For the past three seasons, the Nets' sixth man role was pretty clear cut before opening day.
In their first two years, it was obvious that Andray Blatche was the guy trying to make an impact off the bench. During his two-year tenure in Brooklyn, Blatche averaged roughly 11 points and five rebounds per game. He started in only 15 games. Last season, it was Jarrett Jack -- who will be starting point this season -- after averaging 12 points and five assists in 28 minutes per game.
With Jack at the point and the Nets having gutted most of last year's bench, have to find someone new. Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic are all on different teams now.
The sixth man role is important for several reasons. It's important for coaches to get certain guys to develop a rhythm in different roles. For Hollins last season, bringing in Jack provided a scoring punch with a unit that certainly struggled to put the ball in the hole. Good coaches understand the importance in players who can change the pace of the game during moments of stagnation.
The starting lineup is often marked as the five best players on the team, which in some cases is true, but most certainly not all of them. Hypothetically speaking, if the Nets' bench is struggling mid-season and Hollins needs to make adjustments, he could always move someone like Bojan Bogdanovic to the second unit and let him take over the same way Jack did last season. You lose him with the first unit, but his ability to change the pace of the game against weaker second units could be a game changer.
This is why the Nets must find their guy. Bojan Bogdanovic is too important to come off the bench, along with the four other projected starters. So we ask, who might be the Nets' sixth man this season?
The Nets aren't getting enough credit for potentially nabbing a bargain in Bargnani at $1.4 million this year. The very vague statement "if he's healthy" is always out there, yet the same argument can be used for any player in the league. History says he IS injury prone, having played a half a season or less the last three years, but with less pressure and fewer minutes, Bargnani could find the perfect niche with the Nets.
It also helps that he wants to be here, bad. He's even said how he would've played for free, citing his "crazy bad luck" with the Knicks the past two seasons. He's also playing with a chip on his shoulder after harsh comments from Phil Jackson continued over the summer. He declined to comment about Phil's words. Instead, he said he'll let his play do the talking. (He also said he'd only talk about Jackson's comments once Eurobasket was over. It's over.)
Or as they say in the Godfather, "Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold."
His situation is similar to Andray Blatche's when the Nets signed him. The pressure was low because they weren't paying him much, and he too, was playing with a chip on his shoulder after he felt betrayed by the Washington Wizards.
In his nine-year career, Bargnani has averaged double digits every single season, 15 points per game over his career. His defense has been suspect over the years, but since he'll be playing against second unit fours and fives, his defensive liabilities may not be as exposed as it's been in years past. Same with his minutes. With this roster especially, he's gonna be relied on to score for the second unit. The other things that he struggles with, such as defense and rebounding, the other guys may be able to handle.
EuroBasket has only reassured us of Bargnani's potential this upcoming season. As we noted in an earlier report, Andrea Bargnani averaged 17.7 points during contests where he saw 20-plus minutes. He shot the ball extremely efficiently, converting 51 percent from the field including 48 percent from beyond the arc. An Italian website described Bargnani's game as 'revived'.
Billy King suggested that Bargnani could back-up Brook Lopez, while also saying, "Andrea will give us the ability to space the floor and complement our other front court players."
The opportunity for a bounce-back season is great for Bargnani. In a pick & roll offense, Bargnani is bound to find success on the offensive end and make for reliable sixth man.
Many are counting him out. Phil Jackson's had his fair share of words. But when we're so obsessed with discussing numbers and analytics, who's to say that Bargnani won't do what he's done his entire career? That is score ... when healthy.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Wayne Ellington
RHJ: I can't see RHJ being labeled as a 'sixth man' because of his offensive liabilities, but I do believe he'll have a sixth man-like impact on the defensive side of the ball. Hollis-Jefferson might be the perfect 'system guy' for Lionel Hollins, who's utilized guys with similar defensive attributes, namely Tony Allen back in Memphis. Hollis-Jefferson looks to be the most charismatic guy on this young Nets team and it may push him into a leadership role in the locker room.
Ellington: Hard to see Ellington becoming the sixth man, but I do see him as one of the most important role players off the bench. He (and Sergey Karasev?) will back-up Joe Johnson and/or Bojan Bogdanovic and it'll be important for him to help spread out the floor with a group of guys that might struggle to hit the long ball.
Like many on this team, Ellington is proud to be a part of Brooklyn Nets basketball. "We've got a group that can get it done, going to play together and we're going to bring it," Ellington said. "Brooklyn basketball, we're going to represent."
Ellington had the best season of his career last year with the rebuilding Lakers, where he averaged 10 points on 37 percent shooting from three. The season before that, he shot 42.4 percent from three. Pair him up with pick & roll center like Bargnani and a defensive hound like Hollis-Jefferson, and we might see an Alan Anderson-like impact from Ellington.
We doubt that Jay-Z comes out with a "6-Man' track by season's end with these potential suitors. It's not even clear who will become the main asset off the bench this season. But we've set our eyes on a few guys this season that'll hopefully step up and adapt into a sixth man role. Whoever it will be -- very well might become a fan favorite around Barclays Center.