Kenny Atkinson is no longer the head coach of the Nets, but he brought the best out in players that fit the modern NBA mold.. He relied on Sean Marks and the front office to find hidden gems, then he and his assistant coaches would do all they could to instill confidence and help their careers – on and off the court.
Even with Atkinson’s departure, the Nets are known for their development and style of play. They’re a high-octane, run-and-gun, 3-point shooting team. They appreciate the “lobs and blocks” type of bigs. They appreciate versatile 4’s who can stretch the floor. Wings are key in that they not only hit the three ball, but also have the ability to handle the rock. Point guards who helped moved the ball, facilitate the offense, run in transition and hit an open three were all successful.
So, let’s have some fun with this. Without any hoops, we’re forced to look back in history. The question I’ve asked myself several times: Which former Nets players would I love to see play under the new brass – is that the right term? Can’t call it Markinson anymore!
Anyway… here’s my list.
PG – Devin Harris
Anybody who recalls watching Harris during his Jersey days would remember an electric point guard who would cross defenders into oblivion and create shots in unique ways. Harris was an All-Star with the Nets. He worked well in transition, averaged seven assists per game and was an absolute bucket. That’s the no. 1 reason why I’m intrigued by the idea of him.
Given the offense we’ve seen the Nets run the past 3+ seasons, it’s crucial the point guard doesn’t hold the ball too long when getting into a set. The offense is predicated on constant ball movement and that can’t happen if one guy holds the rock too long. Harris excelled in isolation, but I’m curious to see what type of player he would’ve been within a motion offense. His 33 percent career clip from three isn’t the best, but would it have improved working with these coaches and getting open looks off the ball? Not to mention, he was a long guard that got to the rim at ease.
If you want to talk about culture and things like that, Harris was a high character whose career was derailed by injuries.
SG – MarShon Brooks
Look, you can say what you want about MarShon Brooks – his poor defense, high expectations, etc., but this kid was an automatic bucket. I almost didn’t want to include him because I’m not exactly sure how he would play off the ball as a wing. As mentioned, wings on this team need to be 3-and-D type of players that can also put the ball on the floor.
He certainly wasn’t a defensive guy, and he was OK from three where he shot 34.5 percent over his career. But he thrived with the ball in his hands, averaging close to 13 points in his rookie year with New Jersey, 15 before he broke his foot. He fell out of the rotation and out of the league when the Nets moved to Brooklyn.
Regardless, you wonder what type of player he could’ve been under the current brass. He knew how to put the ball in the hoop and he did it with ease at such a young age. Not to mention his length —a 7’2” wingspan— for his position and his ability to bring up the ball should the Nets want to give a different look. Years later, it almost feels like wasted talent (not by his own fault). Then, there was Avery Johnson who tortured Brooks and Deron Williams who complained that the ball stopped when it wound up in Brooks hands.
Ah well. Of course, it should be noted that Brooks did poorly in the rest of his NBA career, with the Celtics, Warriors, Lakers and Grizzlies before heading to China. He did have a nice seven-game stretch at the end of 2018, averaging 20 points in the absence of Mike Conley Jr.
SF – Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogie! The best thing that ever happened to Bogdanovic was getting traded out of Brooklyn. He’s moved teams often, but he’s gotten better and better with every move in his respective role. Not to mention, he’s been an integral role player on playoff teams in each of the (full) seasons since he was traded.
Many NBA types saw Bogdanovic as a spot-up shooter. Especially his coach with the Nets at the time, Lionel Hollins. People close to Bogdanovic said the Croatian rarely saw eye-to-eye with Hollins, in large part due to Hollins’ stubbornness in seeing Bogdanovic only as a spot-up shooter.
When Bogie was entering the league, the Nets had waited several years for him to come over. One scout who watched him up close with Fenerbahce in Turkey told me, “Bojan is not a shooter, he is a scorer.” And that was the thing Hollins failed to realize: Boganovic was a stud in Europe because of array of weapons. Sure he could hit the three, but he thrived in other unique areas, specifically in post-up situations.
I’ll take Bojan Bogdanovic on this team where the ball is moving and he’s getting open looks, perhaps with more opportunity to create. Remember, his point guard in the final year was Jarrett Jack who often deferred… to himself. Bogie stood alone in the corner and was written off due to his poor defense.
Now, he’s a 39 percent career three-point shooter whose averaged 18 points over his seven-year career. Before the NBA suspended its season, Bogie was averaging 20 points per game.
This is another one the past regime screwed up – and another problem the new regime had to fix. Bogdanovic ended up being a key trade piece which ultimately landed them Jarrett Allen. You can argue who won the trade, but his time in Brooklyn had become a lost cause at that point.
Remember when he dropped 44? Us too.
PF – Mirza Teletovic
This is my ultimate pick. Teletovic was lights out from deep and he was the perfect modern day 4 to squeeze in at the power forward spot. At 6’9” and 242 pounds, Teletovic would’ve enabled the Nets to play all the small ball they wanted... and actually penalize teams by doing so. Not to mention, he had a good character, was hard worker and he was tough. One of the greatest stories to this day is when Teletovic wrapped LeBron James up on a fastbreak drive, and James acted as if he were going to attack Teletovic (of course, he waited to make that move until teammates separated him). There stood Mirza in the pack, smiling at the King of the NBA as if to say, “hey, pal, I survived the Balkans War.”
To keep it simple: He had the ideal makeup for a stretch 4 in Brooklyn’s offense. And he had the character, too.
When he had weapons around him, Mirza was the optimal big man in a pick-and-pop. He shot 42 percent from three his second season in Brooklyn when Jason Kidd was head coach. He later reunited with Kidd and became an important role player on up-and-coming Bucks team. In 2018, Teletović announced his retirement after suffering a career-ending injury pulmonary emboli.
Long live Mirza.
C – Sean Williams
The man was far from perfect . Let’s make that clear before we talk about his play. He was kicked off his college team due to issues related to drugs. During his promising time with the Nets, he was a magnet for controversy, including two arrests.
Williams showed so much potential during his rookie year with the Nets. His athleticism was undeniable. One play from “SWAT” made your eyes pop, jaws drop, lungs suck in huge volumes of air finalized with a deep exhale in the form of a scream. He fit that perfect ‘lobs and blocks’ model that Sean Marks appreciates so much – a player with very similar qualities to Jarrett Allen only stronger and more athletic. And that’s no discredit to Jarrett. Remember, ‘lobs and blocks’ essentially coincides with a bigs ability to run the floor and finish in transition.
His peers were huge fans. Coach Lawrence Frank raved about him, as did Vince Carter and J-Kidd. This is what Kidd said about him in 2007:
“He brings a lot to the table defensively,” said Kidd. “He can change shots. He can block shots. And he rebounds. He can also play above the rim, so he can be an (offensive) presence. The big thing is, he’s learning. He’s learning on the go and he’s picking things up pretty fast.”
Kidd was traded 51 games into Williams’ rookie year. Perhaps he brought the best out in the rookie at the time. Did Kidd’s departure hurt his chances? Things only got worse from that point on. Personal issues are personal for a reason, but having a leader like Kidd (might) have helped the kid’s career. He did it with a lot of other players.
Another ‘ah well’ case. He could’ve been a ton of fun if he kept his head straight and played in today’s NBA. He was only 25-years-old when he played his final NBA game.
I know, I would love to see Dr. J, Jason Kidd, Drazen Petrovic in today’s NBA, too. Think outside the box… Players that didn’t exactly pan out. Have some fun with it in the comments!