It looks like Kenny Atkinson has made some adjustments since the All-Star break. It’s good for some, not so good for others.
In the seven games the Nets have played since returning from break, the Nets have trimmed their rotation considerably.
The guys that caught the short end of the stick? Quincy Acy, Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, and Timofey Mozgov, who hasn’t played much at all this season.
We’ve seen Atkinson experiment with lineups all throughout the season, what with injuries (more than 125 games missed, including 100+ for Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert) and turnover (23 players in 65 games).
So, it’s no surprise that Atkinson essentially utilized a 12-man rotation with very equally distributed minutes early in the season. The offense is extremely fast-paced and it forces guys to check out earlier than usual. Young or not, players in a high-paced system need breathers. Unfortunately, the Nets have learned that they are not nearly as deep as most teams that utilize this style of ball.
So, about the guys that have been on the outside looking in?
Let’s start with Quincy Acy. Acy averaged 23 minutes per game in the months of January and February. In the six games since, he’s averaging 2.8 minutes with two DNP-CD’s.
He was seen as the primary stretch big that could help Brooklyn spread the floor, particularly after his 32-game stretch last season where he shot 43 percent from deep. This season, he’s at 32.5 percent but has struggled to find any sort of consistency with his shot.
The Nets picked up Dante Cunningham, who’s shooting 47.8 percent from deep in 10 games with the Nets. If he keeps it up, it’s likely we see him continue to take minutes away from Acy. (Cunningham and Acy are both unrestricted free agents this summer.)
Next is Jahlil Okafor. Atkinson told reporters before the All-Star break that he “Wouldn’t count him [Okafor] out”, but there’s reason to be skeptical about that statement. Okafor hasn’t played since February 12 when he logged 13 minutes against the Pacers.
He’s displayed some skill in the post, but his defense and rebounding remain a big issue for the Nets. Furthermore, his style of play seems to slow down their offense ... a lot. So, he’s been benched or hurt with minor injuries/illnesses in eight straight games.
The Nets might be able to nab him for very cheap this July and get him in the gym for a full summer with their staff. Or, they can let him go and still have nabbed a pick —the Knicks second rounder in 2019— from the trade.
Nik Stauskas hasn’t played much at all with the Nets, averaging 13.5 minutes per game in 28 games with the team. However, he’s logged just 12 minutes since February 12 with five DNP-CD’s during that span, two of them in garbage time Thursday night
And of course, there’s Timofey Mozgov. He’s been important in the locker room and all, but you’d have no idea he was part of the team based off his playing time this season. The Nets have him signed through the 2019-2020 season and owe him $32.7 million.
Again, it’s no mystery why the Nets tried the 12 or 13-man rotation given their style of play, injuries, turnover, etc. Now, with the team healthy ... other than Jeremy Lin, the trade deadline passed and the pace slowing a bit, things are changing. Also, they’ve learned (the hard way) that some guys have either underachieved or simply don’t fit the style.
For the other more focal players on the team — more minutes is always a good thing. It also might explain why they’re 2-4 since returning from break.