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Latest News, NBA / Sep 3, 2009 / 12:52 pm

The NBA’s Best Kept Secret

Devin Harris

When talking about the NBA’s top young cores, it seems like everybody is riding Thunder’s bandwagon. And deservingly so. With Durant, Green, Westbrook and now Harden, the future is going to be scary. Memphis and Minnesota’s young talent is also generating a lot of buzz all over hoops blogs and websites. One young core that is not getting any love is the New Jersey Nets. Scanning the roster up and down, I can not only see then being relevant in the East a few years down the line, but I can also see them being relevant this year.

I think after they traded Vince Carter down to Orlando this offseason, a lot of people wrote them off for this upcoming year. Like, “Oh, they don’t care about winning this season, they’re getting ready for signing LeBron or Wade in 2010,” or “They’re going to tank it so they can get John Wall or Ed Davis.” While management is certainly looking ahead to next summer, I believe they could potentially make some kind of postseason run this year.

The Nets have one of the best young point guards in the game in Devin Harris. Last year, the 26-year-old guard averaged 21.3 points, 6.9 assists and 1.7 steals a game and made his first all-star team. He is starting to enter his prime and will surely improve on those numbers this upcoming season. With VC gone, Harris is expected to step up as the team’s leader. Newly acquired backup Rafer Alston adds leadership and playoff experience to this young squad.

Carter’s departure also opens up opportunities for Courtney Lee and rookie Terrence Williams. Lee had some big moments in last year’s playoffs and should blossom in a fast-paced offense. T-Will in my opinion is going to be on the All-Rookie First Team. I’ve been president of the Terrence Williams fan club since he was at Louisville. He can play three positions, defend three positions and I can see him averaging 14-5-5. Between him, Lee, Harris and Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Nets will be one of the fastest and most exciting teams in transition.

If Jersey is going to make a run at the playoffs they will need a breakout year from third-year forward Yi Jianlian. Last year, Yi started the season strong but fizzled out near the end. He has the skill set, he just needs to get more comfortable on the court. Brook Lopez also had a solid rookie year averaging 13 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 1.8 bpg. He has all-star potential and the right work ethic so he will be an even bigger beast in the paint in ’09-10.

Last year, the Nets won 34 games and were just five games out of the eight spot. Although some basketball sites predict them being the worst team in the East, I see them coming close to that 30-35 win mark again this season.

What do you guys think of the Nets’ young core of Harris, Yi, Lopez, Lee and Williams? Will they be competitive this year?

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  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    Nets will suck this year and again next year. NO team is really able to keep a young core together anymore. the league moves too fast for that type of thinking now.

    in 3yrs…

    memphis will no longer have rudy gay nor oj mayo.
    thunder will no longer have jeff green nor harden. maybe not even durant (hes going to the wizards).
    minnesota will still have a weak backcourt.
    sacramento wont have tyreke evans.
    clippers will still have blake griffin, but no one else

  • life-p

    I’ll need to see them play together first. They look nice on paper though..

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    the best thing about having a young core is that they become chips as trade bait

  • Steve Lee

    If the Nets could scoop up D. Lee from the other side of the bridge that would be a huge addition to this young core. They only have Boone, Sean Williams, Battie and Eddie, which isnt the most fearful frontcourt. Adding Lee will give them some grit and also an attractive piece for their 2010 FA signing to come into.

    Lee and Williams will be nice for this squad, both can play D, run the floor and shoot. If Lee can get over his Francis/Cat Mobs relationship with the Magic (yes he got shafted but the NBA is a business last I looked, there is very little dedication to an individual unless you are a star piece)

  • Chitown hoops

    @ Heckler

    I fnd it hard to believe that all those players will be on different reams since most will still be on their first contract. People forget that if KG really wanted to get away from the Timberwolves he could have stopped signing new contracts. Bottom line is that careers are short and money talks.

  • BRUCE

    Yi gets a lot of love on here! Why is that? Yi is going to break down like his fellow country-man, Houston #11.

    Why is Yi so high on many people list?

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    I agree with heckler that it’s almost impossible to keep young cores together these days. However if heckler is correct that all the players he listed leave their respective teams where are they going? The ideal destinations for players i.e. the top teams in the NBA do not have payrolls large enough to sign all the best talent year after year considering they are already locked up in huge multi year contracts.

    These bottom of the barrel teams need to open the check book to keep their cores if and only if these young players end up being worth it. That may or may not happen. You don’t want to end up like Philly and sign an Igoudala type player as the face of your franchise.

  • G

    Yea on paper theyre not bad, and youll def be able to clown someone when you beat them with the Nets in 2K10. But that doesnt really translate into real wins. Theyll be in the lottery again next year.

  • dagwaller

    Lopez should’ve been the ROY…

    Heckler, for future reference, rookie contracts can last as long as 4 years. So in 3 years, Evans, Harden, and Griffin WILL still be on their teams, unless you think cheap young talent is so easily traded. OJ Mayo will still be in his rookie contract, too.

    Other than that, I tend to agree with you. The “baby Bulls” had a promising core, but they never did anything with it – they should’ve traded SOMEbody for a post presence a few years ago. The Blazers should consider trading some of their “very good” players on the bench for a star player, or else they’ll suffer the same fate…

  • Arrogant

    i think one more year they will be a playoff team…

    terrence williams will be a future all star/ all defense first team..

  • sh!tfaced

    Scary thing is, it’s possible the Nets might end up with Yi as the face of the franchise. If that happens, they’ll be the NBA’s best kept secret except in China.

  • UncheckedAggression

    Yeah seriously, Yi seems to get way too much attention/credit. From what I remember, he hit a wall long before the end of the season last year. It’s funny that a guy like Yi keeps being given opportunities to start while Beasley was coming off the bench last year. Some dudes just keep getting talked up.

  • Kobeef

    I was really high on Terrence Williams coming into the draft but his summer league play gave me the impression that his shot is more broken than we thought. It’s going to be tough to unseat Courtney Lee with a broken shot.

    Harris is awesome and is going to lead this team in points and assists. The Suns screwed up royally when they rejected the chance to get Harris and Howard for Nash and Marion a few years ago.

    I am not as sold on Lee as some. Hitting jump shots on last year’s magic team was pretty easy for him because most of the time he was open.

    Lopez is as good as almost any young Center not named dwight. He can score (better than dwight actually), rebound and defend which is perfect.

    Yi is the missing piece for this team. If he becomes the player a lot of people see in him, this is a very dangerous young team. If he is just OK – this team is just OK.

  • Kobeef

    Oh yeah – is it just me or do Devin’s feet look huge in that picture? He looks like the letter “L”

  • j5

    They will be better than people think, and more fun to watch that’s for sure. But playoffs? Not so sure..

  • dmitry of jersey

    the Nets ARE a secret in the east, sort of. I have the pieces to sneak into the playoffs like the Hawks a few years ago.

    Two points I need to make as a Nets fan:

    1. The Nets will not go anywhere in the near or distant future unless they get a better coach. Frank is crap, and my hope of Nets making the playoffs this year assumes Frank is replaced.

    2. Losing VC was a GOOD thing. Not only is his contract horrible, but he was just good enough to make the Nets a 7 or 8 seed every year. Yay we get to lose to Boston or Cleveland and not get a lottery pick. Good fuckin riddance if you ask me… and believe me Orlando fans, you will see what I mean soon enough.

  • karizmatic

    The Nets have some good pieces, quite frankly I don’t think Terrence Williams will be that good and I was waiting all last season for CDR to show some of the great play I expected out of him, but I haven’t seen that either. As far as Rafer he’s going to revert back to his old self on a team he knows has no shot of winning, maybe he’ll get traded by allstar break, and look for Courtney Lee to have a handful of terrible games at the beginning of the season and be in a funk for the rest of the season as he watches his former team dominate the East and whines about how they traded him. I like Drew Harris and all and I would have put him on my honorable mention list of NBA point guards at seven behind TP, CP3, Billups, Nash, D Will, and Kidd. But with all that being said the Nets should consider it a good season if they win more than 30.

  • Mellmeister

    The Nets will be getting the 7th or 8th seed this season. Devin Harris will have a good year, Brook lopez will be a poorman’s Tim Duncan and Courtney Lee would make Orlando feel bad for losing him… They are a sleeper in the east, and the only thing that can make this team make a huge splash is the China-Man Yi Jian Lian. He can put buckets and do what he’s supposed to and this team would be dangerous than the hawks. :)

  • BRUCE

    This is the season, many of you will realize the fraud Yi really is! Let the season start already! Expect the Nets to start looking for Yi replacement, either by the trade deadline or via the draft!

    D-Harris is the face of the franchise. All depends on Harris. How Harris goes, so does the Nets!

    Yi — I just hate that doggone China-man and I am Chinese!

  • Scott

    Gerald did you really mean to refer to Rafer “sulk to my lou” Alston as a leader?

  • SIC

    Very Nice article.

    Though I agree with everything you have stated, I think you really should underestimate how huge the potential of Lopez is. Lopez has the potential to be top 5 Center in this league

    As for those that are on the fence with Yi, he is going to be good. I dont think he is going to be as good as Yao, but for this team 15pts 6 rbs is good enough.

    Those that dont see it, prepared to be shocked. This team will be better then what the pundits are writing.

  • Yoooo

    They won’t be in the playoffs, but they’ll be cool to watch. especially since I live in Jersey… The Nets have always had terrible benches (since Armon “the Hammer” Gilliam days) and they still have a sorry ass bench. It’s like the GM only ever thinks about the first 5 and couldn’t care less about the rest of the team.

    Couple years downt he road though.. They can be the Blazers of the East. Lee probably won’t stay since he’s been bitchin EVERY week (he’s not the kind of guy who would do well living in jersey anyway. Dude needs to have a box of Cleenex sewn to every pair of jeans, all he does is effin cry). CDR could be Kerry Kittles-ish, but Frank would never give him the freedom that Kerry had back in the day to flourish. Lopez, T-Will, Harris is very solid. Yi could definitely be the piece that makes them a top tier team in 2 years or so. If they should luck up and get a Superstar free agent (it’ll never happen though) then they’re bound for the chip. This is a win ready team, they just need a little more experience and another
    dude to be the focal point of the offense. You’re not going to make it too far when Devin is leading your team in scoring

  • robmo35

    Here’s the NBA’s worst kept secret. The Nets are going to suck next year

  • akrflipz89

    @ Yoooo

    You’re right about one thing; they’ve always had terrible benches, but I might have to disagree with the Nets having a terrible bench players this year.
    If you’ve been following the Nets last year, Keyon Dooling and jarvis were one of the bright spots. And you add another excellent backup in rafaer alston and courtney lee, the Nets are pretty deep in the wing.

  • Brown

    Alston can’t be considered a leader. He seems to have a personality that clashes with coaches on a regular basis, and he definitely doesn’t lead by example.

    Devin Harris and Brook Lopez are the face and future of the franchise. There’s no way Yi develops into a player better than what either one of those two is right now.

    They have a very young starting lineup and not many veterans to spell them. They’ll take their lumps this year and hope to draft a 4 or 2/3 in the lottery.

  • SIC

    @ Yoooooo

    Yo! Yeah in the past years the Nets have had bad benches, but last year and this year the benches are fine.

    Harris, Lee, Hayes, Yi, and Lopez will start. Dooling, Alston, CDR, T. Williams, Simmons, Najera, Batie, Hassel, Boone, and S. Williams will come off the bench. That isnt a bad bench.

    Yooooo, you are totally off here too. Lee hasnt been bitching every week. It has been Dwight Howard bitching. Lee is fine. Google it buddy. Lee has had interviews where he has stated he is fine. Lee is more like Kittles then CDR. Kittles was a very good defender and had range. CDR still hasnt proven that he can defend and really doesnt have range. Why would you give a rookie drafted in the second round freedom to do whatever?

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    a lot of you are dumb fucks. i know you all love bball and the nba, but some of yall are just plain silly minded. simple fucks you are.

    JUST BECAUSE YOUR IN YOUR ROOKIE CONTRACT DOESNT MEAN YOU WONT GET TRADED!! it happens all the time. dumb asses.

  • JayMS

    The nets will definitly surprise. If the chemistry is right this team will make some noise this season. They have guys that can drive to the basket very well in DH, TWill, CDR, and CLee. Brook will be top 5 center this season. If yi step up and plays with confidence a more aggressive that will make it all work.

    One thing I keep reading is the optimism about TWill by so many people, i think he will be good but i really doubt he’ll be better than CDR. CDR has so much potential but people tend to shy away from it because his style is somewhat unorthodox. It may not be the prettiest thing but the guy gets it done. He also plays pretty good defense when it comes to playing the playing the passing lanes and suh because he is so lanky. I think CDR should start at the 3.

  • ab_40

    their core is so so and they can go for 28 wins this year.

    what I don’t get is that portland is just as young as those other “young” teams and they are about to take the next step this season. and that wont be a step a la the bulls a few years ago way down hehe

  • a.y

    Did you just put Rafer Alston and leadership in the same sentence???

  • Irishballer

    trade rafer alston for a startable veteran small forward

  • Yoooo

    To me Jarvis Hayes, Dooling & Hassel are not 3rd stringers. Maybe not Hayes as much as the other two, since he definitely put in work last year. But Dooling is a bum dog. His game is ugly and he forces a LOT of his own terrible shots, trying to be like Devin. Najera is always hurt so I can’t judge him. Boone/Williams/Alston are definitely solid at what they do (I like Boone, he is DEFINITELY better than a lot of people know. Tough as hell.) The Nets bench doesn’t hold a candle to the other good teams in the L for the most part. They have not one guy who can put the ball in the bucket consistently off the bench… I think CDR can, but Frank is an idiot so he won’t develop the right way.

    I definitely see a lot of Kerry Kittles in Lee as well, but the awkwardness in CDR’s game is almost EXACTLY like Kittles. From the long ass arms to the big ass adam’s apple.

    Harris, Lee, T-Will, Yi, Lopez is OK for summer league. Throughout an 82 game season, NO sir. Throw an elite shooting guard in there though and you’re looking at a Top 3 seed for sure.

    They’re going to be EXACTLY like the Blazers as long as these dickheads don’t start selling players off to pay for the move to Brooklyn (which disgusts me by the way).

    And they need to move the Nets to The Roc in Newark. That building is dope as hell. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better than the crusty ass Meadowlands. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put an arena 2 min from where ALL of the sewage in Jersey goes was a flupping moron. The Roc is just gorgeous with ALL of the amenities of the best arena’s in the world (with the exception of the new Cowboys stadium)

    For the record though, I’m a Laker fan. But I definitely want to see a winner in Jersey

  • Yoooo

    TYPE: To me Jarvis Hayes, Dooling & Hassel ARE*** 3rd stringers.

  • hadoken

    just get the nets out of that $hitbox they play in and move into the prudential center where the nj devils play. they can’t expect to be respected as a franchise when you play in a budget ass arena and a brand spanking new one is semi-vacant and 10 miles down the street.

  • http://sevendeu2u.wordpress.com/Real Seven Duece

    Real talk, if the Nets got the chance to draft John Wall while still having Devin Harris, do you think they’d do it?

  • the cynic

    Brook is going to be a beast, Devin Harris is good, and Lee is nice. Not sure if anything else is there though

  • Mack Brownee

    broooooooooooklyn!

  • djheavyduty

    the east is very shakey this year
    the Nets could be close to 500
    Indy suspect and injuries
    DC Hibachi has been watchin the Hitachi
    Philly no center or outside shooters no PG
    Atl no defense of half court offense
    Toronto Bosh aint happy and aint stayin
    NY hahahahahahahahahhahaahhahahhahaha ha!
    MIL is Joe alexanger the answer…
    Chi maybe the 5th best team?
    MIA needs more than wade and psycho Beasley
    CHA zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    The Nets could be fierce!!
    Lots of new players competing for time
    and veterans playing for their last contracts
    sounds like an 8 seed to me!
    NJ Nets vs Cle Cavs 1st round

  • theArsenal

    Devin Harris is mad geih

  • flavur

    I’m sure that the nets are gonna suck next year I mean like most teams that are fun to watch most of those teams are also some of the worst teams in the L.

  • MSkittle

    No way playoffs! 20 wins at best.

  • http://dime fan

    You can’t win w/ Devin Harris. AGAIN he isn’t a point guard. He’s closer to Tony Parker. It’s why the Mavs got rid of him. He doesn’t make anybody better. He’s gotten better. Take down the scoring and bring up the assists all scoring guards if you can. In this case he can. Devin could be like a Deron Williams. He has the talent but plays more like Felton. You have to control tempo, pace, get people good looks. Be an extension of the coach. Put yourself in some of your teamates shoes. Where are they most comfortable and effective. It’s not that hard. Practice and Study tape. Scoring and highlights don’t mean &*^%. Ask Steph,S.Franchise,Baron,Gilbert,A.I. WINNING IS EVERYTHING. I laughed the other day and wondered how some of the greats were so simple and yet way more efficient. DING DING DING. Winning for DUMMIES or Selfish new generation players. You’d get more money,sponsors,girls LOL, all stars, rings, Video game covers, Be rapped or song about. Come on guys get back to the basics. With the skill set & athletcism of some of these guys today. The fundamentals are missing. Add that and man. The game would unbelievable. You could purchase more at 4.99 respect.game.com.

  • coolnet

    I am truly in a quandry… I can’t decide whether the Nets will win 29 games, or 39. I too love the young nucleus we have, Brook, Devin, Courtney et.al.; was ecstatic Terrence Williams fell to us in the draft; think Yi will regain the form he had just prior to breaking his pinkie; think Jarvis Hayes is a first stringer who should win 6th Man of the Year and will be a leader and an anchor for the team. Here’s the main question I cannot answer; with Vince Carter gone, who will opposing teams double team? Brook? Devin? Courtney? And more critical, how will they respond? Will the Nets become a turnover prone team (Harris’ asst/to ratio wasn’t that great last year) and win 29 games, or will they adjust, pass well out of the double teams and win 39? Or more? This question will be answered fairly early in the season. Secondly, Devin Harris is now the de facto team leader. Is he ready? Can he handle that leadership role? When he was in Dallas it was Dirk’s team, up to now Vince was the Nets leader. Of course, this will also reflect how effective the Nets coaching staff is, and there’s been significant change there this offseason, just not the one I hoped for…