Recently, the 2012 Brooklyn Nets have made the final cuts and have announced their opening night roster. When Nets fans look at this roster, they will think about how far this team has come from opening night last year. Of course, that team ended up leading the NBA in most games missed due to injury and finished with the sixth worst record in the NBA. But true Nets fans who have been following the team for years may be wondering what happened to these players, which teams they are on now, and even if they are still in the NBA. I will give you these answers in this article.
Here is the 2011 New Jersey Nets opening night roster:
Players still in the NBA:
Deron Williams: signed 5-year max contract with Brooklyn Nets in offseason.
If the Nets were only able to keep one player from last year to this year, it obviously was Deron Williams. They signed him to a max contract and he will lead the team hopefully to a playoff birth this season.
Brook Lopez: signed 4-year/$61 million contract with Brooklyn Nets in offseason.
After missing out on Dwight Howard in the offseason, the Nets had no choice but to give Lopez a ton of money to keep him. He will be the team’s starting center this season.
Marshon Brooks: Still on his rookie contract, was not traded to Orlando or Atlanta.
Marshon Brooks was one of very few Nets players to not sign a new contract in the offseason. He will be a bench player for the team this year.
Kris Humphries: Signed 2-year/$24 million contract with Brooklyn Nets in offseason.
Despite continuing to stay in the tabloids, the Nets gave The Hump a big (but short) contract in the offseason. The Nets needed a starting power forward late in the free agency process and Humphries was still available. Expect him to be a starter again this season.
Anthony Morrow: Traded to Atlanta Hawks in Joe Johnson trade, one year remaining on contract.
The sharp-shooting Morrow was traded to Atlanta in part of the Joe Johnson trade. He goes back to the city where he played in college at Georgia Tech. Expect him to come off the bench for the Hawks this year. He will likely get another NBA contract after this season is over.
Johan Petro: Traded to Atlanta Hawks in Joe Johnson trade, one year remaining on contract.
Johan Petro was also traded to Atlanta in the Joe Johnson trade. He has one year remaining on his contract and I do not expect him to receive another NBA contract once this year is over. Expect Petro to get very little playing time in Atlanta this year.
Deshawn Stevenson: Signed-and-traded to Atlanta in Joe Johnson trade. Signed 1-year/$2.2 million contract with Hawks.
Deshawn was yet another player traded to Atlanta for Joe Johnson. Atlanta does have a team option to keep Stevenson around for another two seasons after this year, but I don’t think they will pick up this option. Stevenson was a leader in the locker room on the Nets last season, but I don’t believe he has the skill to continue playing at an NBA level much beyond this season.
Players fighting for NBA roster spots or in the D-League:
Sundiata Gaines: Not re-signed by Nets, was a training camp invite with Indiana, cut by Pacers last week.
After being the third-string point guard on a bad team last year, Sundiata received a training camp invite with the Pacers but did not make the team. It is unknown yet if Gaines will continue pursuing his NBA dream in the D-League or if he will go to Europe. My guess is Europe.
Damion James: Not re-signed by Nets, was a training camp invite with Atlanta, cut by Hawks yesterday.
The Nets could have extended James’s rookie contract into this season to remain with the team, but instead decided to let him go. He signed with Atlanta on a non-guaranteed contract and was cut after an unimpressive preseason. I think that James is talented enough to find the right NBA team someday and I think he will continue his NBA goal in the D-League unless a surprise team decides to pick him up. He may also choose to go to Europe.
Jordan Williams: Traded to Atlanta Hawks in Joe Johnson trade, cut by Hawks prior to training camp.
Last season, J-Will was on the Nets roster for most of the year but also spent some time in the D-League. He has dealt with conditioning issues during his short career and apparently those issues have continued. Despite a very un-risky contract, Atlanta cut Williams before training camp because of his bad conditioning. Surprisingly, he did not find another team to go to training camp with and his NBA career is in jeopardy. My guess will be that he will join a D-League roster because he is still only 22 years old. However, if he does not find a place in the NBA in the next year or two, Europe may be the only place for Williams.
Players playing in Europe/retired:
Jordan Farmar: Traded to Atlanta Hawks in Joe Johnson trade, immediately bought out by team, signed 3-year contract with Anadolu Efes in Turkey.
Farmar was also part of the Joe Johnson trade. However, Atlanta wanted to get rid of his contract and bought him out. Farmar definitely could have received another contract from an NBA team, but instead he decided to head to Europe to play. I believe that Farmar has always wanted to start in the NBA but was never given the opportunity. In Turkey, he will be able to start and be a leader on his team.
Dennis Horner: Not re-signed by Nets, signed contract with Artland Dragons in Germany.
Horner went back and forth between the Nets and the D-League last season, but I don’t think he is an NBA-caliber player. He could have stayed in the D-League this year and made less money, but I think he made the right decision to go overseas to play in Germany. I don’t expect him to ever be a contributor to an NBA team.
Mehmet Okur: Traded to Portland Trail Blazers in Gerald Wallace trade, cut immediately due to continued back problems, not currently playing basketball.
Okur was traded to the Nets just prior to opening night last year after Brook Lopez’s injury in the preseason. He was expected to fill in for Lopez at center but proved to be too slow, injury-prone, and incompetent to do his job. He was a throw-in in the Gerald Wallace-Damian Lillard trade and was cut by Portland because of his injuries. After 10 NBA seasons, I expect Okur to retire unless he wants to play in Europe. At 33 years old and already having made plenty of money in his career, I don’t think Okur will ever sign a basketball contract again.
Shawne Williams: Traded to Portland Trail Blazers in Gerald Wallace trade, cut immediately due to continued bad conditioning, not currently playing basketball.
Shawne Williams was signed by the Nets a few weeks before opening night last year. In limited game action with the Nets, he shot the ball horribly at under 30% and was slowed down because of multiple injuries. The Nets traded him along with Okur in the Gerald Wallace trade but he was immediately cut by Portland because he was out of shape. At 26 years old, Williams is too old to return to the D-League. He could choose to play in Europe but I sense a lack of motivation from him. His basketball career may be over.
Shelden Williams: Not re-signed by Nets, signed contract with Elan Chalon in France.
Shelden Williams is not a talented basketball player. However, he is a good locker room presence, rebounder, and overall tough guy, and he could have gotten an NBA contract if he wanted one (think Jason Collins). Instead, he chose to go to Europe where he will have a bigger role on his team. He is used to the life of a travelling basketball player, because his wife, WNBA star Candace Parker, plays in Europe during the WNBA offseason. Shelden may choose to return to the NBA some day.
Here are some of my takeaways from these findings:
- Last year’s New Jersey Nets were really, really bad. More than half of their opening night roster last year is not in the NBA anymore and even some of the players that are (Petro, Stevenson) are on their way out.
- The trade with Portland has worked out nicely for the Nets. Even though the Gerald Wallace trade was criticized at the time, what could the Nets have done if they had drafted Damian Lillard? They obviously would rather re-sign Deron Williams than start a rookie. One can say that they could have drafted a big guy instead, but Deron Williams has said that he is tired of playing with rookies and young players as he has had to in the last year-and-a-half. Gerald Wallace will be a glue-guy for this team and is a great locker room presence. Also, he is a huge upgrade on some of the previous small forwards that the Nets have had recently (Travis Outlaw).
- The Joe Johnson trade has worked out even better for the Nets than the Wallace trade did. I know that JJ has a huge contract, but he will be the second best player on the team. And he came at no cost whatsoever. The Nets gave up Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, Jordan Farmar, and Deshawn Stevenson for Johnson and the only player who will make an impact for Atlanta this year is Morrow. The rest of those players are either already out of the NBA or are on their way out after this season.
- This year’s Brooklyn Nets will be a whole lot better than last year’s New Jersey Nets. If nothing else, we at least know that more than half this team will still be in the NBA next year.