornets' Eric Gordon. This flashy two guard is oddly similar to Brook Lopez in a number of ways. They are both injured almost all this season, still young, good scorers, and solid defenders, but neither have made that leap from good, recognizable player to All Star. However, I believe pairing Gordon with Williams could give the Nets the best backcourt in the Atlantic Division. Gordon has a very nice offensive game and could truly do everything on that end of the floor. I believe he'd be a great compliment to Williams, and they could become like Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton from their days together in Detroit, but even better. Signing Gordon also makes rookie MarShon Brooks expendable, and the Magic have been impressed by his skill set. Pairing Hibbert in a trade with Brooks and a first round pick should be enough to convince the Magic to trade Howard. Lastly is Nicolas Batum. Wait, who? Unless you are a hardcore NBA fan, you've probably never heard of him. So I'll give you a quick background. He's the starting small forward for the Portland Trail Blazers. He is young, but gifted. His game is improving every day and he is the reason why Gerald Wallace was traded to the Nets so quickly. Portland had many reasons to move Wallace, but the main reason was to get this guy on the court more. His game is solid on both sides of the floor, and he is primed for a breakout season next year. If Wallace decides to leave, the Nets should definitely pursue Batum. I think Batum is a much better option than any other small forward in both free agency and the Nets' position in the 2012 NBA Draft, with the exception of Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. One thing though, is that Hibbert, Gordon, and Batum are all restricted free agents. That means that the Nets can sign them to an offer sheet, but they have to do it before anybody else and the team each of them are on right now has the option to match the offer, and if they do, they retain their player. Some notable unrestricted free agents include Chris Kaman, Kevin Garnett, Antawn Jamison, and Brian Scalabrine.

So there you have it. I think a lot of people will be interested in what happens to the Nets this offseason. Who will they retain from this year's team? In what spots will the Nets land in this year's draft? Will they even get a first round pick? Will they sign players that will get them to the next level or role players that can only contribute in a basic manner? Most importantly, will they be contenders like in 2003? Or will they be arguably the biggest laughing stock of the NBA like in 2010? Only time will tell.