The Nets need to go small and give Andrei Kirilenko a shot at "center"

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets have their backs against the wall as they look to put together a complete game against the Miami Heat. The Nets have had issues getting fine production from their big men through the first two games of this series, which has been a major cause of their downfall.

Mirza Teletovic, who isn't even a true "big man," has arguably been the team's best one. Andray Blatche has had moments, but that has been overshadowed by his poor defense and bad decision making on offense. Mason Plumlee improved in Game 2, and the hustle is there, but he has not been able to defend effectively or convert on the offensive end. And unfortunately, Kevin Garnett seems to be on the losing end with his season-long battle with Father Time.

The Nets need a player who can defend Chris Bosh, while also keeping their offense afloat. Enter Andrei Kirilenko.

Kirilenko has become an afterthought on the Nets bench during the postseason, averaging just 12 minutes thus far. Why hasn't Kirilenko seen more playing time, though? He is a terrific defender, with his long arms he can get his hand on any ball, and his ability to move without the ball and keep the floor spaced is rare.

One reason that Kirilenko could be stuck on the bench is that he is not a fine jump shooter ...unlike Teletovic.. The Nets are tying to space the floor as much as possible against the Heat, so Kirilenko could be out of the rotation due to his inability to shoot. But if Kirilenko plays center in the Nets seldom used "super-small ball" lineup, then he can fit perfectly.

On the Eye On Basketball Podcast yesterday, Tim Bontempts of The New York Post brought up an interesting way to integrate Kirilenko into the lineup.

"I would be curious if they (Nets) would play Kirilenko at center and have him be the inside guy and move the ball through him at the high post, the way they are moving the offense anyway."

With the way the Heat go small with Bosh playing center for a long periods at a time, Kirilenko can contain him with his long frame and defensive talent. Kirilenko is not small, standing at 6'9", making him an ideal super-small center.

Bontemps also points out that the Russian can not shoot very well. Eighty percent of Kirilenko's shots came from inside the restricted area, which is bad for a wing player, but not that bad for a center. Most centers take their shots at or around the rim, so why can't the hybrid center Kirilenko get most of his looks from around there?

The Nets also won't see a major drop off in production with Kirilenko at center because of his ability to pass and move off the ball. Brooklyn has looked very old through two games against the statistically older Heat. The team needs Kirilenko out there to get the off-ball offense to work more and be more active. Thirty percent of Kirilenko's offense came off of cuts this season, per Synergy Sports Technology, the most common form of his offense this season. If a defender takes his eye off of Kirilenko for a second, he already lost him. AK has a very high basketball IQ and can make all different kinds of plays and his hustle could be used from this slow-moving Nets team right now.

The Nets are walking on thin ice right now. The ice around them is starting to crack and they are about to fall. Jason Kidd made great adjustments in Game 2 after the Nets poor performance in Game 1. Now in Game 3 he needs to make even more adjustments to try and save his team's season. Part of his strategy is to play the defensive specialist who has rode the bench in two of the team's nine playoff games this far.

Reed's Game 3 Quick Hitters

  • Besides playing Andrei Kirilenko more, Jason Kidd has got to sit Andray Blatche. He just isn't consistent enough and doesn't make the hustle plays that Mason Plumlee does. Even when Plumlee plays poorly, the tenacity is there and he works to get himself to play better. Not Blatche. Once he makes a bad play, it is a slippery slope.
  • I don't want to harp too much on Deron Williams' Game 2 Roy Hibbert-esque game, but it's unacceptable from a team's star point guard to play that bad. The team goes as far as he goes and he needs to be more aggressive and get to the foul line.
  • The Nets have done a great job of swinging the ball around the perimeter and getting good looks from beyond the arc. But for some reason, Alan Anderson refuses to take corner three-pointers. Anderson shot 36% from the left corner and just 21% from the right corner during the regular season, neither great, but he is supposed to be a three-and-D guy. Take three's then.
  • Jason Kidd added an interesting wrinkle to his rotation on Thursday night. He opted to leave Shaun Livingston in for the entire first quarter and bring back in Williams to start the second, leaving him to feast on Miami's second unit. Kidd should continue to keep that part of the rotation in tact, seeing as Williams is due for a big game.
  • The Nets have to keep going under screens for Dwyane Wade. They did it often in Game 2, and it worked. That being said, the Nets have played very lax coverage on Ray Allen through two games, and he has absolutely burned them.
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