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Five things to look for in four preseason games

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets open their four-game preseason schedule Tuesday night at the Garden vs. the Knicks. With plenty of optimism — as well as skepticism — it’s time to get into it. Here’s our read on what to look for, understanding there will be a lot of experimentation. Preseason is not about wins and losses as much as it’s about getting questions answered. So, we pose a few.

Can Rondae Hollis-Jefferson improve his jump shot?

For Net fans, it’s been a concern since Draft Night 2015. As we know from watching him at practice, Hollis-Jefferson works tirelessly on his “J.” It’s the one defect in his game that, if healed, (and it could be) would take him to the next level. It would do wonders for the team too.

With Hollis-Jefferson a consistent threat from even 17 or 18-feet out, the jumper would serve as an additional weapon for the 6’7” combo forward. It’s not that he can’t shoot. He hit 75.1 percent of his free throws last season. He’s already proven he can get inside and is developing his post game. Not to mention his defense, which is so good Kenny Atkinson is thinking of using him and his 7’3” wingspan down low.

RHJ has also shown the ability and willingness to create for others. Unselfishness on an offense predicated on pace, space, and ball movement is always welcomed. But shooting percentages of 43.2 overall and 22.1 from deep hurts him. Take a few extra in preseason, Rondae.

Will the combination of DLo and JLin work?

Well, duh, this doesn’t need much of an explanation.

The dynamic between Lin and Russell will be the focal point of the 2017-18 season, more so in preseason when it will be unveiled.

Everyone and their mother assumes that, in whatever order, these two will serve as Brooklyn’s Backcourt (TM), and rightly so.

With Lin’s propensity to break down and attack defenses and Russell’s court vision and natural ability to score inside and out, the pairing could be a match made in Sean Marks’ heaven.

Both can play on the ball and off. Both have experience playing on the ball and off. However, just as Atkinson mixed-and-matched during training camp this week, there will be similar odd couples on the court starting Tuesday.

Isaiah Whitehead and Jeremy Lin? Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell? A long ball lineup with Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Caris LeVert, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson? Yikes.

(Queue the dun dun dunnn)

Which guard(s) steps up

The Nets are loaded at guard and wing, but it’s yet to be determined whether its quality will match its quantity.

If Lin and Russell start, that leaves Caris LeVert (and or) Allen Crabbe, Isaiah Whitehead, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick to fight for minutes off the bench. You might see Yakuba Ouattara, Jeremy Senglin, and Milton Doyle, the first a two-way, the latter two camp invites, get minutes too. This is preseason.

Dinwiddie is the only pure point guard of the group, though. Whitehead spent plenty of time at the 1 last season, but his natural spot is more the 2. Both will likely compete for back-up PG minutes, but Whitehead could also get time at the 1, 2, and the 3. Time for experiments.

Harris and Kilpatrick are true 2s, and both make $1.5 million. Although they can score, Harris more from deep, Kilpatrick more in the thick of things, it’s possible that both could be on the outside looking in if the youth movement takes over. One thing in their favor: they can both get hot in their own way. Expect Atkinson to give both a lot of minutes.

As for LeVert, he along with Russell and Jarrett Allen, are the prize pieces of the organization’s future, and the team’s most untouchable pieces. He’ll get minutes at the 2 and 3, and if you saw him last season, you’d also think it’s deservedly so.

Are they just salary dumps?

Both DeMarre Carroll and Timofey may start a couple of games, maybe more. They were added primarily because they were the price the Nets paid for two draft picks and D’Angelo Russell.

But they’re not going to sit on the bench while their paychecks get deposited. Kenny Atkinson has coached both before and both will be counted on to contribute.

Carroll arrives from a down year in Toronto, looking to get back to his best basketball, which came under Atkinson in Atlanta. Is he healthy, as he says? We’ll get our answer this week. As Sean Marks has noted, Carroll has played on teams that have won 50 or more games three times in the last four years. “He’s not here to lose,” as Marks said.

Mozgov and Atkinson also have a connection, dating back to their time together with the Knicks in 2010-11, Atkinson as an assistant, and Mozgov as an NBA rookie. Since then, Mozgov has turned into a respectable center in the ‘new NBA,’ a term Atkinson leans on. Mozgov, like Carroll, has won big in the NBA. He has a ring from his time in Cleveland two years ago. He also played well in the FIBA Eurobasket this month.

Preseason may not provide a good answer on how much time they’ll get, what role they’ll play, but their health and well-being will be on display.

Who is Jarrett Allen?

If NBA 2K18 is any indicator, the rookie out of Texas could be the best rebounder on the Nets roster! The 6’11” big with a near 7’6” wingspan won praise coming out of the draft for his ability to battle on the boards, run the floor, anchor a defense, and use his athleticism to excel at the 5 spot, maybe even the 4. Like Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller, he too has been shooting threes, he told NetsDaily.

The big question is, what’s he like? Since he didn’t play in Summer League with many of the aforementioned Nets due to injury, it’s time for Brooklyn fans to see what they have in the early (early early) stages of his development. Kenny Atkinson has nothing but praise for the kid and there’s apparently been no discussion of him headed east to Long Island. But he’s still the second youngest player in Nets history and the youngest, Derrick Favors, didn’t last past the trade deadline.

Will he quickly be the successor to preumed starting center Timofey Mozogv?


Don’t expect immediate answers, but by the time the preseason wraps up on October 11 (a week before opening night), you’ll have a good idea on a few of them.