With the upsetting news that Mirza Teletovic will be out for the remainder of the year with blood clots in his lungs, the Nets need to look to replace the Bosnian gunner. Teletovic was a prominent figure for Brooklyn off the bench, playing about 23 minutes a night, and Brooklyn’s frontcourt depth isn’t so strong. So the team is going to need to get increased production from several players in order to get their season back on track.
Who is going to step up and play minutes at power forward? Expect more Joe Johnson. Johnson has been playing the four in more stretches of late—earlier in the season he would play it down the stretch, but lately it has become more common for him to get first half minutes at power forward—and with his size he is not hurting the Nets from that position. I’m not for playing him all the time at the four, but more minutes there could keep defenses on their heels and help the Nets spread the floor, especially when Mason Plumlee is on the floor as well. It has become evident that Plumlee needs to remain in the paint on offense and needs most of it to roam. Joe could keep the floor spaced, and the two seem to feed off each other well.
Johnson is only going to be able to give a few more minutes at power forward, leaving more minutes for rookie Cory Jefferson. The final pick in the 2014 draft has seen inconsistent minutes, and a trip to the D-League, through his first half-season in the NBA, but he has looked solid playing spot minutes for the Nets. Hollins may see Jefferson more as a three, or in a Teletovic-like role as a small-ball power forward. So Jefferson could fill in nicely in 12-15 minutes per game. Jefferson doesn’t cramp space when on the floor, and he crashes the glass. Would be nice to see him play well.
Also, expect more Jerome Jordan. With the Nets losing a floor spacing four, they need to look more towards going bigger now. Jordan was once a fixture in the Nets rotation, and playing really well, but now he has been relegated to the bench for most of the game. That being said, Jordan is probably going to start getting minutes as Brook Lopez begins to see more minutes at power forward to fill in for the loss of Teletovic. A Jordan/Plumlee lineup may not be in the cards for the Nets, they have been -25 together on the floor in 52 minutes this season and their offensive and defensive numbers are real bad, per NBA.com (I was wrong on this working in small doses). However, Jordan can play. He is a high energy guy who has good fundamentals and plays above the rim. If Lopez plays the four majority of the time now, Jordan can slide in at backup center and play quality minutes.
Speaking of Lopez, expect to see more Plumlee/Lopez pairings. So far, that hasn't worked. The numbers don’t lie: the two aren’t an ideal frontcourt pairing. Even though Lopez has shown the capabilities to play outside of the paint and hit mid-range jumpers at an impressive clip for a player of his stature, it's unlikely to work. Plumlee needs to be in the pick-and-roll to be effective, and Lopez does a lot of work in a pick-and-pop scenario. When they aren’t setting picks, Plumlee is clogging up driving lanes for guards, and Lopez is standing on the elbow, too slow to get out of the way. Plumlee can guard athletic fours while Lopez stays in front of centers.
So far, the Nets have a net rating of -17.3 when the two share the floor, according to NBA.com. It just isn’t working. But unfortunately, here’s the truth: the Nets don’t have many more options except to run those two out there and hope Plumlee’s energy, mixed with Lopez’s scoring, makes something special.
Also, don't be surprised if Bojan Bogdanovic decides to take up the scoring slack. He is the player most affected emotionally by the devastating news out of L.A. Teletovic was his friend and mentor.
Of course, the Nets have an open roster spot which could get filled either through a lopsided trade or a 10-day contract. Of course, there simply aren't a lot of stretch four's out there who can do what Teletovic has done. And even if the Nets acquire someone, it will take some time to acclimate him to the team. Two stretch fours will become available next week when Michael Beasley and Earl Clark are freed from their Chinese Basketball Association commitments. Neither of their teams made the CBA playoffs. As for Andray Blatche, his season is likely to extend through the end of March. His team is one of the top two or three in China. But there's NO indication that the Nets are interested in ANY of them.