Even though it seemed like the Nets were gutted this offseason, the club has 10 players from last year's roster still in the fold. Despite many returning players, the team is completely restructured and no longer considered a title contender by many, unlike last year.
An early look at the Nets' current depth chart reads something like this:
Point Guard: Deron Williams/Jorge Gutierrez/Marquis Teague
Shooting Guard: Jarrett Jack/Alan Anderson/Sergey Karasev/Markel Brown
Small Forward: Joe Johnson/Bojan Bogdanovic/Andrei Kirilenko/Mirza Teletovic
Power Forward: Mason Plumlee/Andrei Kirilenko/Mirza Teletovic
Center: Brook Lopez/Kevin Garnett/Mason Plumlee
There's a lot to chew on here. The Nets are loaded with guys that can play multiple positions, which makes it hard to get a sense on where Lionel Hollins will put players. It seems likely that several of these players will play different positions then the ones listed above, but we will go on based off the one listed above.
Even though this is a very rough draft of a complete depth chart, there is no denying that the Nets weakest position is at point guard. Deron Williams can be an elite point guard once again, but he needs to be healthy for that to be a rational thought. Williams played 32 minutes per game last season, and will likely see an increase in minutes-again, if healthy-due to the Nets lack of primary ball handlers. Last season, the Nets had DWill, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Alan Anderson, and sometimes Paul Pierce running the point.
This year, though, the Nets need to rely on Williams more to the run point more often. Jarrett Jack is a viable backup point guard, but Hollins may opt to play Jack alongside Williams rather than behind the former All Star. Jack can play both on and off the ball. He spent a good portion of his time with the Golden State Warriors two seasons ago playing shooting guard with Stephen Curry on the floor. That season, Jack played 66% of his minutes at shooting guard while the remaining 34% at point guard, per Basketball Reference. Last season in Cleveland, it was split evenly between the two positions ... and his productivity declined.
The Nets have an opportunity to play Williams and Jack together, but it will have its flaws. Jack isn't Shaun Livingston. Jack is 6'3" and a subpar defender; a backcourt of Williams and Jack will lack size and could get torched by a lot of NBA backcourts. Jack's ability to play off the ball will be an intriguing option for Hollins to look at as a starting shooting guard considering the team is thin at true shooting guards and Joe Johnson may start at small forward (we'll get to that soon). Alan Anderson can also see significant minutes with the team this coming season with his ability to space the floor, slash off the dribble, and defend adequately, all things Hollins has to think positively on.
The backcourt is just the beginning of the major decisions that he'll to make. Initially, Hollins needs to decide who is starting at small forward. Joe Johnson spent the second half of the season as the team's starting three, but should he be with this roster? Brooklyn is about to sign Bojan Bogdanovic, who the team is very high on, and is bringing back Andrei Kirielnko who could see minutes at small forward as well as power forward. I can see Johnson playing either shooting guard or small forward, but think that with the potential log-jam at the three -- and the lack of quality shooting guards, Johnson may be best at shooting guard. Jack may be the best option for the Nets at shooting guard if Johnson does indeed start at small forward, and as was noted before, that can be problematic for the Nets on the defensive end.
Looking at the depth at small forward, Bogdanovic is expected to come and play right away. He is 25, about to hit the prime of his career and can handle the ball some, making him a nice complement to the Nets "core" of Williams, Johnson and Lopez. If Bogdanovic can transition to the NBA as quickly as the Nets hope, expect him to be a serious threat for the team off the bench. He might even be the first man off if not a starter at times.
Further down the depth chart, Kirilenko and Mirza Teletovic will likely see a majority of their time at power forward. Both can play the four, Kirilenko with his defensive abilities, Teletovic with his ability to shoot the lights out. Sergey Karasev can also play the three at times, but his skinny frame -- he weighs about 200 pounds -- makes it difficult to project him there because he is a liability at the defensive end right now.
At power forward, Hollins can get interesting. First off, don't expect Garnett to play the four that much this season. The Nets don't believe he can play power forward anymore and see him as their backup center.
Another scenario is Mason Plumlee starting at power forward. The No. 22 pick in the 2013 draft has been working on his mid-range game all offseason and can very well start next to Lopez. On offense, Lopez can be the power forward, taking his game out to 12, 15 feet more often and have Plumlee do most of his damage in the paint, where he was so effective last season. Plumlee ranked third in the league last season in shots inside five feet at just under 71%, trailing only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
If not Plumlee, the best option for Brooklyn may be Kirilenko. AK had a down year in his lone season with the club due to frequent back issues, but did play 91% of his minutes at the four. Hollins, who advocates hard work and has the versatility to defend both forward positions, would welcome Kirilenko's defense. Kirileno isn't undersized for the position in today's game, and can space the floor despite lacking a mid-range game. If not the starting forward, Kirilenko will play a significant amount more time this season with the hope that he is healthy.
After Kirilenko, Teletovic will be the Nets offensive frontcourt asset. I expect both Kirilenko and Teletovic to each play in the mid to high 20's due to their specialties. Depending on the matchup, either one could come off the bench first, if they don't start.
At center, Lopez is the clear starter, but after that, all signs point to Garnett being the backup. It became clear last season that Garnett can not play significant minutes anymore. Jason Kidd was very stringent with KG's minutes last season, only playing him a little above 20 minutes per game, and only in four-to-six minute bursts. With capable power forwards, the return of Lopez, and the emergence of Plumlee, Garnett could stand to play only 15 minutes a night this coming season.
Garnett has aged fast, and he can't keep up with power forwards in today's game; players are too quick and play more on the perimeter than several years ago. Garnett did play center 76% with Brooklyn last season and posted a defensive rating of 101, which is poor for him, but solid on a league-wide scale. Garnett's rotations in the paint plus his ability to protect the rim make him an above average center. He can still space the floor on offense, he shot 46% from 10-16 feet out which was average for his career. Standing nearly 7'0, Garnett can play center in a traditional system, not just small-ball. And don't forget this: none of these projections take into account this fact: KG is playing his last season in the NBA and is very cognizant of his legacy.
All in all, my current pick for the team's starting five is Williams/Johnson/Bogdanovic/Kirilenko/Lopez.
The team follows a more traditional system and has five players who are capable of moving the ball around the floor efficiently. If Bogdanovic meets the expectations that the Nets have set for him, he is starter material. His defense could be suspect at times, an issue for the Nets (and Hollins), but Kirilenko or Johnson could take the more talented wing while Bogdanovic is a bit hidden.
Plumlee is also a viable starter with Lopez considering the team will have so much length in the paint, but this could mean that the Nets are rushing his development as a player. His mid-range game is coming along during the offseason, but the Nets shouldn't rely on it so quickly that it hampers his development.
Jack is likely to see the lion's share of his minutes at shooting guard, but a combination of Williams and Jack could hurt the team on defense. I do think that he should play off the ball, but with the right players alongside of him, so his lack of height isn't that noticeable.
This is all speculation considering the Nets have an insane amount of versatile players, but this is an early primer on who can play were and why.