A one time rival is now just another weak team in the East. Yes, its the New Jersey Nets and I recruited Lennox from Hooped Up to contribute the preview.
This year the New Jersey Nets have 99 problems and staying out of the draft lottery will not be one.
In 08-09, the Nets and Raptors shared nearly identical records in the Atlantic Division with New Jersey stumbling to a 34-48 record, while Toronto finished with a disappointing 33-49 record. This year the only thing that both of these teams will have in common, is adjusting to life after trading away Vince Carter for maybe too little in return.
The Raptors appear to be heading north as an organization, making few mistakes to improve giving Raptor fans reason to be excited. Cool handed GM Brian Colangelo had a very productive summer adding Hedo Turkoglu, Marco Belinelli, Reggie Evans, Amir Johnson and promising rookie DeMar DeRozan to the mix building a strong case for a winning season.
While the Nets who are hoping to head south to Brooklyn, are still closer to No Man’s Land than the hometown of part owner Jay-Z. Hit the self destruct / save cap room button, after they traded Vince Carter with Ryan Anderson to the Orlando Magic for Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee in the off-season. Other than Harris and Lee, the Nets have one other reason for hope and that’s Brook Lopez. After wrapping up his rookie campaign with an All-Rookie team selection, Lopez could flirt with a double-double in his sophomore season. He still could end up as trade bait sooner than later, but at least he’ll be an asset either way. That being said, I fully expect the Nets to finish in the basement of the Atlantic. There, I said it.
With relocation, legal issues o’plenty, no marque players other than Devin Harris as a draw, and the possibility of a shady Russian billionaire being the re-location savior who may — or may not, know where the classy prostitutes kick it. The Nets are facing more challenges in the front office, than they will on the court as the 09-10 season rolls on and man, do they ever have on court problems too. But hey, maybe Beyonce who occasionally checks out a Nets game will show up more often so you can tell her that she had one of the best videos of all-time — all-time. So at least that’s a plus.
When Lennox e-mailed me the piece, he had included his take on how the teams stack up by positions. Instead of editing, I decided to roll with it. (NOTE: My views are tagged Nat and his are HU)
Last Season Record: 2-2
(HU) Last season, with the exception of the second time the Raptors faced the Nets owning them 101-79, each game of this series was a competitive barn burner decided by 7 points or less. Including a dramatic triple overtime victory the Nets had in Toronto, that ended with a reverse alley-oop dunk by Carter for the game, the first time they met. Maintaining their parody, New Jersey won the third meeting and Toronto won the last meeting by 1 point to split the season series down the middle at two a piece.
(Nat) That reverse dunk VC threw down haunted Raptor fans all season. The addition of Harris helped the Nets as well giving them the ability to play a much more uptempo game which was not suited for last seasons Raptor team. Overall, even though the records were similar, it felt like the Nets were a better team across the board.
(HU) The biggest problem the Raptors faced last year, was lack of an interior presence and because of that, Jersey controlled the glass much of the series. With the addition of hard nosed Reggie Evans, active Amir Johnson and veteran Rasho Nesterovic all that should change in a hurry. And oh ya, the Raptors also have all-star Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani too. Brook Lopez, Josh Boone, Yi Jianlian, and Tony Battie simply won’t have enough water buckets to put out the Raptors front court fire.
(Nat) Gotta agree with the analysis. Especially with a scoring threat like Vince Carter gone it frees up that man who was always shading over to double team allowing him to now focus on the rebounds. I do like what Brook Lopez showed last season and he is only going to get better. But as of right now, the Raptors big men should be able to hold their own.
Edge: (HU) Raptors - (Nat) Raptors
(HU) The Raptors aren’t deep at the wing but they have talent at the position. Only Turkoglu can really be considered a real threat or a game changer for Toronto and that might be enough against the Nets. The Nets will counter with a platoon squad at the wing players led by rookie Terrence Williams who might in time be a really top defender, but Hedo shouldn’t have a problem owning that match up. Or the one against Jarvis Hayes, or against Trent Hassell, or against Bobby Simmons either. You know where this is going. Plus anything that Antoine Wright can add off the bench will help Hedo drink his G trouble free.
(Nat) Not sure if it was an oversight, but a big piece in the Vince Carter trade was Courtney Lee. More of a defensive specialist who broke out in the playoffs last season, Lee is a man on a mission right now. Hedo is good, but his former teammate is a big part of the Nets’ future. He should get a chance to flourish with more minutes. That is pretty much where the threat ends at this position. Even though neither team boasts depth, the Raptors should edge out here.
Edge: (HU) Raptors - (Nat) Raptors
(HU) With Carter shipped off to Orlando, Devin Harris is now the undisputed man in Jersey and he put up good numbers against the Raptors last season. Of course having Vince Carter in the back court makes things easier, but Courtney Lee should be an instant contributor to the Nets offense, and he’ll give the Raptors problems. As usual, Jose Calderon will be steady against the quicker backcourt the Nets provide, with his ability to drive and kick. Marco Belinelli, Bosh and Turkoglu should find themselves open often. Add to that, the Nets only having a volatile Alston and under sized Keyon Dooling coming off the bench, while the Raptors counter with DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and a maybe ready to be ready Marcus Banks. The Raptors have the slightly better, back court.
(Nat) Devin Harris is another PG who gives Jose fits. He has the speed, athleticism and size – 2 out of 3 of those skills are Calderon’s nemesis. No longer overlooked and a possible all-star this season, Harris is a tough cover. His has the ability to drive to the basket and make quick decisions on the fly. There is a good chance that Jack and Jose will play significant minutes on the floor together and switch up defensive assignments if Jose shows early struggles.
Edge: (HU) Raptors - (Nat) Nets
Predicted Record: 3-1 (It’s the NBA, the Nets gotta win one game — right?)