Not since the days of Jason Kidd were the Nets an attractive free agent destination. These are different times, however, with different players.
While a previous generation would have gone running, the players flocked to the Nets during the 2012 summer. Not only did Billy King retain Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace, he added Joe Johnson, Mirza Teletovic, and C.J. Watson.
Watson walked away from perennial Eastern power Chicago and former MVP Derrick Rose to join Williams, a player he categorized as “the best point guard in the league.”
Johnson said the Nets were “definitely” the best team in New York.
King had no problem touting the Nets’ backcourt as the league’s best, even over the Los Angeles Lakers’ tandem of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.
“(The Lakers) are good,” King said. “I like them. But I think ours is better. I just think the physicality, both these guys are very physical, they can post up. With Nash and Kobe, I’m not taking anything away from them, I just think ours is better.”
So just how good can the Nets be in 2012-13?
History and the current roster tell different stories. These are not the typical Nets.
With Williams running solo in Newark last season, the Nets bumbled to a 22-44 record. No Net can complain that the Nets do not have a supporting cast, though.
Avery Johnson’s starting five can go head to head with any team in the league. The Nets are not as talented as the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers, but they can at least run with those teams.
Only the Heat and Boston Celtics clearly rank above the Nets in the Eastern Conference. The Brooklyn franchise is lumped into a competitive group with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Indiana Pacers.
The Nets’ ascension marks a drastic shift for a team that challenged for the worst record of all time in 2009-10.
A new roster will do that.
“I think that this season we’ll definitely make the playoffs,” Williams said. “I see no reason why we shouldn’t be there.”
Injuries will play a large role for the Nets. Center Brook Lopez is coming off a season in which he played just five games due to foot injuries.
King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov took a leap of faith by giving Lopez a max contract during this summer’s free agent period.
Due to the $287 million the team shelled out for four players this offseason, the roster takes a hit somewhere. That somewhere is behind Lopez.
King brought in Reggie Evans for rebounding and toughness, but he brings nothing to the table offensively. The Nets need Lopez to return to healthy form in order to make a splash in the East.
But behind Williams, the Nets at least have the pieces in place to bring quality basketball back to the franchise. That’s more than can be said about the Newark version.