The Wheels Are Spinning Again in New Jersey
Every year the New Jersey Nets struggle early in the season, prompting calls for them to shake up their roster and trade one of their “big three.” Shortly after, they usually find a way to right the ship, play better basketball and climb the pathetic Eastern Conference standings. The calls for change stop and everybody settles for another year of Nets playoff basketball.
Nothing has changed this season, as the Nets looked awful over the first few weeks of the year but have since turned it around and now sit at a very average 17-17. New Jersey seems poised to take advantage of their inferior conference and manage 40-44 wins and a likely #4 seed, behind the Celtics, Pistons, and Magic. This regular season will likely lead to a familiar playoff outcome from the last few years: a first round series win against a below average team and a second round loss to one of the big dogs in the conference.
Consider the best case scenario for the Nets for the rest of this regular season. New Jersey plays solid basketball for their last 48 games and finishes 43-39. Due to the mediocrity surrounding them, they manage a home playoff first round series as a number 4 seed. They care of business and are now left to face either Boston or Detroit in the second round.
All roads to the NBA Finals for the Nets require stops at Detroit and/or Boston. It is pretty clear that in a 7 game series, the Nets cannot beat one of these teams, if even make it a competitive series. They are currently an ugly 0-4 against the two powerhouses, including three double digit losses. Their next chance comes this Friday at home against the Celtics, a game the Nets must compete in to gain some confidence about their post-season hopes.
In reality, the Nets are headed to another playoff birth with another second-round exit. How many years will this be acceptable to the franchise? It is becoming common practice over the past few years for the Nets, as they stumbled against the Pistons, Heat, and Cavs over the last three seasons. This current roster is a playoff-caliber one because it plays in such a weak conference. If the Nets ever expect to get on the level of Boston and Detroit or one of the Western powerhouses, a major move is necessary, otherwise the wheels will keep spinning in East Rutherford.
If you at how the Nets match-up against a team like the Celtics, there is a clear advantage for Boston around the basket. New Jersey doesn’t have a big man capable of even slowing down Kevin Garnett. Even if Jefferson and Carter can find a way to match Pierce and Allen’s production, it leaves the Nets at a major disadvantage. When facing the Pistons, the Nets simply aren’t deep enough to challenge the rejuvenated Detroit bench.
The good news for Nets fans is that you can expect to be buying playoff tickets again. The bad news is that there won’t be any championships coming to North Jersey anytime soon, unless the Giants get lucky over the next few weeks.