The New Jersey Nets did not make the playoffs this season, yet they can definitely count the 2010-11 season as a success, doubling their win total from the previous season and adding a premier point guard to their roster in Deron Williams. Perhaps more importantly, they did this while retaining clearly the most important piece of their team, young 7 foot center Brook Lopez, making the Nets arguably very attractive for the 2011 NBA Free Agent pool. With an All-Star caliber point guard and a budding future All-Star center, the Nets could use star power practically at any of the other 3 positions, but particularly small forward. Let’s take a look at the Free Agent market for 2011 analyze the best fits for the Nets’ 2011-12 roster.
Rumors are already floating about the Detroit media that Prince and Richard Hamilton may have seen their last days in a Pistons uniform. Prince is an unrestricted free agent this off-season, and is arguably the top small forward in the 2011 free agent class. With a 14.8 PPG average, good 3 point range, and a huge wingspan that has helped this 6’9″ forward become known as a defensive stalwart that is a 4 time All-Defensive team selection, Prince’s game is solid and he is definitely a team player. While Prince is not an elite NBA forward he certainly would give the Nets a bona fide playoff-quality player at the small forward, who at 31 still has plenty left in the tank. Getting Prince would also allow last year’s remaining 1st round pick Damion James time to develop, and allow Anthony Morrow to play at the shooting guard where he’s better suited.
While the fact that Kris Humphries averaging 10 PPG and 10.2 RPG makes obtaining a power forward less of a priority, bringing a solid 20 and 10 player in like Zach Randolph. Randolph has averaged over 20 PPG for the past 3 seasons in a row and 4 of the past 5, and has averaged over 10 rebounds in each of those past 5 seasons, including an impressive 12.1 RPG last season. Of course, Randolph carries with him a reputation of being a me-first guy and a cancer in the locker room, but his attitude-and his numbers-have improved drastically since going to Memphis. No one doubts though that Randolph has the talent to be an elite NBA power forward, and at 29 years old he could be one of the answers for the Nets.
A career 18 PPG scorer and former 2-time NBA Slam Dunk champion, Richardson would arguably be a powerful back court mate for D-Will. Richardson brings a powerful inside game combined with being a serious 3 point threat that makes him very difficult to guard. However, on the subject of difficulties, Richardson has had his problems off the court. His 2008 and 2009 arrests for DUI may be cause for concern for the Nets, who would be bringing him to the fast-paced New York Metropolitan area. If he could handle the spotlight and fly straight, “J-Rich” and “D-Will” could possibly be the back court that Lopez and the Nets need to get them deep into the playoffs.
While Tayshaun Prince seems to be the safest bet, any of these players would constitute a serious upgrade from what the Nets’ roster currently has to offer. Obtaining 2 of these free agents would be ideal, and would likely give the Nets a starting 5 that could compete with the best of the NBA, and making them very attractive for a 2012 Free Agent class that includes Kevin Love, Elton Brand, and Dwight Howard to name a few.