Last season the New Jersey Nets posted one of the worst won-loss records in NBA history (though by point differential they were not as bad as their record indicated). They were very bad, let’s agree on that.
This offseason the team significantly upgraded its roster. So much so that based on the number of wins the current roster of players has posted in the past three seasons, along with each player’s likely allocation of playing time, I believe the Nets will improve by around 30 wins. In fact, the team may even contend for a low seed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (though the latter is unlikely).
How could such a bad team get so much better so quickly? Below I list the reasons I think it will happen.
1. Simple roster turnover
When a team wins only 12 games in a season, it means court minutes were delegated to players who were not even average NBA bench quality players. Meaning, there is a large pool of available players any one of whom could probably provide the team with more wins than the players they team previously employed. That’s what happened to the Nets. Simply by dumping a slew of players who performed abysmally last season (Yi, CDR, etc.) and replacing them with available talent, the team improved. But the Nets restocked with better than “readily available talent”. They generally acquired good players.
2. Adding Troy Murphy
Like Troy Murphy. In the last three seasons with Indiana, Murphy’s win production has been average, elite level, and above average. By replacing Yi Jianlian with Murphy, the team added around 6 to 7 wins.
3. Bounce back seasons for good players
Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are better than they played last season. Each may have lost hope, and it may have reflected in their productivity and defensive intensity. I would expect each to bounce back this season.
4. Terrence Williams breakout season
I think sophomore swingman Terrence Williams is ready to break out with a very productive season. Williams struggled hard in the first half of last season, but his MWS48 after the All-Star Break was +0.85. I would expect him to continue with that and even improve upon it a bit. Williams looks like he will be a strong player for years to come.
5. Middling players make .500% teams
These next few players I’m going to mention are no great shakes, but they are average or near average players who play a decent amount of minutes. If you have enough of those players, and you mix in a few above average players, you have a pretty good team. The middling players I refer to for the 2010-11 New Jersey Nets are SF/PF Travis Outlaw, PF Kris Humphries, rookie SF Damien James, PG Jordan Farmar, and SG Stephen Graham, and swingman Anthony Morrow. Other than Humphries, all of the above players are new, and each should play somewhere near average basketball. Together they form the bulwark of a 41-41 team, which is where I project the Nets.
6. Not this season for Favors
The 30 game improvement should be achieved without a significant win contribution from rookie PF Derrick Favors. He has a chance to be good, but he’s young, and even Chris Bosh struggled in his first season and didn’t produce many wins. I see the same for Favors.