With today’s acquisition of All-Star guard Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets are poised to make some serious noise during the 2012-13 season. Sure Johnson has the richest contract in the NBA, and yes he’s getting up there in years, but the guy can flat out score. Pairing him with Deron Williams could give the Nets a top notch backcourt for the next few years at the very least, and could be the foundation of a championship contender at best (if the Nets play their cards right).
Going into this offseason, the Nets main priority was to re-sign Williams and surround him with enough talent to build a potential contender. For the most part they have stuck to that game plan, as many are claiming D-Will (and his new buddy Jason Kidd for what it’s worth) has decided to sign in Brooklyn. However, as great as that is, it is far from the only surprise of the offseason for the suddenly fortunate and heavily discussed Brooklyn Nets.
Here are my top 5 stories for the Nets this offseason, some of which are completed already and some that have yet to fully play out.
1. The Continuing Story of Dwight Howard
The only comparable situations to the Dwight-mare taking place in Orlando are the LeBron and Melo sweepstakes of the last few years, but even LeBron looks noble when compared to Dwight. Dwight has changed his mind an absurd amount of times on issues such as his contract, his future, and his preference of team, leading to multiple franchises being held hostage by his demands. Most recently, as covered by From Russia With Dunk, Howard claimed that he would only re-sign with “one team,” and many have reported that team is the Brooklyn Nets. If he is not traded to his “one team” this season, Dwight claims he will simply sign there as a free agent next season.
With all due respect to D-Will and Iso Joe, Dwight Howard is one of the truly elite players in the NBA. He patrols the paint and leads a top ranked defense in Orlando despite playing in a starting 5 with 4 defensive liabilities. No one in the NBA has that ability, and simply put, Dwight is a franchise player. Pairing him with D-Will and Joe Johnson would help the Nets make the jump from talented to elite.
2. D-Will’s Contract Situation
They say that free agency only kicks off after the top player on the market makes his decision. Sometimes, “they” are right, and this is one of those sometimes. The futures of every point guard on the market or on the trading block (Steve Nash, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, and Jason Kidd to name a few) hinge on Deron’s decision, a decision which seems like it will be coming very soon. The Joe Johnson trade never would have happened if the Nets weren’t sure they were going to re-sign the All-Star point guard, meaning the Nets likely have a guarantee that he’ll be back. Quick question: name an Eastern Conference squad with a better backcourt than the Nets (D-Will and Joe Johnson). Bet you can’t.
3. Joe Johnson the Net.
I took a 4 hour nap this afternoon, and when I woke up, the Joe Johnson trade had somehow gone from speculation to reality. I applaud Billy King and his staff for their ability to get this trade done; they showed they have the ability to improvise and make tough trades. They lost a lot in the Johnson trade, namely Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow, and now have no depth to speak of. But they got a star that theoretically should play nice with Deron Williams, and in doing so absolutely crushed the expectations most had for them going into the offseason.
4. Brook Lopez the Net?
As great as having a strong backcourt is, championships are not won by teams that can’t score down low. The Nets completed half of that process by signing Gerald Wallace, a man notorious for his ability to finish at the rim and body up with those bigger than him. But the key to a potential Nets contender is the signing of Brook Lopez, a potential laden big man that was considered a young star prior to an injury plagued 2011-12 campaign. Lopez is criticized (justly) for his strange regression in rebounding from his sophomore to junior years (8.6 to 6.0), but his ability to score the ball overshadows just about every other aspect of his game. Lopez could put the Nets over the top, and they need him if they want to go from average to dominant.
5. Gerald Wallace Saves Billy King
Of all the story lines the Nets have been involved in, this is my favorite by far. Billy King traded away his 1st round draft pick (a pick that ended up being 6th overall) in exchange for Gerald Wallace, a relatively large price for someone with an opt-out clause. And of course, in typical New Jersey Nets fashion, Wallace used his opt out clause and left the Nets.
What I like so much about this story line, however, is it is the perfect example of how the move to Brooklyn has and will continue to help the Nets. In what I can only hope will become a trend, Wallace put his faith in the franchise and re-signed.
Fortune seems to be on the Nets side this offseason, and hopefully they can capitalize on their good luck and go from pretender to contender in just one year.