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NBA Team Previews: 2008 New Jersey Nets Preview

Eddie  Huang

Eddie Huang

Eddie Huang writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


NEW JERSEY NETS
By Eddie Huang
RotoWire Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE



The Nets are officially building for 2010. With the upcoming move to Brooklyn coinciding with LeBron James' free agency in 2010, the Nets began clearing cap room toward the end of the 2008 season. By moving Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, the Nets got younger and more importantly below the salary cap to make a run at free agents in 2010.


But Nets fans do have hope for the immediate future. Whether you think Brook Lopez is the real deal or not, its undisputed that the Nets got great value from both their picks Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts. By moving Marcus Williams and Richard Jefferson, minutes have opened up for guys such as Keyon Dooling, Devin Harris, and Yi Jianlian. While this probably doesn't translate to a playoff berth, there are a lot of good young sleepers on the Nets roster that could perform well enough to make your fantasy team.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION



Besides a sprained ankle that shelved him for five games last year, Vince Carter had a healthy 2008. Many probably never imagined it could happen, but Carter has had three full seasons of 76 games played or more. That's the best stretch of his entire career and New Jersey will be leaning on him even more in 2008-09. As the clear go-to-player on this squad, Carter will play between 38 and 40 minutes next season at the least.


After Mr. Carter, Devin Harris is the next most-established player with a clear path to starter's minutes between 36 and 38 minutes a game. Harris has never put it together for a full season, but he's also had to fend off Jason Terry for most of his career. Keyon Dooling will back up at both point guard and shooting guard, but there's no doubt this is Harris' job. Dooling should get more than the 18 minutes he got last year with the Magic, where he was slightly under-used in a very weak Magic backcourt, but don't get your hopes up for fantasy stardom. Dooling is a great energy player, but doesn't perform exceptionally in any one category.


The Nets frontcourt is a mish-mash of young, long, athletic big men who need minutes. Fantasy players would love to see Sean Williams get more minutes since he has the most potential as a shot blocker, but he's a very weak on the ball defender and fell out of the rotation toward the end of last year. Josh Boone averaged nearly a double-double in January and should begin the year as the starter at center, but look for Lopez to push him for minutes and create a near even split. Both should average around 18 to 19 minutes a game depending on match ups since they have very different styles.


As the main player received in exchange for fan favorite Richard Jefferson, Yi Jianlian will be given every opportunity to succeed and vindicate the front office's decision. Yi started off 2007-08 very strong last year, but faded around the all-star break. This is common for rookies and especially international players so expect Yi to come back energized and ready for the long haul. He was out-played by Villanueva at the end of last year, but he's out of Milwaukee and in an environment where he's more comfortable. He has little competition from Eduardo Najera and Yi should get 26 to 28 minutes a game next year. Lastly, look for Chris Douglas-Roberts to push Bobby Simmons for minutes and take over by mid-season. Simmons has been plagued by injuries recently and has really had only one good season in 04-05. It would be great for fantasy players if Jarvis Hayes could overtake Simmons for the lion's share of back up minutes because he's a 37% 3-pt shooter and could really help teams if he gets 20 to 22 minutes a game.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center



Josh Boone: Boone has serious double-double potential because he is energetic on the boards and uses his length well. He is a very underrated offensive rebounder with 2.7 per game in only 25 minutes a game. He's going to have trouble duplicating those stats though because the Nets invested a first round pick in Lopez who has greater offensive potential than Boone who, struggles on the offensive end. He doesn't have a go-to offensive move and has low basketball IQ. He does block shots and rebound, but he is a huge liability as a free throw shooter and doesn't always assert himself offensively. Defensively though, he's probably good enough to play himself into an even split for time with Lopez.


Brook Lopez: Lopez has a very nice drop-step from the right block as he showed in the NCAA tournament, but he is very awkward when defenses try to take away that move. He struggles with connecting counter-moves, but he can step out and hit the 8 to 10-foot jumper as well. He has a strong base and a great frame to build on, but he has clumsy hands and many times allows rebounds to slip through his fingers. He's not an active defender and doesn't rebound very well outside his area. Boone is a much more rugged player and should limit Lopez's minutes against bigger front lines.


Stromile Swift: Different team, same story. Stromile Swift has yet to grasp the team defense concept and still wanders into passing lanes on offense disrupting the flow of the game. Take him in NBA Jam, but you really don't want him on your fantasy team. The potential is tantalizing, but he probably won't ever get it together.

Forward



Yi Jianlian: Consistency will be key for Yi, who showed a lot of great flashes both in the NBA and during the Olympics this summer. Yi seems to lose focus during games and hasn't learned to help his team without the ball as much as he should. With his frame and ability, he should be much more active in screen-rolls, hitting the glass, and passing from the elbows. You never know if it's going to come, but he has the skills. From a fantasy perspective, he isn't an option as a starter because his percentages are far too low for a non-3pt shooting big man (42% from the field) and he isn't a dominating shot blocker (only .8/game). With 28 to 30 minutes a game and an improved second year, look for 12 to 15 points a game with 7 to 8 rebounds a game and 1.2 blocks. He is a very good free throw shooting big man (84% on the year), but he's going to need more attempts to really impact your team there. Its worth taking a last round flyer on Yi since he's likely to be a starter with big upside, but you really shouldn't depend on him as anything more than a back up.


Bobby Simmons: It was nice to see Simmons healthy last season, but like he's been for much of his career, Simmons played the role of fantasy spoiler taking minutes from guys with much more potential such as Villanueva. Simmons had a nice April playing 23 minutes a game and shooting 51%. During that stretch, he took 3.9 3-pointers/game and hit 43%. The Nets are a weak 3-point shooting team since Carter's a volume perimeter shooter and Devin Harris can't hit the side of a barn from beyond the arc. Simmons is a career 39% shooter from three so perhaps he can resurrect his career and become a viable util option as a 3-point specialist. If you can get him late, he may produce Anthony Parker type numbers, but don't forget Jarvis Hayes is right behind him.


Jarvis Hayes: Hayes was an integral part of the Pistons bench last year and came through when called upon in limited minutes. He does little besides shoot the three and has never posted great rebound or assist numbers. His field goal percentage will kill your squad, but if he gets 22 to 24 minutes a game, he will have value as a specialist. You probably don't want to draft him, but keep an eye early on in the season and be ready to nab him if the injury bug strikes.


Chris Douglas-Roberts: CDR is a very awkward, unorthodox, but effective player. He has great length and slightly above average athleticism, but people probably overpenalize him for style. His story is very reminiscent of another highly effective college player who dropped in the draft and proved people wrong: Josh Howard (don't forget David West either). Both found a way to score, contribute, and lead their teams, but a lot of their skills were overlooked. Like many of the Nets players, take a late round flyer because he could really provide value. Don't count out his ability as a 3-point shooter either. He improved his percentage every year of college and finished as a 41% shooter from distance and a 54% shooter from the field. He has a great mid-range game which is rare in today's NBA and finds a way to contribute. Long-term, he's probably a quicker, more offensive minded Shane Battier and a solid defender who may provide a steal a game.


Sean Williams: Williams really became the forgotten man in the Nets rotation late last year because he really struggled with on-the-ball defense and the offensive scheme. He clogged the lane offensively and was really a disadvantage at times because he took bad shots and didn't understand his role. He had one offensive outburst for 22 points in November, but never surpassed 16 points in any game after that. Unless there's an injury to Yi, Boone or Lopez, Williams probably won't get many minutes because Boone is better defensively and on the glass while Lopez is a smarter more capable offensive player. Yi is better all-around and has a bigger upside as well.


Eduardo Najera: Najera will be his usual workman self, but he shouldn't be anywhere near your fantasy team. He developed a 3-point shot last year and hit 36% out of the blue. If he can continue hitting the three, perhaps he gets minutes playing pick and roll, but it will be very strange to say the least watching Najera chucking from beyond the arc again.

Guard



Vince Carter: This is Carter's team and look for him to produce great all-around numbers for your fantasy team. Because of his mid-career injuries, people have been wary of Carter, but he's been very consistent the last three seasons and learned to share the ball as well reaching a career high 5.1 assists last season. If he's eligible at forward once again, that's a huge bonus for teams who miss out on the elite point guards. Many felt he'd become a chucker with the departure of Kidd, but instead he took on a larger role as a facilitator. Carter can still take most players off the dribble, but he lacks that dominating explosiveness he once had that rivaled the Kobes and LeBrons. He's done a very good job adjusting, but is still prone to chucking from three late in the clock. Don't forget the rebounds and steals which he still brings.


Devin Harris: Don't over-value Harris and his increase in playing time. With Dallas, Harris had value as an efficient player. He was a top 5 pick due to need and never should have been drafted above Deng or Iguodala in '04. Don't let the top-5 status fool you into thinking he has a high ceiling. Harris has limited value because he doesn't have 3-point range and he isn't a natural point guard. He's a 6 to 7 assist per game guy at best and loses much of his value because he will have pressure to shoot in NJ, which means a dip in field goal percentage. In Dallas, he was an opportunistic scorer who exposed defenses keying on Nowitzki and Howard, but he won't have that luxury in New Jersey. He'll have almost the exact same value as he did last year because of an increase in assists/points but a decrease in shooting.


Keyon Dooling: Dooling is very similar to Harris, but isn't as proficient at distributing the ball. He is a good slasher, great energy guy, and persistent defender, but he never developed an all-around offensive game and probably doesn't have the skills to run a team full-time. He's a great bench player in real-life, but doesn't have the specialist skills to warrant a bench spot.


Maurice Ager: Look for Ager to finally get some time this season simply due to the fact that the Nets are thin in the back court. He never had an opportunity in Dallas, but he has NBA size and could contribute. Its doubtful he provides any fantasy value though.


Trenton Hassell: Hassell is a defensive player who really won't see the floor much in '08-'09.

Sleeper:



Chris Douglas Roberts: This was a close call between Yi and CDR, but most owners are on to Yi and Douglas-Roberts is the deeper sleeper. He is NBA ready and is worth stashing on your roster. We'll see if his improved 3-point shooting carries over to the NBA, but if it does, he provides scoring, steals, threes, and average rebounding. The knock on him in college was unorthodox mechanics and a seeming lack of fire, but he's been very motivated after slipping out of the 1st round and will have plenty of opportunity with the Nets since Bobby Simmons is not the long term answer.

Bust:



Devin Harris: Don't get me wrong, he's definitely a starter on your fantasy team, but he is a prime candidate to be overvalued due to his new starting gig. Fantasy owners frequently over value players who walk into starting roles and people have always liked Harris as a break-out candidate, but his main value came from field goal percentage with the Mavericks. He'll get you 6 to 7 assists and almost 1.5 steals per game along with 16 to 18 points at most, but don't expect him to shoot 45%. Great value in rounds 7 to 8, but he's not a 5th or 6th round point guard, where, traditionally, you've been able to get a Tony Parker, Kirk Hinrich, or rookie gamble such as Chris Paul his first year. Harris will settle in and become a slightly more effective Raymond Felton who scores about 15 a game and dishes 6 to 7, but shoots 43%.


Article first appeared on 9/28/08