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Stretch bigs continue to expose Brooklyn’s biggest weakness

Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Brooklyn’s frontcourt issues are beginning to sound like a broken record, where the same tune is repeated over and over because of a defect in the product.

Sound about right?

The Nets entered the season with only three players taller than 6’8”, Timofey Mozgov, Tyler Zeller, and rookie Jarrett Allen. Zeller wasn’t signed until September 11 and Allen is the second-youngest player in team history. We knew they would try and play small-ball lineups to utilize their weapons out on the perimeter… the way “modern” basketball is being played.

However, if the first 11 games have proven anything, it’s that the Nets’ frontcourt is extremely thin. They’re simply incapable of covering bigs that can spread the floor and command the inside.

In 11 games, the Nets have allowed opposing frontcourt starters to average 34.4 points on 55.7 percent shooting. They’ve allowed six players to score 30 or more points and five out of the six are bigs.

The list goes as follows...

  • Nikola Vucevic: 41 points and 12 rebounds on 17-of-22 shooting
  • Aaron Gordon: 41 points and 14 rebounds on 14-of-18 shooting
  • Kristaps Porzingis: 30 points and nine rebounds on 13-of-24 shooting
  • Brook Lopez: 34 points and 10 rebounds on 13-of-23 shooting
  • Nikola Jokic: 41 points and 12 rebounds on 16-of-25 shooting

Vucevic, Gordon, and Jokic’s numbers were all career highs. Big men who can shoot have to be looking at their team’s schedules to see when they play the Nets ... and salivate.

The Nets are 1-4 in those games and the phenomenon is happening more frequently as they play more teams with dominant bigs ... and advance scouts and coaches check the video tapes.

The NBA game is changing in the sense that big men are spreading the floor more. The Nets don’t have that type of guy in this offense, and there is certainly zero reason to believe that anybody in the frontcourt will stop these stretch bigs.

Moreover, they’ve been getting killed on the glass by nearly eight rebounds per game during this six-game stretch. No surprise they’ve lost five of the six.

Overall, the Nets simply aren’t getting enough stops, allowing opponents to shoot 46.3 percent per game, which is ranked bottom-10 in the NBA.

When they aren’t getting stops, their offense is out of sync because they’re meant to push the ball in transition and get as many quick, open looks as possible. Instead, they’re forced into halfcourt sets and the numbers show it. They’re bottom-five in the league at 43.2 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three.

“We saw it against the Knicks. If we’re struggling defensively then it becomes tougher for us to get out and push,” said Joe Harris after a loss to the Denver Nuggets on October 29. “We want to get out and run and get a lot of shots in transition. If you aren’t getting stops, it’s hard to do that.”

Granted, the Nets have been plagued with injuries, especially in the frontcourt with Trevor Booker, Quincy Acy, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Jarrett Allen all missing time at some point during the start to the season, Still, when they’re in the game, none have shown why things would be much different.

Defense as a whole has been a problem, but the frontcourt continues to be Brooklyn’s biggest weak spot. We had an idea of this heading into the season. The Nets cobbled together a group of bigs after they lost Brook Lopez. It hasn’t worked.

There’s been a lot of talk about getting “back to the basics,” but have we seen them display the basics at all? It starts with the front line.