Shout out to Sean Marks (and the coaching staff and the performance team, too).
Everything has changed in a matter of months. For the Brooklyn Nets, it began with perception, and it’s lingered on the court, namely, the depth of this roster.
Depth? Unheard of before the offseason.
Let’s look at what will likely be the final roster as of today, October 6:
Guards/Wings: D’Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Isaiah Whitehead, Yakuba Ouattara (two-way)
Bigs: Timofey Mozgov, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Trevor Booker, Jarrett Allen, Quincy Acy, Tyler Zeller, Jacob Wiley (two-way)
To that point, Atkinson called the new found depth a good, even welcome problem.
“It’s a long season, you’ve got to be deep in this league,” Atkinson said on Friday. “I think we’ve got to do it by committee. Last year, I think we did a good job of distributing minutes. We didn’t plan to give anybody 40 or 38 minutes. We have reasonable minutes’ expectations – that said you can’t play 15. It’s hard to play 12. Ten is probably ideal, but with the depth we have, it might push us to 11.”
And even if the Nets go 11 deep, then what?
By virtue of two-way contracts, combined with the overall outlook of the roster, Ouattara and Wiley are 99.9% sure to spend most of the 2017-18 season with the Long Island Nets in the NBA G League.
So knocking off both of them, you have 15 players battling over 10, maybe 11, possibly even 12 rotation slots. The D’Angelo Russells, Jeremy Lins Rondae Hollis-Jeffersons and Caris LeVerts of the world, among others, will definitely log constant minutes.
As for some of the others, like Isaiah Whitehead or Tyler Zeller, it could be an uphill climb.
Then, there are those in the middle, who have been making their case to play 20-25 minutes on a nightly basis, like Trevor Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, both of whom are likely to come off the bench, but perhaps early in the game. Their preseason play has helped.
Booker has had an impactful October, going for six points and 13 rebounds in 21 minutes against the Knicks, followed by a 4-point, 8-rebound showing Thursday night in the win over Miami.
In point guard relief, Dinwiddie netted 12 points and dished out 2 assists (with zero turnovers) in 22 minutes at Madison Square Garden, and built on that with a 7-point, 6-assist showing against the Heat.
Atkinson was impressed with Booker’s ability (and willingness) to crash the glass, something he wants to emphasize more this season, without hurting transition defense, of course.
“I love that role for him (coming in providing help on rebounds and defensive energy). That’s not set in stone yet, I haven’t decided – but he brings great defensive energy when he comes in,” said Atkinson. “He rebounds well; he gives us a spark. I felt in the Knicks game he changed that game.”
With the day-to-day ankle injuries to Crabbe and LeVert, it’s given the coaching staff time to further evaluate some other guards, making it easier to distribute minutes.
Dinwiddie, in particular, has seized the opportunity.
“When you’re talking about minutes and getting guys minutes … he’s developing,” said Atkinson. “I’m really just excited about him. I think he’s going to have a really good year. I felt it all summer. I felt him getting better, I felt him getting more confident, I saw him in Summer League. I saw his body transform, I see the confidence – I felt like last year he was a little timid, now he’s growing. He’s 6’6” and he’s fast. His defense is improved. I think as a coach you want trust and guys you can rely on. He fits in that bucket. We’ve got to find minutes for him, that’s my job.”
This year, Atkinson’s job in assigning minutes may be harder, but to a certain extent he helped create the problem, for which he will gladly take responsibility.