Saturday, September 03, 2005

Offseason Overview: New Jersey Nets

The Nets snuck into the playoffs last year on the strength of a 15-4 finish but were quickly bounced by the Heat in the opening round. With Shareef Abdur-Rahim on board, they were a trendy pick to make the Eastern Conference finals this year. But Abdur-Rahim failed his physical, leaving the Nets with a very questionable frontline. Still, in Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson they have quite a dynamic – albeit brittle – trio.

The Stud: Vince Carter, GF
The numbers don’t lie. A rejuvenated Vinsanity was actually worthy of the nickname after arriving in New Jersey a third of the way through the season. He averaged 27.5/5.9/4.7 with 1.9 3s and 1.5 steals on very solid 46% shooting, almost identical numbers to those from his magical 2000-2001 season. Just as importantly, he stayed healthy. Will he be able to stay healthy and at the top of his game for an entire season? It’s a fair question, and since that’s a fair question, we can’t recommend taking him with a first round pick, despite those gaudy numbers.

The Support: Jason Kidd, PG
Let’s look at the negatives first: He’s a 32-year-old point guard with bad knees who has missed 31 games over the past two seasons and who will single-handedly cripple your FG%. On the plus side, he’s pretty much guaranteed to finish in the top 3 in assists, will be a huge asset in rebounds from the point guard position, and he has turned into a serious outside threat (averaging a full 2 3s per game last year). He has also averaged between 1.8 and 2.3 steals in each of his 11 seasons. Like Carter, health concerns should keep him out of the first round, but don’t let him slip too far.

The Supporting Support: Richard Jefferson, SF
It will be interesting to see how Jefferson adjusts to life with Vince. After appearing in eight games alongside Vince, he missed nearly two-thirds of the season with a wrist injury before returning for the playoffs, where he averaged 15.8/5.5/2.3. I wouldn’t read too much into those numbers since he was rusty and the Nets were getting dominated. But with Vince around RJ is clearly not the #1 scoring option for New Jersey. His 22.2/7.3/4.0 line from last year looks good, but in the eight games with Vince around, those numbers dropped to 18.4/6.1/3.4. For a player who doesn’t contribute all that much in steals, 3s or blocks, those drops are worrisome.

The Sleeper: Nenad Krstic, FC
Krstic isn’t much of a sleeper after he established himself solid center at the end of last season. He was wildly inconsistent throughout the season, but in the Nets 15-4 run at the end of the season, he was good for 13.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg. Krstic does not block as many shots as you’d like from a center, but he shoots near 50% and has a solid free throw percentage. With Abdur-Rahim in town he might have been lost in the shuffle, but he is now the nets top interior scoring threat. As long as he stays out of foul trouble – a problem that plagued him last season – he should be at least a serviceable center with good upside.

The Slacker: Jason Collins, FC
The emergence of Krstic and the signing of Marc Jackson will hopefully relegate Collins to the bench, ending his reign of crappiness. Collins started 158 games over the past two seasons, averaging about 30 mpg, and was never able to amass even an iota of fantasy value. It's hard to come up with a player who was given as much PT and who provided so little to fantasy owners in return.

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