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Nets need perimeter shooters in the frontcourt

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Are the Nets done? Probably not. They have a lot of assets and there are still a number of deals they could sneak into, deals for Carmelo Anthony and/or Kyrie Irving.

And what do they want? That’s easy. Sean Marks has talked about being a “talent acquisition” mode, going for the best player available and letting Kenny Atkinson sort it out. But anyone who takes a look at their roster —and their motion offense— will tell you the Nets need a big ... and one who can shoot. As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton wrote this week in predicting 29.5 wins, the Nets (currently) have “perhaps the NBA’s worst big men.”

While attention has focused on how Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell will handle sharing the ball in the backcourt, the “big” issue lingers: making sure that everyone in the motion offense can hit the open shot, specifically including the big men.

The Nets need at least four shooters on the perimeter at all times for this offense to work the way they plan it. We saw it last year. They attempted the fourth highest amount of three-pointers per game (31.6). Players are constantly moving without the ball as the ball is meant to swing around the corner.

Take it from Chris Fleming, the Nets offensive guru. Here’s what he told Denver Stiffs when he was a Nuggets assistant.

Fill 4 perimeter spots at all times (there will be times where guys are involved in dribble penetration, etc). Once you pass the ball as a perimeter guy and you have to go back outside. Corner, foul-line extended, high elbow gives you six possible places for those four guys to be - and only those spots..

So who starts in the frontcourt and gives them what they need on the perimeter is critical. Atkinson told Zach Lowe this week that as of now, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the starting 4. So who can shoot? Not RHJ.

Let’s start with the Big Russian, acquired in the trade that brought Russell to Brooklyn and sent Brook Lopez to L.A. As we’ve reported, he’s been told to work on his three-point shooting. Losing Lopez means a loss of 134 three-pointers, all of them upfront.

“I’ve started working on this,” Timofey Mozgov said according to a translation of a July 22 interview with a Russian website. “In fact, I can shoot three-pointers. In the past, I've been on teams where there was always someone who could shoot them.

“I’ve already talked with the coach. It seems to me, this year it will surprise many that I’ll can shoot the ‘treshki’ (laughs). It will be interesting. But we'll see.”

In his NBA career, Mozgov has attempted 40 three point shots, making seven. A tiny number, but it’s twice the number Lopez took and made before his explosion last season, when Atkinson gave him the greenlight. Lopez made 3-of-21 in his first eight seasons, then 134 out of 387 last year.

As for the rest of the bigs up front, don’t expect much.

Hollis-Jefferson is notoriously bad from deep. He brings a lot other elements to Atkinson’s game, playmaking, defense and a hunger for the rim. He made only 15 three pointers out of 67 attempts, not even 25 percent.

Trevor Booker shot only 32.1 percent from deep and only took 78 in 71 games. Unless he’s dramatically improved his shot, the Nets aren’t going to find three-point salvation there. Can’t count on that.

Quincy Acy did show off a dramatic improvement in his three point shooting, but it was in limited minutes. The 6’7” Acy shot a cool 43.4 percent from deep, but in only 32 games. Do not be surprised to see the 26-year-old get more minutes, maybe a lot more.

So, is another possibility whether the Nets add a new 4 or not?

Enter: DeMarre Carroll, one of Atkinson’s former players in Atlanta who is a 36 percent career three-point shooter. He’s coming off his worst three-point shooting year in five seasons (34 percent) but his best shooting years were his two years in Atlanta. In those two years, he nailed 37.8 percent on four attempts per game.

Sean Marks, who appears quite enamored by Carroll, made it clear that he can see the coaching staff going with “small-ball.”

“I think he has played some 4, so for us, yeah, I think he can play the 4. Depending on the lineups out there – I think we’ll see a few different ones. It’ll be entertaining to see what the coaches come up with,” Marks told reporters at the Allen Crabbe press conference.

“Entertaining?” That’s one way of putting it.

The Nets do have two guards who are good at creating and will find other players around the perimeter. They have a plethora of ‘playmakers’ that are capable of playing multiple positions and spreading the floor.

The problem is the depth in the frontcourt. They have two players 6’10” or taller and right now, neither one —Mozgov and 6’11” rookie Jarrett Allen— can hit from deep.

Bottom line: You lose a lot of things when giving up a guy like Brook Lopez. His efficient interior and perimeter shooting will be missed. Can they find another big with range?

At this point it’s a guessing game since everyone they have acquired this summer has been through trade. But they have about $5.1 million in cap space and Marks’ craftiness.

So don’t be surprised if they look for a big who can stretch the floor – whether it be someone worthy of starting or somebody who will add to their depth and help them play how they want to.

If you stick to a system, you’d better have the makeup of personnel that matches it. Right now they’re lacking certain pieces.