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Bright Spots

By Ted Remsnyder
   Despite the other shortcomings on the roster, it is undeniable that the Nets are set for the future at the two most important positions - point guard and center. With Devin Harris being unleashed in the dribble-drive offense, he's averaging 22.6ppg (7 above his career best -last year's 25 games as a Net) with 7 assists. These numbers are a bit inflated considering the entire offense on a losing team is built around him, Rajon Rondo for instance puts up half the points of Harris but has arguably had a better season with 11.4ppg, 8.4apg, and 5.3rpg  plus superior defense for the defending champs. Another close comparison was the year Jameer Nelson was having through 42 games for Orlando as their fourth option after Howard, Lewis, and Turkoglu, averaging 16.7ppg and 5.4apg while shooting 50% from the field, 45% from 3, and 88% from the line. Harris this season is 44%, 30% from 3, and 82%. The three-point difference there is stark. 

   Brook Lopez has been a steal. He's played all 67 games and started 59 of them (remember when Josh Boone was the starter?). He's put up 12.7ppg and 7.9rpg and is probably the runner-up behind Derrick Rose for the Rookie of the Year. The reign of Jason Collins, while I do think he was unfairly maligned,seems like a distant memory. Lopez is the best center the Nets have had since 2001-2002, when Todd MacCulloch roamed the paint and even he only averaged 9 and 6 that year. Lopez has already eclipsed him in his first season. Hopefully Lopez can continue to improve, because so much of the Nets future relies directly on him.  

   We know Lopez and Harris are two of the best young players in the league but where do they rank exactly? Using the 2003 Draft (i.e the Lebron class) as a starting point, how would a draft look of the twenty best young players  players from the past six classes? Of course, once you get past the top 5 or ten, things start to get subjective quickly, but this is how I would rank them. Keep in mind this is entirely based on which players will help you win championships not salaries or fantasy stats.

1.LeBron James
2.Dwight Howard
3.Dwyane Wade
4.Chris Paul
5.Kevin Durant
6.Brandon Roy
7.Deron Williams
8.Derrick Rose
9.Chris Bosh
10.Al Jefferson
11.Carmelo Anthony
12.Danny Granger
13.David West
14.Brook Lopez
15.LaMarcus Aldridge
16.Rajon Rondo
17.Devin Harris
18.Andre Iguodala
19.David Lee
20.Andrew Bynum

   You could argue that Lopez hasn't even earned that favorable a position on that list considering two rookies with better numbers, Mayo and Beasley, aren't included and Aldridge does average 18 a game. A ranked him so favorably because  young, true centers are so rare these days. Bynum is better than Lopez, but his already long litany of injuries is scary, which brings to mind Greg Oden, who is conspicuous by his absence. Harris is ranked fairly, at best he could climb one spot if you prefer him over Rondo. 

   In the final analysis, you can look at this list two ways. On the positive side, the Nets are one of only three teams, along with Portland and New Orleans, to have two players represented. Of those three franchises, clearly the Blazers are in the best position considering Paul Allen's deep pockets, while the other two are in a state of flux financially. On the negative side, in a superstar driven sport, where one megastar can dominate the league, the Nets do not have that player on their roster. Once a decade, a team like the 2004 Pistons can slip through and win a title without that guy, but it's very rare. So in the end, the only player that matters is the number one guy on the list because he'll either be winning all those titles with the Cavs or Knicks and everybody else will be playing the role of the '90s Suns, Blazers, Knicks, Sonics, and Pacers teams that always came up short. But hey, maybe LeBron will decide to play baseball for a year or two.