In Part II of our analysis of Brooklyn’s depth chart, we take a look at the shooting guard position. It’s tricky to identify who will be playing exactly where since the Nets have so many combo guards and players that range from 6’5" to 6’9”.
We’re going to see plenty of position-less small-ball lineups with the way this team is constructed. Kenny Atkinson has separated positioning by three categories: playmakers, wings, and bigs. Sean Marks has even said they’re in "talent acquisition mode," it’s all about getting the best player and letting Kenny sort it out.
And what's a shooting guard on this team anyway? Is it a point guard who can shoot or a small forward who can handle the ball?
1. D’Angelo Russell – PG/SG
We mentioned in our earlier PG edition that D’Angelo Russell is likely to start at the two, but play the same amount of time at the one as well.
Whatever. He's going to play a lot. The Nets expect a LOT from him, now and in the future.
With that being said, Russell is a great candidate off the ball in the motion offense. It's a system where you arguably have more opportunities to get open and create off the ball than you do with the ball sticking to your hands. This (obviously) isn’t an isolation-heavy offense or even a pick-and-roll heavy offense. It’s plenty of off-ball screen and floor spacing to find the open man on the perimeter. That should bode well for DLo who shot 35 percent on a Lakers team that didn’t get many open looks from deep. He will be encouraged to shoot a lot of threes. Not to mention, D’Angelo makes his decisions quickly and he doesn’t hesitate when he’s driving to the hole or running the fastbreak. That's what Atkinson wants.
This second spot for SG is difficult because depending on what the rotation looks like and who’s running the point. This might be Caris LeVert or Allen Crabbe’s role. For now we’ll section them off with the small forwards.
2. Sean Kilpatrick – SG/SF
Kilpatrick has shown tremendous signs of growth in his offensive game since the Nets plucked him out of the D-League late in the 2015-2016 season. SK played out of position most of the 2016-2017 season due to Brooklyn’s lack of healthy point guards. Kilpatrick is a heat-up kind of guy that isn’t going to bring you much more than an offensive sparkplug off the bench. His biggest game was a 38-point, 14-rebound performance in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in double OT last year. He’s fun to watch and can heat up in a heartbeat - averaging 13 points in 25 minutes last season. Expect his three-point shooting to get better with more talent around him to take off some of the load.
3. Joe Harris - SG
Harris is somebody worth keeping an eye on. At 6’6” he won’t see much time at the congested three position, but he’ll certainly have an impact at the two if he shoots the way he did last year. He’s seen as a poor-man’s Kyle Korver (ask Kenny Atkinson) after shooting 38.5 percent from deep on over four attempts per game. He's said he'd like to get that up to 42 or 45 percent and become an "elite" shooter.
Like Kilpatrick, expect more open looks for Harris with the attention shifted elsewhere. Not to mention two point guards who will create open looks for perimeter guys like Harris and Kilpatrick. But let’s not keep him in this perimeter-shooting box. Harris showed his ability to put the ball on the floor last year and get into the paint. He should be fun to watch.
4. Isaiah Whitehead – PG/SG
We sectioned Whitehead off in the point guard category, but he deserves some recognition at the two spot. We saw Whitehead excel when Jeremy Lin returned because it eased the pressure on both sides of the ball. He was forced to cover and attack smaller, quicker point guards, which can be both good and bad. When Whitehead puts his streetball cap on (i.e. The "Cyclone" spin move) he can do some damage. If he’s going to see time over the players already mentioned, he needs to improve his perimeter shooting.
We mentioned LeVert and Crabbe as two players who might get time at the 2 depending on what the rotation looks like, but there are others as well. Lin could see time at the 2, potentially depending on how the game is going and where his minutes are at. He's said he'd like to get his three-point shooting up to 40 percent this season. That's certainly doable. He shot a career-high 37 percent.
Even Spencer Dinwiddie is likely to get minutes here as well. Atkinson told Dinwiddie to work on his perimeter shooting.
The frontline isn’t exactly the issue. Of course D’Angelo Russell has plenty to prove, but talent is not the issue. We’re going to find out where he fits best in the lineup as a 2 or 3… or both ... or even a 3. That’s the plan. The question is whether role players like Kilpatrick and Harris can take that next step with a full season with Atkinson and company under their belt. Depth is crucial in this offensive system.