It’s that time of the year where basketball is so close, yet so far away.
The schedule was released on Friday, teams have (mostly) finalized their rosters, and executives, coaches and players are on vacation before training camp starts in September. (They keep their phones close, though.)
The Nets have had quite the off-season despite the addition of zero huge names. They’ve set themselves up for 2019 in terms of cap space, draft picks and young assets in case the free agent route doesn’t work out.
So, we take a look at what they did this summer and what the roster will look like come the start of the season.
KEY LOSSES: Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Whitehead, Timofey Mozgov, Quincy Acy, Dante Cunningham, Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas.
KEY ADDITIONS: Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley, Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham, Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:
- It’s D’Angelo Russell’s time to show why the Nets think so highly of him. This is his fourth season and the Nets are depending on him to take that next step. Talent is not a question when it comes to DLo. Nor is his work ethic in question. Rather it’s his knee - the one that kept him out for most of last season.
There’s no reason to believe DLo won’t be “the guy” this year. He’s playing in a contract year and he’s now the lead guard of the team with Lin on the Hawks. It’s a team-oriented system, but they only go as far as where he goes.
- Backing him up will be Spencer Dinwiddie who finished second in votes for the ‘Most Improved Player’ award. Dinwiddie is the ideal backup who will probably play just as many minutes as DLo with the way the system is setup. Dinwiddie’s looking for that big payday come December 8. He’s at his best when he plays downhill rather than settling. The Nets’ strongest suit might come here with the DLo-Dinwiddie 1-2 punch.
- Shabazz Napier is the newcomer of the bunch. He was somewhat of a surprise signing, but it can never hurt to have an extra ball handler in the backcourt. Still, with Russell and Dinwiddie likely to be manning point, expect Napier to get plenty of time with either of the two while playing off the ball.
- Caris LeVert isn’t your typical point guard, but he certainly is in Kenny Atkinson’s offense. LeVert had some of his best moments when the ball was in his hands, while running the pick and roll with Jarrett Allen. It’s hard to imagine he’ll get a lot of time at point if Russell and Dinwiddie remain healthy, but there’s no doubt that Atkinson is going to run a few plays with him setting up the offense.
- Allen Crabbe is likely to get the starting nod at the two come opening day. Crabbe is the most expensive player on the Nets’ roster and he didn’t exactly break through last year, though insiders feel he’s bound for a big year this season. The belief is that he’s going to carry through on the momentum he built up after the All-Star break when averaged 16 points and shot 41 percent from three. They need him to step up.
- Joe Harris is labeled with the second unit but don’t be surprised if you see him and Crabbe on the floor at the same time if the Nets want to space the floor. Harris was the big surprise last season, shooting 42 percent from three which qualified for the 15th best percentage in the NBA.
Furthermore, he finished second in finishes at the rim behind only LeBron James. Teams know who he is and they’re going to key on him. He needs to show versatility and step up in other ways aside from hitting the deep ball.
- Napier is an interesting case. As noted above, he’s likely to get a lot of time off the ball with either DLo or Dinwiddie manning the point. Last season, Napier shot 38 percent from three — 45 percent in catch-and-shoot situations. The Nets can use this to their advantage as they like to play positionless.
- DeMarre Carroll aka Ol’ Reliable; aka Swiss Army Knife; aka the Junkyard Dog. The nicknames go on for days, as do his contributions to the team. Carroll was undoubtedly the leader of this young team last season, often referred to as the “big brother”. Don’t get it mixed up though. Carroll was arguably Brooklyn’s most consistent player last season, averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds on 37 percent shooting from deep. His 29.9 minutes per game was the most any player has averaged under Atkinson.
The key with DeMarre, aside from his 3-and-D style, is his versatility. His ability to stretch the floor enables the Nets to put him at the 4 or even at the 5 if they want to play really small ball. Now with a little more help at the 4, Carroll returns to his natural position where he can put a little more focus on defense. Also, he’ll face less wear-and-tear on his 32-year-old body.
- Caris LeVert is another player that needs to step up this season. He can play basically any position 1-4, but this is where he’s going to get most of his time. He’s shown a ton of potential on both sides of the floor, but his 33.6 percent shooting clip from deep is not going to get him a starters role. If that improves, as it did after the All-Star Break, don’t be surprised if you see LeVert creep his way into the starting five at some point later in the season.
- Treveon Graham is an interesting (and typical) Sean Marks flier. Although his numbers don’t pop off the page, his three-point shooting certainly does. In two seasons, Graham has shot 43.8 percent from three. Pundits have praised this pickup as a low-risk, high-reward with 3-and-D potential. It’ll be interesting to see if he works his way into the rotation.
- Dzanan Musa is Brooklyn’s raw rookie who will probably get most of his time at the 3, maybe the 2. He’s 6’9” but told reporters he can play the 1, 2 or 3. We should have a better idea of his fit after the preseason.
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson appears to be the favorite to start on opening day despite his groin injury last year and adductor strain last week. Last season, Kenny Atkinson moved RHJ to the 4 and it paid off. He averaged 14 points and seven rebounds - both career high’s. He, like Carroll, was one of Brooklyn’s most consistent players. However, he is definitely undersized and took a beating when covering bigger and stronger players. He’ll really need to assert himself now that he has competition in the frontcourt. And about that 3-point shooting?
- Kenneth Faried is this year’s DeMarre Carroll, the salary dump turned asset. The Newark native arrives in Brooklyn after two disappointing seasons in Denver. He’s playing in a contract year and he’s still only 28-years-old. He hasn’t lost much if anything in terms of his rebounding ability, and if he’s able to bring tenacity on both sides of the ball like he has throughout most of his career, then he might find his way into the starting lineup. My prediction: somewhere between Carroll and Trevor Booker.
- Jared Dudley fills a void Brooklyn so desperately needed to fill: an ability to stretch the floor while playing the 4. Dudley, the oldest Net at 33, expects to get time and will likely get Quincy Acy’s role this year. At the very least, he’s a vet with some fire in him. He should come in and set a good example for the younger guys on the team. Also, he can tweet.
- Rodions Kurucs is a bit of a mystery. He’s 6’9” or 6’10” depending on what mock draft you read and he says he can play the 2, 3 or 4. But long term, the Latvia big seems destined for the stretch 4 role. Kurucs also seems destined for Long Island. He has little experience, getting few minutes on the F.C. Barcelona senior squad. He also hasn’t played yet for the Latvian national team, only their youth teams.
- Jarrett Allen is the golden boy in Brooklyn right now. The 20-year-old was expected to get time in the G-League last year, but instead he worked his way into the starting lineup and became a factor. He averaged 10 points and two blocks in the 31 games he started. The Nets are EXTREMELY high on him — giddy is not too strong a word — especially on the defensive end where he showed his potential to switch onto smaller guards and stick with them. Now, they want to see Allen bulk up and improve on the glass and in the pick and roll where his 7’6” wingspan should play a factor in both.
- It was established from the beginning of the off-season that the Nets wanted to find a serviceable veteran big that Allen can learn from. Ed Davis fits all the criteria. Although he’s never put up crazy numbers in his career, Davis does all the little things right — rebounds the ball, sets good picks and runs the floor. He’ll be good with the second unit and certainly ready if/when the Nets decide to rest their young prize in Allen.
- Kenneth Faried will get time at the five when the Nets want to spread the floor and play super small ball. Faried is only 6’7” but he’s an animal (or Manimal) on the glass.
It’s only August so everything is starting to settle in, but given the way the roster has shaped up, it seems pretty clear who’s going to play where and how the Nets can use guys for several different positions.
Versatility is key in today’s NBA and the Nets built a team with some options here. The names don’t pop off the page and that’s OK for them. The team-oriented system allows for everybody to chip in. It’s the defensive side of the ball where they need to take that next step. Those high-scoring losses got old real quick last season.
NetsDaily isn’t part of the Brooklyn Nets coaching staff (although we play one on the Internet) so none of this is locked in, obviously. That said, we’re pretty confident this is what the depth chart will look like come late October.