Forget, for a moment, whether the Nets actually CAN finish the assembly of their big 3, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson (who they already have) and Dwight Howard, whom they desperately want (and if rumors are to believed, are closer to getting than you may think). Let’s assume they get this done – would the Williams/Johnson/Howard unit be enough to overtake Miami’s triumverate of LeBron/Wade/Bosh? To dispatch Chicago once they get Derrick Rose back? To take out the Lakers, Spurs or Thunder in the West? It goes without saying they’ll be better than the Knicks…Just how good would this collection be, IF Brooklyn can make it happen.
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Needless to say, the Nets would very nearly have to ship out their entire roster to complete this rebuilding of theirs, and the question becomes, would a lineup that includes Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson and 8 guys from the local YMCA be a legitimate contender in the NBA? And the answer is Yes. Dwight Howard has made the Orlando Magic a contender for years now despite a hideously substandard roster (ask Toronto or Washington how players like Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis play once they don’t have big Dwight in the middle), and Howard paired with a premier point guard in Williams, an underrated but very bona fide scoring guard in Johnson (I’d rate Joe Johnson as very much the equal of Paul Pierce), and an athletic wingman in Wallace would be formidable. Formidable enough to take out the Heat? Maybe. Let’s not forget, the Heat have their own issues with roster depth.
Speaking of the Heat, they’ve added the aged (he’s so old, he’s not even “aging” anymore) Ray Allen to the roster, in a move that will undoubtedly make them a better overall team, despite Allen’s advanced age and limits on his playing time. Similarly, adding Jason Kidd will help the Knicks make better (but not optimum) use of their weapons. Veteran leadership can’t be underrated.
Of course, veteran leadership is even better when it comes with still all-star level skills. Just ask the Lakers, who’ve made the biggest roster splash of all this offseason (it will be eclipsed by Dwight Howard, if he moves, but ONLY by Howard) in adding future Hall of Famer Steve Nash. Nash’s skills remain in top form, and he will make everyone on the Lakers, even great players like Kobe, better. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Nash’s presence, however, will be Andrew Bynum. Look at how Amare Stoudemire flourished when Nash was feeding him the ball. The Lakers bigs, sometimes inconsistent and swallowed up by Kobe’s presence offensively, are unlikely to want for touches now that Nash is on the floor. Nash is one of the few players in the NBA who the Lakers could add who will be a legitimate floor general and can take the ball out of Kobe’s hands (without Kobe getting pissed off about it, that is). I’d still rate the Thunder a tiny step ahead of LA, but it’s DAMN close now that Nash is in town.
Hall of Fame backcourt: Nash & Bryant
One final note from the NBA. Brandon Roy will be giving basketball another shot, attempting a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Given the history and nature of Roy’s injuries, the odds are against him, but from what I know about Brandon Roy, if anyone deserves a happy ending to this story, it’s him. Maybe he won’t be able to play at an all star level, but if he can help Minnesota in limited minutes, I’m pulling for him to do it.
You know what’s fun about the NHL? Players aren’t SO rich that they walk away from the best deal. What’s that? It’s a good thing that players go to play for the money? Well, sort of. At least in the NHL, a 12th place expansion team in a small city like the Minnesota Wild can still make an impact in the offseason. The Wild landed two of the most coveted free agents available, winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, and instantly raised the hopes of fans. Compared to the endless desperation that is the middle of the pack in the NBA, it’s nice to see good players going to a team just because that team met their price.
In other free agent moves, the Philadelphia Flyers saw two of their key players sign elsewhere. Ageless Jaromir Jagr, whose successful comeback with the Flyers last year helped them make the playoffs, has moved on to the Dallas Stars. Defenseman Matt Carle, one of the teams top players on the blue line, signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Finally, Anaheim has also solidified their blue line, adding defensemen Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray through free agency. It certainly looks as if there’s a premium on defense this offseason.