For the Nets, now, Kris Humphries is a catch

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Kris Humphries. (NBA.com)
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As the Brooklyn Nets construct their team in what might be called the post-Dwight Howard era, despite the fact that Howard was never actually a member of the Nets, the primary position left for them to fill is power forward.

They are set at center, with Brook Lopez signed to a max deal. Gerald Wallace will play small forward. The loaded backcourt features Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

Power forward is still unsettled.

The incumbent is Kris Humphries, who has played the last three years for the Nets with steady efficiency, and is an unrestricted free agent. The Nets have also expressed interest in trading for Antawn Jamison, the veteran forward with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kenyon Martin and Craig Smith are fallback options.

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The reality is that Jamison ought to be a fallback option as well, with the Nets concentrating all of their efforts on bringing back Humphries.

In the wake of their deals to Lopez, Williams and the acquisition of Johnson's massive contract, the Nets are locked into exceeding the N.B.A. salary cap for the next several years. Much like the Knicks, the Nets will need to find ways to add players at the periphery of the roster through small salary exceptions, but generally, they'll need to go with what they have or retain their own players.

The massive advantage the Nets have over their competitor for Humphries, the Charlotte Bobcats, is that whatever they sign Humphries for essentially has no impact on their ability to do business, since they retain full Bird rights for Humphries.

Whatever he costs--at the moment, both the Nets and Bobcats have offered him around eight million dollars per season for three years--Humphries can provide the Nets with some scoring inside, but more importantly, a highly efficient rebounder. There's nothing the Nets need more.

As it stands right now, none of the four certain members of the Nets' starting lineup are good rebounders. Johnson had a total rebounding percentage of 6.1 percent, Williams 5.3 percent last season. That's to be expected; both are guards. Wallace checked in at 10.8 percent, which is good for small forward, but still not particularly high.

And yet Wallace would be the best rebounder on the floor of the four, because Brook Lopez was an even 10 percent at center in his last full season, and even worse in his five games last season. Lopez is an extremely talented offensive player. But his rebounding limitations demand a supporting cast member at power forward who can rebound with aplomb.

Humphries is just that guy, with an 18.3 percent mark last year and 22.1 percent the year before. Jamison, for his offensive talent even at this point in his career, put up a 10.8 percent mark last season, or equivalent to Lopez and Wallace.

With Humphries, the Nets would at least patch what could be their Achilles heel. With Jamison, they might be the worst rebounding team in the league, to say nothing of their interior defense.

And worse yet, once Humphries goes elsewhere, they'd need to address the gaping hole with either low-budget free agent signings, or through trades from a roster that lacks much of a middle class in salaries. That's a problem when adding veteran talent, since the salaries need to match up in any deal. Teams sometimes get around that through signing and trading--again, something the Nets will have trouble doing, since they'll be over the salary cap for years.

So there's really no question about what Kris Humphries is worth, at least to the Brooklyn Nets. The answer is, given the N.B.A. salary cap and its many rules, whatever it takes.