With less than 20 games left until the offseason, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson’s vision for the team is becoming more and more clear. Think playmakers, not necessarily point guards or shooting guards or forwards but players whose ball-handling and passing skills can facilitate the motion offense.
Over the past couple of weeks, there have been rumblings about the Nets’ offseason plans. Two names that popped up: George Hill and Milos Teodosic. It isn’t hard to see why Atkinson – a point guard savvy coach in a point guard savvy league – would see either of these guys as a fit ...
“Would I shy away? No. … Of all the systems I’ve been around, I felt [motion] fit the roster the best. It just depends on the pieces,’’ he said, noting that in a motion offense, there is a need for multiple playmakers, no matter what the traditional position.
Of course, the question that will be asked is among fans and pundits is what happens with starting point guard Jeremy Lin? Atkinson is not concerned ... at all.
“He’s a player. Jeremy’s the kind of guy who’d say if it’s going to help, it really comes down to that. Now you’re seeing multiple ballhandlers; that’s the future. … If it’s getting the team better, I just think that’s the type of guy he is. If that’s going to push us to another level, then you just have to look at the pieces.”
The Nets are clearly looking for another guard and either Hill or Teodosic would immediately be the teams’ primary ball handler. Teodosic reportedly won’t sign with an NBA team without commitment to become the teams starting point guard.
That could leave Lin to play combo guard in a two point guard set, one that worked to great success in Charlotte with Kemba Walker serving as the primary ball handler.
Lin is a creator with or without the ball and who knows that better than Atkinson? He’s implemented a motion offense where the point guard isn’t necessarily dominating the ball the way other offenses operate. The ball is moving and everybody has a chance to create.
In fact, in the WFAN interview earlier this week, Atkinson said the league isn’t just moving to position-less basketball but to flatter, more flexible rosters.
“I think the other thing people miss --and we've tried to use it as a tool a little bit this year -- is the development of your roster. I don’t think what people realize is that when you don't play a guy, now another guy is getting a chance. And not just a guy for five minutes. You can put it a guy who hasn't been playing and you play him for 20 minutes. And maybe you find out a guy like Quincy Acy...
“I think the way the NBA is going, it’s going to be more guys playing less minutes with more balance on the roster. You’re going to have to be deep to be good,” said Atkinson.
The Nets currently have four players capable of handling the ball – Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Whitehead, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. You can even slip Sean Kilpatrick, Randy Foye and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into the conversation.
Indeed, almost every player on the team is encouraged to handle the rock, especially in transition (i.e. Trevor Booker). It’s a rather unorthodox strategy in the traditional NBA game, but makes sense in the high-octane, small ball lineups that most teams around the league are generating. Get the ball up quick and get the best shot possible, preferably a three-pointer, in the quickest possible way.
It’s easy to see the fit.
Hill was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs where he played three seasons. A nine-year pro, Hill is having the best season of his career in Utah, where he’s averaging 17 points (40.5 percent from deep). He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Nets will have the money to offer him a hefty contract.
And then you have Milos Teodosic of CSKA, deemed the best player outside of the NBA by executives around the league. He’s a free agent who will be 30 years old this summer with passing abilities similar to Jason Kidd. He’s a winner, having taken CSKA to the Euroleague Final Four seven straight years, winning the Euroleague title and leading Serbia to an Olympic silver medal in Rio.
Check out some highlights from a preseason game in 2013. You’ll notice CSKA runs somewhat of a motion offense with guys constantly moving off the ball. Teodosic knows where to be and how to find them.
Of course all of this is just talk until something happens in the offseason, but the Nets have $30 million in cap space and positive vibes are spreading around the league.
So, if the Nets happen to strike out on either of these two guys it’s back to plan B and C, but those plans should be more attractive.