We'll be doing team previews throughout the weekend along with other news that comes up. Today a couple more teams from the Atlantic.
NEW JERSEY NETS
Record: 41-41, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 6th (tie) in Eastern Conference
3rd in assists
30th in steals
27th in blocks
15th in the league in scoring (97.6 ppg)
13th in opponent scoring (98.3 ppg)
16th in ppg differential (-0.8 ppg)
18th in field goal %
9th in opponent field goal %
8th in three-point %
12th in turnovers
21st in opponent turnovers
Poor offensive rebounding team
Good defensive rebounding team
Jamaal Magloire, Jumaine Jones, Sean Williams (R)
Mikki Moore, Eddie House
PG: Jason Kidd, Marcus Williams
SG: Vince Carter, Antoine Wright
SF: Richard Jefferson, Bostjan Nachbar, Jumaine Jones
PF: Jason Collins, Josh Boone, Malik Allen
C: Nenad Krstic, Jamaal Magloire
Comments: There are three things to really like about the Nets. First is their obvious name power. Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson can all be game-changing players, even though they don't always bring it every night individually or collectively. New Jersey is going to win some games that other teams with similar strengths and weaknesses would lose just because somebody is going to turn it on. Second they play solid defense. I don't mean flashy or opportunistic defense...just good, basic, veteran positioning. These guys know how to take away your strengths, know how to help each other out, and know what you need to do in order to win games. You wouldn't feature many of their players in individual defensive drills, but being experienced counts for a lot in this league and they are. In a similar vein they are also a very solid defensive rebounding team and should be made more so by the addition of Jamaal Magloire. You don't have to be fancy or have SportsCenter-esque athleticism to be good in this league. It isn't differential calculus. Position yourself correctly on defense, move your feet, and rebound the ball. You will always give yourself a chance that way.
There are also some reasons not to like the Nets. The most glaring is that it's hard to get excited about anyone on this team over 6'7" tall. Nenad Krstic is a good offensive center who really benefits from working with smart smalls like Jason Kidd. He may be a tad bit overrated, however. And he's light years ahead of any other big guy on the team. He's also been injured, which brings up another big question. Normally I hate to assume people are going to get injured just because they're old or because their team is thin. But the Nets have had a host of injury issues with their top players. They've been a walking train wreck for three years now. One could argue that we've not seen the full potential of this lineup because they can't get through a year without somebody important going down. Being fairly thin, they can't spare the players. Finally, as mentioned above, watching the Nets you get the sense that they just don't bring it every night. Last year was a dance of alternating winning and losing streaks for them. There didn't seem to be a ton of correlation between their performance and the quality of the opposition. Some nights they had it, some nights they didn't. After we've been crowing about their reasonably smart veterans you expect a little bit more than that. You certainly expect more than a negative point differential out of this team. No matter who makes the playoffs in a given year you can pretty much draw a line between teams that are real and teams that aren't. That line rests exactly on the point differential number. The Nets are on the wrong side of it right now.
Barring multiple injuries or a Kidd trade I don't think anything is going to happen to the Nets that dumps them out of the playoff picture. They've got too many good players and are too savvy. But they're also a long way from being back in serious contention. They've got to know that their time is running out. Lets see if they can kick it up a notch and make a little noise or whether they're content to go quietly into the night.
Record: 35-47, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 9th (tie) in Eastern Conference
26th in the league in scoring (94.9 ppg)
11th in opponent scoring (98.0 ppg)
23rd in ppg differential (-3.0 ppg)
15th in field goal %
20th in opponent field goal %
25th in three-point %
21st in assists
13th in steals
15th in blocks
18th in turnovers
9th in opponent turnovers
Average offensive rebounding team
Very Poor defensive rebounding team
Reggie Evans, Thaddeus Young (R), Jason Smith (R), Derrick Byars (R)
Steven Hunter, Bobby Jones
PG: Andre Miller, Kevin Ollie
SG: Kyle Korver, Willie Green, Rodney Carney
SF: Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Derrick Byars
PF: Reggie Evans, Jason Smith
C: Samuel Delambert, Shavlik Randolph
Comments: The Sixers pressed the "rebuild" button last year by trading Allen Iverson. They were left with something of a mess: one up-and-coming slasher, one shooter, one veteran point guard who has never found a steady home, and a bunch of spare parts. There's no way they could address their needs in one off-season but they made reasonable headway on two of them. They needed more athleticism and more rebounding. They helped the first through the draft, rolling the dice on Thaddeus Young. Right now he's far too raw for major minutes but they are probably hoping someday to switch Andre Iguodala back to shooting guard and let Young dazzle from the small forward spot. They made a nice move getting Reggie Evans from forward-rich Denver in exchange for the tantalizing-yet-enigmatic center Steven Hunter. Evans should have room to work down low in Philly and will have plenty of rebounds to pick.
Despite making a couple of decent moves there's no reason to think Philly is going to do well this year. They are still a stylistic mish-mash. They have too many players that are one or two dimensional. Iguodala is clearly a multiple-threat player but that's where it ends. Korver is a fantastic shooter but not an athlete or defender. Andre Miller can score and dish but isn't a great shooter or defender and has a reputation for not being the best teammate. Samuel Delambert is quick and athletic but really needs to run to prosper. Nobody else makes you raise an eyebrow. There's not nearly enough scoring punch, shooting, or defensive ability to register wins with any predictability. All signs point to this team continuing to trend downwards. It'll be at least another couple of years before they can get the pieces sorted out and start to make forward progress. That happens to almost every team that has a superstar era end. It's just Philly's turn now.