Editor's note: This is the first installment of a 12-part series this summer that will profile six Eastern Conference teams and six Western Conference teams who could knock off the Miami Heat. Today we profile the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets' last season in New Jersey was an injury-marred disaster. Center Brook Lopez was done after five games because of a broken bone in his right foot. Star point guard Deron Williams missed 11 games himself, but along with Kris Humphries was one of just two Nets to start more than 50 games. New Jersey lost two of every three games it played and finished in the bottom 10 on both ends of the floor in terms of efficiency. It wasn't like a healthy Nets roster was a prime contender in the first place. In Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12, we forecast the Nets to finish 10th in the East. Thanks to those injuries, they were 12th.
All season, the focus was on the future. Would Williams stay? Could the team trade for Dwight Howard? If so, would the Nets have enough left to field a full roster? By the time the summer ended, we had our answers: Yes on Williams; no on Howard, but suddenly Joe Johnson entered the picture. And with the Nets set for their return to New York after 36 years west of the Hudson, the franchise has seemingly sprung to life.