NEW JERSEY NETS
By Eddie Huang
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Article first appeared on 9/28/08