When the Nets acquired Jeremy Lin, both the fans and marketing minds were eager to come up with the phrase ‘Brook-Lin’ . On the court it represented an intriguing pick-and-roll duo between Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez.
It might have been premature to assume it was going to work that way.
The Nets have a completely new system, one that fits the modern NBA style of an uptempo, three-point shooting league. In order to accomplish this, a team uses the motion offense to open guys up on the perimeter. Move the ball, move the ball.
As we’ve seen in the preseason, this has quieted the pick-and-roll. But what we don’t know yet is, how much? Is this just the coach familiarizing his TEN new players (11 if you count Yogi Ferrell) with a new system or something more permanent?
At the same time, we’ve also seen a pretty quiet Brook Lopez in the preseason. Again, going from preseason to the real deal is completely different, but will the new system impact Lopez’s productivity? It is, from what we can tell, something they work on as a team together, day in and day out.
It is preseason and the sample size and incentives are both at a minimum. But in five games that we’ve seen Brook in the new system, he’s 11-of-27 (41 percent) with eight of the 27 coming from beyond the arc. He’s a 51 percent career shooter, so something is up. This part of the change is no experiment. Atkinson was open about his desire for Brook to shoot threes before the season even started.
This is playing to the system, not to his or the team’s strength.
Strength: something Kenny Atkinson heavily emphasized to Kevin Arnovitz over the summer.
"I'm definitely not a systems guy," said Atkinson. "I just love Mike D'antoni's offense, love it. You know, in a beautiful world, spreading the court like that, that would be utopia but I think I'm intelligent enough to understand your players, your players' strengths -- and I'm still discovering our roster -- and if that means slowing the ball down and pounding it inside and that's best for our team and best for our roster, that's what we're going to do.”
That IS what needs to happen more frequently in order for Lopez to be his dominant self. Will it happen starting next week?
Now, let’s fast forward to October 13, the fourth preseason game where the Nets took 35 three-pointers in a motion offense. Here’s what Atkinson said when asked about the lack of pick-and-rolls between Lin and Lopez.
“I really want to establish our motion offense, [not] come down and run a pick-and-roll every time,’’ Atkinson said Friday. “Obviously, we’re going to need that in important times. But right now we’re trying to get the ball moving, trying to get the ball side to side, get everybody their touches. And Brook and Jeremy, they’re both going to have to learn to work within that dynamic.
“When it’s crunch time and we can think about drawing up special plays for getting it to them, you know, pick-and-roll with those two. But I think we’ve still got to progress with our offense. So, we’re not just going to rely on a one-five pick-and-roll all the time.”
Although he’s said he likes the new offense, Lopez admits that it’s been an adjustment for him to transition to the fast-paced offense.
“We’re absolutely looking to our youth and younger guys,” Lopez said of the new offense. “It’s absolutely a different look and it’s something I’ve had to adjust to, but it’s absolutely in the teams best interest.”
So, the motion offense, borrowed and modified from Atlanta, comes with its opportunities for both the deep three’s and the pick-and-roll. Iso plays are extinct… thankfully. The Nets propensity for three-point shots is not an experiment. Nor is Lopez moving to the outside or spinning in the lane. How much we will see it in regular season, after the team gets more comfortable, remains the question.
The Nets plan is smart and it’s geared around how the game is played today and how players in the future will fit in. Right now, however, the system is innovative but they need, at some point, to stay true to their strengths: Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin. The ‘Brook-Lin’ pick-and-roll duo.
Other than those two, there isn’t much offensive talent on the Nets roster. Maybe guys like Bojan Bogdanovic and Luis Scola for now and Caris LeVert later. Unfortunately Bogdanovic and Scola pose as liabilities on the defensive end and when LeVert returns is uncertain, other than Sean Marks saying it will be “a long, long road.”
So, it’s fair to say the roster doesn’t match the system right now. Talent dominates this league and if you don’t have the talent, you aren’t going to compete. Plain and simple. This is why expectations are low and rightfully so.
That being said, they deserve some slack. They missed out on two guys – Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson – who they thought would fit the modern system they have in place. But as we know, it most definitely isn’t about this season and they’ll have plenty of money to spend this upcoming offseason.
So, where does that leave Brook Lopez?
If this continues and the pick-and-roll becomes a rarely used portion of Brooklyn’s offensive took kit, will the Nets look to move the old school big? Without the pick-and- roll, his contribution will be limited in this type of offense, depending on what things look like starting next week. They’d be limiting him and he would be limiting them.
So, if he can’t fit the Brooklyn Nets model on the court, will he become the center of trade talks?
Likely. maybe even inevitably. That’s because, well, when is Lopez NOT involved in trade talks? But also, why would they choose one player -- who they can get some sort of value for – over a plan, a system they have in place for the future?
If anything, it makes too much sense.
And yes, It’s still too premature to say. The regular season hasn’t even started and who knows, maybe Atkinson is experimenting. But in this fan’s view, this modern system appears to be everything that Brook Lopez is not.