Jim Mancari, SNYNets.comWith all the wheeling and dealing the Brooklyn Nets did this offseason, it’s almost easy to forget one of the team’s most important transactions: re-signing power forward Kris Humphries to a two-year, $24 million deal.
The 235-pound rebounding machine has been a major part of the Nets’ offense the past two seasons, and he’ll once again be counted on this season to produce.
But his signing gets lost in the shuffle to bigger deals for Deron Williams (five years, $98 million), Joe Johnson (assumed the four years, $89 million left on his contract), Brook Lopez (four years, $60 million) and Gerald Wallace (four years, $40 million).Basketball is a team game, so the Nets will need all five members of their starting five—not to mention their bench—to contribute offensively and defensively.
Humphries has shown over the past two seasons that he fits this bill precisely.
The aptly-named “Big Hump” settled in with the Nets late in the 2009-2010 season. The Nets were his fourth team in his first six seasons in the league.
Humphries has averaged a double-double in each of his first two full seasons for the Nets. In 2010-2011, he averaged 10.0 points and 10.4 rebounds and in 2011-2012, he gave them 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds.
In fact, Humphries was one of just 10 players to average a double-double per game last season with at least 53 games played, joining the impressive company of Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Andrew Bynum, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcin Gortat, Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo.
With Lopez only playing in five games last season, Humphries was really the only source of production from a Nets’ big man. Mehmet Okur, Johan Petro and Shelden Williams weren’t exactly up to the task.
Maybe Humphries’s stats were padded since he was the only one crashing the boards for the Nets, but either way, he consistently pulled down rebounds and blocked shots.
Though the length of his deal is shorter than the other four members of the starting five, he will be earning $12 million a season—a hefty sum for a team’s fifth scoring option.
But that’s exactly the plan. The Nets are no longer paying Humphries to be a big time scorer. Sure, there will be nights where he’ll score 20-plus points, but the Nets need the Big Hump to clean up on the offensive and defensive boards as well as play intense defense. Though his defense has come under criticism lately, whether or not Humphries starts as the Nets power forward, he'll need to earn his salary and make the most of his minutes on the floor.
Humphries is off to a slow start this preseason as coach Avery Johnson continues to iron out his rotation, only averaging 16.8 minutes per game. However, that number will likely increase to the 25-30 range once the season starts. Whether it increases or decreases will ultimately depend on Big Hump.
Entering this season, Humphries has been an unsung hero for the Nets. Now, with a new team, he needs to re-carve a new niche for himself. In the past, he has inspired his team to play hard with his hustle. So, we'll see if the man who was once an unsung hero for the Nets can rise to a new challenge with a team that has expectations of rising to the top of the conference.
With the Kim Kardashian saga behind him and a rich contract, Humphries may be poised for a huge season in Brooklyn.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.