Coming off a season where the Nets (at the time New Jersey) went 22-44 filled with injuries to Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, and Deron Williams, there were many questions with who the Nets were going to open the new Barclays Center with on the floor. Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries were unresticted free agents, while Brook Lopez was restricted (the Nets made it clear they weren’t losing Lopez).
There were plenty of Dwight rumors for a possible deal centered around sign and trade of Brook Lopez, but ultimately that did not happen. Nets made a big move in trading for Joe Johnson, which helped convince Deron Williams to resign; they also overpaid a bit to keep Gerald Wallace, resigned Brook Lopez to the max, and overpaid for Humphries to keep the years down (only 2). They also signed power forward Mirza Teletovic, who is known mostly as a stretch 4 that struggles to defend and rebound, for the mini mid level exception. They added CJ Watson to backup Williams for the minimum, and acquired Reggie Evans in a sign and trade.
The Nets have 3 players that can play at much higher levels, which will affect how far the Nets will ultimately go. Brook Lopez is coming off a year in which he dealt with chronic foot injuries, and was only able to play five games. This could be a problem going forward, especially as he tries to rediscover his rebounding which continues to tumble yearly. The difference in Brook Lopez averaging eight rebounds per 35 minutes played, rather than six, could be the difference in 3-4 wins for the Nets.
Deron Williams is still a terrific point guard that is as good as anyone not named Chris Paul or Steve Nash at creating high quality shots for his teammates, but his drop off in effeciency since he left Utah and started dealing with wrist injuries is a bit troubling. Part of his struggles can be attributed to the teammates around him, so he has felt forced to take bad shots the last year and a half. It could also be in part due to the wrist injury, which could have thrown off his mechanics, as he continued his poor shooting in the Olympics.
Gerald Wallace is another player who could play at many different levels this upcoming year, as he is coming off his worst season in a long time with his lowest TS% since the age of 22. Injuries have taken a toll on his body, and it seems his decline has started at a younger age than most, but how severe will it be? Can training camp and plenty of practices help him get the timing right with Deron Williams and help his offensive numbers?
The Nets are a team as a whole that can go a variety of directions this year. While thinking that this team is a real title threat is going too far, if Brook Lopez regains his rebound rate, Gerald Wallace regains 2010-11 Portland form, Deron Williams can retain his efficiency, Joe Johnson doesn’t regress from this past season, and they stay relatively healthy, (which is another huge question mark) they can battle Indiana and Boston for the 2 seed in the east.
However, if none of the above takes place, they could struggle to make the playoffs.