The New Jersey Nets only won 12 games in 2009-2010. And they may have missed out on all the big-name free agents this summer.
But that doesn?t mean they won?t be a legitimate threat to the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
The Nets didn?t get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or even Amare Stoudemire.
But New Jersey did sign some crafty veteran leaders for its bench — ones that could help lead a young, talented Nets team back into the postseason.
The first move was bringing in Travis Outlaw from the Clippers on July 8. Outlaw, who has averaged 9.5 points and 3.4 rebounds for his career, provides versatility in the front court, as he can play either the small or power forward positions. The 25-year-old former first-round pick also can knock down the 3-ball, as he?s a 36.7 percent career shooter from beyond the arc.
The Nets then signed center Johan Petro and point guard Jordan Farmar each to three-year deals. Petro is a seven-footer from Paris who averaged 3.6 boards in just over 12 minutes a game for the Nuggets last year, while Farmar provided much-needed backup for Derek Fisher in the Lakers? latest back-to-back championships.
New Jersey?s biggest move of the offseason, though, came in acquiring Anthony Morrow from the Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal. Morrow is a 6-foot-5 combo guard who averaged 13 points in 29 minutes per game for Golden State last year, knocking down 3-pointers at a very healthy 45.6 percentage.
Combined with All-Star point guard Devin Harris, the Nets now have a solid core of veterans to help their younger, high-profile players develop.
Brook Lopez already has proven that he?s ready to contribute at a high level. The 10th overall pick by the Nets in the 2008 draft averaged 18.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in his second season in Jersey, but he averaged only 36 minutes per game. As Lopez?s playing time increases, his numbers should be All-Star worthy.
Playing alongside Harris in the backcourt is Courtney Lee, who averaged 12.5 points per game for the Nets just one year after coming over from the reigning Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic. Another Nets player with a playoff pedigree, Lee averaged eight points in 21 postseason games for the Magic during their NBA Finals run in 2009.
The big question mark for the Nets in 2010-2011 will be rookie forward Derrick Favors. At just 19 years old, the third overall pick in June?s draft can run the floor with any big man in the league. He has excellent passing skills, and can knock down a midrange jumper, as he proved in his one year at Georgia Tech.
How Favors adjusts to the pros will be his biggest roadblock. His transition from high school to the ACC gave him no trouble, but the NBA is a different story. Luckily, Favors will be surrounded by a strong veteran presence in New Jersey, and that should help the rookie find a niche in new head coach Avery Johnson?s system.
Johnson, who led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals as the head coach in 2006, was named NBA Coach of the Year that season.
Nets can be assured that Johnson, who has a .735 career winning percentage in the regular season, will not allow a repeat of the team?s 12-win campaign last year.
The Nets are a different team, and led by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov and new GM Billy King, there is a renewed sense of life in Newark.