It's time. It's time to come to terms with the fact that Alan Anderson and Jarrett Jack can't play together. I admit I have issues with Anderson as a player, but I have faith in Jack, at times, to run this team off the bench. He adds a tempo to this team that Lionel Hollins advocated when he signed on as new head coach and is tough to guard when he isn't trying to force passes in between three defenders.
However, the two, good in their own ways individually, are not a good unit together, according to the data. Anderson and Jack have shared the floor for 323 minutes this season, the ninth most of any two-man combination on the Nets this season, according to NBA.com. This is a huge mark for two bench guards, especially when the Nets have a LOT of guards and swingmen on the roster. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Sergey Karasev all warrant playing time now.
In those 323 minutes, the Nets have a plus/minus rating -57, Not good. In fact, it's tied for the second worst plus/minus on the roster only behind Jack and Deron Williams who are, uh oh, a grotesque -82 and tied with Jack and Brook Lopez.
Before diving into this, lets talk about why Jack is struggling in different Nets sets this season. Jack plays a very volatile style of basketball. He plays fast. He takes inefficient mid-range jumpers at will, and sometimes tries to do too much. Jack has done some good for this team. During the Nets west coast road trip, which seemed to expose the chinks in their roster, Jack was the catalyst to what seemed to be a deep a bench. Now? Hollins isn't as quick to substitute the recent Georgia Tech graduate. It has been a struggle for Jack of late. In December, Jack is averaging four fewer points, half a turnover more, and is shooting 18% worse from the floor (31.7%).
However, the Nets have to play Jack. Brooklyn has no other natural point guards on the roster anymore after the trade of Jorge Gutierrez. Darius Morris is more a combo guard, as his D-League experience shows. Could this lead to a move that would bring a pass-first point guard to Brooklyn before the trade deadline? That's up to the front office.
Anyway, lets look at why Hollins sees the need to roll out Jack and Anderson together. Well for one, Jack is going to get playing regardless because of the roster construction. Anderson seems to have fallen into the Tony Allen role from Hollins' coaching days in Memphis. Allen does not provide much on the offensive end except for efficient cutting and the ability to keep the floor space. But what he lacks on that end he makes up for on the other. Allen is an incredible defender who locks down any player given to him: point guard, shooting guard, small forward; all of them fall into Allen's realm. Anderson does fit the mold. two-guard size, ability to space the floor, and known for hard defense. Here's the defense between the grit-and-grind king Allen and Anderson: Anderson isn't that great on defense and has all of two moves on the floor (quick trigger three, head fake and drive).
In spite of this, Hollins continues to give Anderson time, in bunches, along with Jack. But this all draws back to one glaring fact. The Nets are built this way. Brooklyn doesn't (yet) have a player that can fill that Tony Allen role. Anderson is just the closest alternative. Maybe, at some point, Markel Brown will fit in that mold.
Where can Hollins find this defense and playmaking ability that Jack and Anderson, as bad as they've been, provide? First, it starts with giving Bogdanovic more time. The rookie seems hesitant to make hard drives to the basket or let it fly from beyond the arc. Hollins wants him to be aggressive and has given him the sixth man role, where aggressiveness is the first attribute. Bogdanovic has great size and can play with the ball in his hands. While not a point guard, Bogdanovic can give the Nets another player that can dribble and create for others. His Euroleague coach had him focus on being the initiator on pick-and-rolls. Bogdanovic's defense is not ideal, but he has the size to keep up with small forwards.
What has plagued the Nets this season, and the two prior to this, is lack of motion. Bogdanovic has provided that this season, and has been for the most part the only Net who cuts off the ball and makes an effort to stay within the flex offense. In the play above, with Jack, Anderson and Bogdanovic on the floor, the Nets work the ball around in the flex, baseline back screens galore, and get an easy short corner jumper. Jack and Anderson do a whole lot of dribbling without doing a whole lot of moving, and maybe they will do better with a creator who doesn't garner a whole lot of touches like Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic is averaging less than a touch per minute, according to SportVu data this season.
Bogdanovic has the potential to be an all-around star in this league with his ability to stay within the Nets' game plan, hit shots, and use his basketball IQ to his advantage. Seeing more Bogdanovic again can put the end to the Jack and Anderson duo of pain, and could get the Croat's back on the right trajectory, which is towards All Star status if he can find the guy who played well in the first few weeks of the season.
That could happen in Toronto Wednesday, with Karasev out. We shall see.
Stats are updated as of December 17