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Nets Roster Breakdown: Small Forwards

Welcome to the small forward portion of our roster breakdown where we discuss who is likely to start and how the rest of the depth chart is shaping up.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In part 3 of our analysis of Brooklyn’s depth chart, we take a look at the small forward position. It’s tricky to identify who will be playing exactly where since the Nets have so many combo guards or “playmakers” that range from 6’6” to 6’9”.

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.

Guys will play out of position that aren’t on this initial list, but we offer a depth chart of the 3 position with zero knowledge behind Kenny Atkinson’s thinking.

1. Allen Crabbe – SF

The starting spot is really up for grabs because the main focus is development, but Allen Crabbe seems to be the clear-cut favorite to be the starting small forward. His contract certainly would dictate that as well. Moreover, the numbers, his numbers, indicate that Crabbe is the ideal fit in Kenny Atkinson’s high-octane, heavy three-point shooting offense.

He shot the ball at a 44 percent clip from three last year – second only in the league behind Kyle Korver. But he has a lot to work on. First off, he's not used to being challenged by starters. He’s come off the bench and gone up against second unit players, for one thing. But he claims he’s ready to take the next step.

“In Portland they had two great guards, but sometimes you have to make a move for your own career and I feel like this is going to be the best place for me,” Crabbe said when he was asked about his one-dimensional role.

He’s going to have to pick up certain areas of his game, starting with his defense.

We hear a lot of talk about team defense but D usually comes down to containing your man unless you’re playing a zone defense.

Then there is his issue with putting the ball on the floor. He’s been known as a one-dimensional player: shooting three-pointers. In Portland, they saw that as a disappointment because he was the no. 1 option off the bench. In Brooklyn, this shouldn’t be an issue. He’ll have plenty of playmakers around him to set him up just fine on the perimeter. Spotting up is his forte and he’ll have a legitimate chance to flourish in this role. It’s on other teams to stop him and his 44 percent three-point shooting.

2. Caris LeVert - SF/PF/Combo guard

As mentioned, LeVert may be the opening day starter and that would say a lot about how the Nets develop their young guys, but if he doesn't?

In Atkinson’s offense, coming off the bench doesn’t mean fewer minutes. And for someone like LeVert, playing against second units and gaining confidence may be the best approach in developing him. The way the Nets system is constructed, they’ll need as many shooters on the floor as Atkinson can assemble. LeVert, unlike Crabbe, presents a multi-dimensional game.

He does need to improve his three-point shooting (32 percent) if he’s going to get serious time with the starters. Playing with Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell should open up different parts of his game. It’s his role to earn.

3. DeMarre Carroll – SF/PF

Surely Carroll will see time at the 3, but if the Nets plan on going small then we’ll likely see him getting most of his minutes as a stretch 4.

They’re already undersized and Carroll can take advantage of slower bigs out on the perimeter with his career 36 percent shooting from deep. He’s almost certain to get time here, but it’d be unlike Atkinson to give him too much time over the two young players already mentioned.

On the other hand, if he's as healthy as he says he is, he's going to see time in various situations. He was an Atkinson favorite in Atlanta.

4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – SF/PF

Rondae came into the league as a 3 and transformed into a 4 as the game —and his—started to change. His jump shot is still broken and that hurts the Nets’ ability to stretch the floor.

They ideally need four out of five players to be able to stretch the floor. At the very least they need three players that can do it. He’ll get time at the 3 if they need some energy and athleticism, but expect to see him getting most of his minutes at the 4.


You can basically put the 2s and 3s together and compile them into one with the way the Nets use their players. Surely guys like Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris will see time here. Atkinson has said he'll try Isaiah Whitehead at the 3 and in a super small-ball offense, don't be surprised if D'Angelo Russell shows up.

The Nets have an abundance of wing players with something to prove. At least eight players on this roster can be considered a shooting guard or small forward, and that’s a good thing. Training camp should be intense as wing players are looking to solidify their role in a log-jammed system.