1:50 pm Jul. 20, 2012
While the Knicks were busy replacing Jeremy Lin with Raymond Felton, the Brooklyn Nets quietly spent a very productive week filling needs and improving their roster.
The Nets made the Brook Lopez signing official, retaining him at four years, $60.7 million. Lopez's detractors correctly note that his defense is suspect and his rebounding has gone from mediocre to poor. But his offense is good enough to make him a real asset nevertheless. And the Nets understood that as an over-the-cap N.B.A. team, their choices were either to retain their own asset in Lopez, or scrounge for alternatives willing to take less than market value to join the Nets.
Lopez is also supported by Kris Humphries, who has exactly the right skill-set to complement Lopez while playing power forward. The two-year, $24 million Humphries contract is short enough to benefit the Nets in terms of longer-term flexibility, while rich enough to help the Nets match up with other teams in trade should they find themselves in need of making a move.
Combined with Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams at small forward, shooting guard and point guard, respectively, the Nets are going to play a starting five all above league average. But they've also managed to build a good deal of depth behind that starting group.
Williams will be backed up at point guard by C.J. Watson, a strong three-point shooter (39 percent each of the past two seasons) who would be overmatched as a starter, but whose stats last year were remarkably similar to Raymond Felton's 13.4 and Jason Kidd's 13.1. So the Nets have a point guard backing up Deron Williams more or less equal to either of the two point guards the Knicks will be counting on to replace Jeremy Lin. And Tyshawn Taylor, a second-round pick, provides some size at the position.
The Nets also brought in European scorer Mirza Teletovic with their midlevel salary-cap exception, and Teletovic should give the Nets significant offensive production out of the second unit. He'll probably be paired at forward with Reggie Evans, who quietly finished among the N.B.A. leaders in total rebounding percentage last season at 20.9. The backup center is likely to be Nazr Mohammed, giving that second unit a defensive presence in the middle.
The backup shooting guards can give the Nets vastly different looks. Second-year shooting guard MarShon Brooks can score in bunches. And Keith Bogans is a strong defensive player as well, and a more than competent three-point shooter.
The Nets may not stop at 12 strong, either, with Andrei Kirilenko, the excellent wing scorer and defender who spent last year with CSKA Moscow, rumored to be mulling a return to the N.B.A. with the Nets. The Nets also signed their second-round draft pick, Tornike Shengelia, to a two-year deal to come provide frontcourt depth immediately.
Ultimately, how close the Nets can come to playing at anything like a Miami level will have a lot to do with how well their first unit plays together. But no one in the East will have a deeper, more talented roster top to bottom than the Nets. Considering they went 22-44 last year, that means this was nothing short of a breathtaking offseason for general manager Billy King.
And he didn't even get Dwight Howard.