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.

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