Despite the best efforts of Devean George (and his worst efforts, too, seeing as he went 0-for-11 on Wednesday night), word around the league seems to be indicating that, one way or another, Jason Kidd is going to become a member of the Dallas Mavericks sooner rather than later.
This makes the Mavs' plan fairly evident: Attempt a more concerted than ever run at a title with their new stud point guard in tow. And apparently without much interior defense.
What isn't quite as clear is where the Nets will be going from here. Besides Brooklyn in a couple of years, that is.
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Theoretically, this should be pretty simple (explanation forthcoming). The real issue right now is figuring out why trade rumors continue to float about the Nets possibly looking to acquire Jermaine O'Neal for Vince Carter or attempting to pry Mike Miller loose from the Grizzlies for some expiring contracts. Because it's a mystery to me. Several weeks back, I wrote that trying to dump VC for O'Neal would be a potentially excellent move for the Nets, because a team featuring O'Neal, Jefferson and, of course, Kidd would give O'Neal a legitimate shot to rehabilitate his career and give the Nets a far better shot at winning in the relatively near future than they had as currently constructed. With Kidd about to be gone, taking on another player with a long-term deal whose skills and joints have aged far beyond his 29 years seems like a foolish idea. Same goes for bringing in a player like Miller, who can do a nice job as a second or third option but certainly isn't taking this team to another level at any point in the near future.
Once Kidd is gone for sure, it would certainly appear that the wisest choice moving forward would be to break everything down and build from the bottom up. Besides Carter and Richard Jefferson, the other critical cogs remaining on this team will be newly acquired point guard Devin Harris (24 years old), second-year back-up point Marcus Williams (22), young big men Josh Boone (23) and Sean Williams (21), possibly Stromile Swift (28) and whatever is left of the once-promising Nenad Krstic (24). In fact, there isn't a single other player on this team signed past the end of this season. This is good.
The issue then becomes figuring out which of those guys should really be kept around long-term. Harris is the key get of the Kidd deal, and chances are he should be the point guard for some years to come, if the Nets can keep him in town. Sean Williams has the potential to be a great shot-blocker and defensive force in this league. Those are the two most valuable young pieces by far. Beyond that, it comes down to figuring out what Krstic will be able to give the Nets long-term and deciding from there whether or not he or Josh Boone (a solidly scrappy front-court player, although he'll never be a stud) is expendable. Marcus Williams still has a fair share of physical talent, and it's probably worth keeping him around, although he certainly wouldn't be untouchable in any blockbuster deals. Given his history of attitude problems everywhere he has played as well as his age, Swift probably won't be a part of the picture in the long haul.
All that in mind, the Nets' true direction going forward will be determined by what they do with their two most prominent remaining players. It's easy with regard to Carter: He has to go. The man has proven time and time again that he is a loafer rather than a winner and that he will consistently fail to live up to his immense physical promise when all is said and done. He puts on a very nice show when he wants to, but he isn't the world's most coachable dude or the best teammate around, and the Nets need to find nearly any way they can to get him off their hands. Bringing in JO for Carter is no longer a solid idea; dumping VC for any sort of expiring contracts-young talent-picks package possible is quite viable. Yes, Carter has a monstrous contract, and no, not a single team in the league should be interested in him, but the fact remains that someone always is. It's how this league works. Someone always thinks that his team has the next great coach and psychologist to get an immensely talented player to get his act together mentally. If the Nets can just find away to dump VC's salary without taking on too much of a long-term commitment in return, they will have gained themselves a crucial victory.
The final question lies with Jefferson. He will have three years and $42 million left on his deal after this season, which is more than enough money to pay a guy who has scored and done little else in his breakout season. RJ's rebound numbers have been way down over the past two seasons (4.4 rebounds per game, compared to 6.8 and 7.3 over the two previous seasons), and he isn't a great passer in the first place. That said, he has very good size and quickness for a swingman, and he has become a dynamic scorer at the three for the Nets. Furthermore, despite very recent allegations that RJ dropped the bop on some unsuspecting patron at a hotel on a road trip, he has established a legacy of being one of the good guys in this league. He is extraordinarily well-spoken and has the capability to be a leader. That said, he still has that aura of "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" when it comes to being the number one option on a good team, and if the Nets can find a team willing to overpay for Jefferson in young talent and draft picks, the move should probably be made.
One way or the other, trading for veterans should no longer be a part of the New Jersey Nets' plans once the final ties are severed with Jason Kidd. It's time to start over.