Avery Johnson: Nets not title contenders yet

The Brooklyn Nets made three major moves this offseason to secure their future and welcome themselves to their new homes. They acquired Joe Johnson in a blockbuster trade and they re-signed Deron Williams and Brook Lopez in moves that solidified the core of this team for its new home city. That does not even mention what Gerald Wallace might still be able to bring.

The Nets wanted to make a splash and they certainly did. This appears to be a Playoff-ready team for its sparkling new home. The question is though whether the Nets have enough to challenge for the top of the Eastern Conference.

Avery Johnson told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News not so fast

Deron was a big key to the whole puzzle. To be able to acquire some other talent through free agency or trades or re-signing some of our own guys, it’s pretty exciting for us. We’re not there yet. We’re not a championship team. We got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had the last two years.

We’re much more versatile than we’ve ever been. Right now, we look good on paper. Now we got to take it from looking good on paper and apply the work to go (forward).

The Nets are not the Heat. They may not even be the Pacers at this point. But Brooklyn is certainly much better than its 22-44 record last year. The team seems a sure-fire entrant into the Playoffs in 2013.

The question the new Nets may not be thinking about right now is what that future might hold. Brooklyn is now the proud owner of the second highest payroll in the NBA at nearly $85.5 million according to HoopsHype. A lot of those are fresh contracts too.

Deron Williams is starting a five-year deal (on a max contract). Joe Johnson is on a pre-lockout deal for four more years at near-max levels. Brook Lopez was signed to a max contract for the next four years. Gerald Wallace is starting a four-year deal. Kris Humphries is starting a two-year deal worth $24 million total.

Getty ImagesThe Nets are staring at a pretty hefty tax bill in a few years with a payroll that should top $70 million the next three years. That means bargain signings like Andray Blatche (although there are still some conflicting reports about whether he has finally agreed to the deal) and import Mirza Teletovic will have to be able to contribute to this team. It is not looking likely that Brooklyn will be able to hold onto many of their key players in free agency the next two or three years because of all these long-term commitments.

In all likelihood, that means this year is the best chance Brooklyn will have to bring home a title. Avery Johnson does not think they are there. The roster does not suggest they are there. And it does not suggest they will be there for a while.

The Nets have a nice team, but certainly not a title contending team. So welcome back to the middle of the pack, Brooklyn.

Image: Star-Telegram

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily