NBA training camps are underway, meaning it’s time again for Dime’s team-by-team season previews. Last year we debuted the “Highs and Lows” system — predicting the respective ceilings and basements for each team. In other words, what is the realistic best-case and worst-case scenario for the 2009-10 campaign?
Added: Rafer Alston, Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee, Tony Battie
Lost: Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson, Maurice Ager
Ceiling: 8th seed in the East
Even with significant roster turnover, literally nothing has changed as far as predictions for the Nets. Last season I had their ceiling at an 8th-seed, their basement at last-place in the Atlantic, and their ultimate goals focused more on landing a big-time free agent in 2010 than winning in the present. What makes the Nets possibly any better this time around? Well, Devin Harris is coming off a career year (21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg) and seems ready to take the lead as Jersey’s go-to guy. Brook Lopez made a strong case for Rookie of the Year (13 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg) and jumped ahead of Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum as the most promising young 7-footer in the League. Newcomers Lee and Williams are energetic defensive-minded athletes who can also score a little bit; they give the Nets a quick, talented unit 1-through-3 — not to mention Alston is a great backup PG and Chris Douglas-Roberts has potential to be an effective scorer off the bench. And while the Nets’ strength is on the perimeter and in the middle, don’t forget Yi Jianlian was getting rave reviews over the summer at the FIBA Asia Championships and on the NYC playground circuit (no, really). Penciled in as the starting power forward, this could be his breakout year.
Basement: Last place in the Atlantic Division
The Nets missed the playoffs in ’09, and they’ve since gotten worse on paper. And if Vince Carter couldn’t carry them past the Lottery, how is Harris — who’s never been an NBA team’s focal point before — going to get the job done? New Jersey doesn’t have a real power forward, they don’t have any outside shooters, their core is too young, and they’re relying on contributions from injury-plagued vets like Bobby Simmons, Eduardo Najera, Tony Battie, Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes. Harris (who ain’t exactly Cal Ripken himself) and Alston are a good PG combo on paper, but what happens when Skip starts pouting about playing time? He’s in his contract year, and has reportedly already said he wants to be traded. Lopez is a solid foundation piece for the future, Harris is an All-Star, and the franchise just got a free-spending Russian billionaire owner who probably needs his own reality show. That and the new Brooklyn arena — whenever it gets built — will be the sugar that draws a big-name free agent to the Nets, because the team’s performance on the court this season won’t be a good selling point.
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9/28 — Denver Nuggets