A new era of Nets basketball is upon us.  Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, aka the bad guy in every Die Hard movie, purchased the New Jersey Nets in 2010.  The now Brooklyn Nets have been rebranded with a new arena, city, jersey and most importantly, new players.  He may own a miniscule share in the franchise, but Jay-Z has become the most outspoken and recognizable face of the ownership team.  There's a lot of noise and flash surrounding the franchise right now.  The Nets have a ton of focus centered on their image.  You can tell they want to try and knock the Knicks off the perch of New York’s basketball kingdom and a new stadium with fresh new uniforms is a start.  But it’s going to come down to good quality basketball to finish the job.

It’s clear Prokhorov wants the team to compete and will not accept losing.  Despite the team’s lack of success a year ago, he and GM Billy King still brought in players to try and help out Deron Williams.  Williams, who was traded to the Nets in the beginning of 2011 refused to commit long-term to the Nets.  A lot of the rumors suggested that he would bolt once he became a free agent to another destination.  The Nets did everything they could to appease him, including the addition of Gerald Wallace.  It seems as though the franchise did enough because Williams re-signed with the newly dubbed Brooklyn Nets this past July, along with Wallace who re-signed the same day.

Brook Lopez was the face of the Nets before Deron Williams came around.  The team had floundered in the cellar of the East for years while Lopez played well, albeit often sidelined by injuries.  His rebounding prowess has been called into question quite often and he must provide a steady double-double each game, much like teammate Kris Humphries does.

There aren’t a lot of returning players joining the team in Brooklyn this year.  Besides the guys I have already mentioned, MarShon Brooks is poised to begin his sophomore season with the Nets.  He impressed a lot of people his rookie year and could be a very valuable talent coming off the bench.  He would be starting if it weren’t for newly acquired All-Star Joe Johnson.  Johnson and his enormous contract were traded to the Nets in July and a running mate for Deron Williams was born.  Yes, his contract is crippling, but his talent cannot be denied.  He’s still one of the better shooters in the league and is no longer being relied on as the best player like in Atlanta.  He’s the supporting player to Deron Willaims and can defer to Brooks and Lopez.  He’s not going to live up to his contract, but he’s going to be one of the better guards in the Conference.

Joining Johnson for his first year on the Nets is backup PG C.J. Watson.  Much like he did in Chicago with Derrick Rose, Watson will provide relief for the franchise’s superstar guard.  Williams can’t play every minute of each game, so having a guy like Watson hit some jumpers off the bench can prove to be very valuable.  Some points here and there while your superstar is resting often times lead to very good things for a team.

The bench for the Nets, even with Watson and Brooks is average at best.  Andray Blatche, Keith Bogans, Josh Childress, Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Evans don’t strike fear in many opposing teams.  It’s gotta come down to Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, and Gerald Wallace winning games for this team.  I like the combination of that starting lineup, though, hence my optimism for them this season.  Not a single one of them would be considered ball hogs by any stretch of the imagination and with a playmaker like Deron Williams running things, it all could gel together perfectly.

Season Outlook: Deron Williams will emerge as an MVP candidate and the Nets make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

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