Monday, February 18, 2008

Next year's Nets could be this year's Celts

If the Nets are able to receive the final league approval on this relentless Jason Kidd trade it will have been a windfall for team president Rod Thorn. Today he holds a roster that possesses some significant talent with some significant price tags. This talented core has been choking the Nets of any serious depth for years now and both Jason Kidd and Vince Carter are well past their primes even though the contracts are yet to peak. The most this years team can hope for is a meek first round exit in an even meeker conference.

Last year the Boston Celtics were only considered to be a nominally better franchise than the Knicks. This year they enjoy being the belle of the NBA ball. New Jersey could enjoy similar fortune come next year and Rod Thorn appears willing to roll the dice. The key is completing this first deal.

Once Devin Harris is in the fold Thorn appears poised to search for more deals. See what pieces he can find in the clearance bin of the NBA. He's currently targeted Mike Miller of the Memphis Grizzlies, and has the expiring deals to make it happen. He also seems determined to ship out Vince Carter to the highest bidder. Even if he sells Carter for 30 cents on the dollar it's important to keep in mind he only paid about 28 cents on the dollar to bring him to New Jersey in the first place.

Casual fans may lament these trades. A starting back court of Devin Harris and Mike Miller would get run off the court in all star votes going up against veteran luminaries Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. The contracts are certainly no match either. Harris and Miller while handsomely paid are not on max contracts like Kidd and Carter. But star power and bank accounts aside, a Harris/Miller backcourt is actually more efficient than the current one in New Jersey. It's not a landslide gain, about ~0.8 of PER, but considering that this modest gain comes in at half the price it shows how it can affect the team elsewhere.

If the rumored Carter for Indiana's Jermaine O'neal swap happens, his addition to the potential backcourt and joining Richard Jefferson and the promising Sean Williams has New Jersey looking at what could be one of the most formidable starting fives in the eastern conference. As well as a 5 man unit that can legitimately hope to compete with western conference powers.

Now it's unlikely that all three deals to build my proposed powerhouse will be completed. There's a chance none will be completed. My point is that the Nets have the assets to make other teams consider these deals and Rod Thorn has a good track record and is willing to pull the trigger on a deal when it's going to help his team over the long run.

Rod Thorn found value for Jason Kidd, more than many thought he could. I suspect he'll also find value for Vince Carter in the form of a draft pick and salary cap relief, possibly enough to let the Nets make some noise in free agency in a couple years to complement what could be a very potent core. Come this time next year teams like Miami and Cleveland could be bidding for his services trying to appease their own franchise players.

If Danny Ainge was able to turn last year's Celtics team into this year's Celtics team then there's no reason to think Rod Thorn shouldn't be able to work similar magic. The Nets are poised for a quick clean rebuilding in the next 12 months. Come next years playoffs I fully expect the team to be among the favorites in the east.

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