So how close are the Nets to contending? Taking into account their talented back- court of Devin Harris, Vince Carter and backup Keyon Dooling and the emergence of big man Brook Lopez, the Nets are closer than most people think. That means team president Rod Thorn and GM Kiki Vandeweghe need to be selective on draft night.

Trading Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian left a huge void in the front- court. Jefferson was the proto-typical small forward. He could get to the basket, he could finish with authority and he developed a consistent 15-17 foot jumper. Yi, although talented, is nowhere near the total package Jefferson is.

The Nets could also use some help at power forward. Several draft experts have the Nets picking North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough or Louisville small forward Earl Park with the 11th pick. The Nets would prefer Duke’s Gerald Henderson or USC swingman DeMar DeRozan, but both are expected to be gone before the 11th selection comes around.

For anyone thinking the Nets will improve themselves via a trade, forget it. Unless the Nets can get back Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire in a blockbuster move, there’s no chance of a major trade.

A draft-day trade is a possibility if the Nets can move a bad contract, but that’s unlikely. Like the rest of the NBA, the Nets are trying to get as far under the cap as they can for the 2010 offseason.

An argument could be made that they are putting too many eggs in one basket, but Thorn, who turned the Nets from a doormat to a finals contender overnight, is one of the league’s top executives. He won’t make a move unless it will improve the team by leaps and bounds. With the backcourt set, finding help for Lopez in the paint is Thorn’s top priority. Look for him to address that with one of the team’s picks, in addition to finding a slasher to complement Carter and Harris.