Don’t you just wish we could fast forward to the NBA Finals at the snap of a finger — Thanos style?
With the signing of seven time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, the Brooklyn Nets may have just completed the Infinity Gauntlet.
For those not as familiar with Marvel jargon, the Nets super team just got even more super and with every move (& brilliant MVP performance from James Harden), it seems more and more likely the path to a championship runs through the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush.
The latest buyout add amplifies the Nets embarrassment of riches even further. The ridiculousness of this roster seems unfathomable to the average NBA fan, even more so to Nets fans that have seen 12-70, the Boston trade fallout, and the darkest days in the organization’s history.
Little brother and NBA afterthought no longer, the Nets are now out of the swamps of the Meadowlands and ready to take advantage of being on the biggest stage. Fully equipped with outstanding talent and experience, Brooklyn is ready to maximize its big chance.
We’re now officially at, “The 2020-2021 Brooklyn Nets are the most talented team of all-time”— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) March 27, 2021
And there’s still a chance @SDinwiddie_25 returns for the playoffs.
An embarrassment of riches. Bravo, Sean Marks, Kevin Durant, and the rest of the recruiters.
SCARIER HOURS. https://t.co/fMnYj8Bcgc
Aldridge, while like Blake Griffin is not the player he once was, still provides the Nets with yet another highly experienced, highly skilled, and highly motivated veteran option. Now with Aldridge, Griffin, Jeff Green, Nic Claxton, and DeAndre Jordan in the fold, the Nets boast some of the best frontcourt depth in the league and the flexibility to play whatever style they need to come playoff time.
Speaking of playoff matchups, Brooklyn fortifying the frontcourt shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Nets are building for their competition. The added muscle up front should pay dividends against arguably the two biggest potential roadblocks for Brooklyn on the way to a title — the Lakers and Sixers.
A quick glance at the 2020-2021 spreadsheet may not unearth the value Aldridge could bring to Brooklyn, but as any good front office executive must do, we must extrapolate those numbers out and look deeper into who Aldridge truly is and how to best utilize his current skillset. Different roles and new backdrops often revive veteran players.
At this stage of his career, Aldridge has some limitations, mainly on the defensive end. Aldridge, like Jordan, doesn’t move very well laterally or in space, so perhaps the Nets might need to play more drop coverage and switch less often with Aldridge at the 5. They already often do that with Jordan at the 5, so it wouldn’t be a major adjustment for the team.
However, Aldridge is still an underrated and disciplined rim protector. Paired with his IQ for the game, Aldridge’s 6’11’’ frame and mammoth 7’5’’ wingspan make him a tough guy to finish over inside the paint. While never much of a shot blocker, Aldridge’s ability to stay vertical when contesting shots at the rim provides value — he can do a lot of the same things Jordan can defensively at this point. Against less athletic bigs, Aldridge could especially thrive. Just look at how well he performed against Marc Gasol and the Lakers just two months ago.
Offense is where the real upgrade comes. Aldridge’s days as a 20+ point scorer and All-NBA caliber player are in the rearview mirror, but that jumper is still silky smooth and the former Longhorn has expanded his range to develop into a true three level scorer as the game has changed.
Think of this version of Aldridge as being similar to late stage Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki averaged 14.2 points on 44/38/88 percentages in 2016-2017. Aldridge averaged a very similar 13.7 points on 46/36/84 percentages in 21 games this season with San Antonio. Those numbers are also better than Blake Griffin’s 12.3 points on 37/32/71 in 20 games with Detroit this year.
Always a near automatic mid-range shooter with a devastating turnaround post jumper in his prime like Dirk, Aldridge now shoots threes at a strong clip and decent volume. Over the past two seasons in San Antonio, Aldridge has shot 37.5 percent from behind the arc on an average of 3.3 attempts per game. With even more open looks in Brooklyn looming —say hello to James Harden, Aldridge’s shooting range should be yet another wrinkle in the Nets’ toolbox.
Additionally, Aldridge’s shooting prowess gives the Nets flexibility to play virtually any frontcourt combination they want, save for maybe pairing the two trees — LMA and DJ. With Aldridge, the Nets can stay nearly as big as they are with Jordan in the game, but maximize their offensive floor spacing. Aldridge-Claxton, Aldridge-Griffin, Aldridge-Green, and Aldridge-Durant are all frontcourt the Nets will likely play at some point or another and each of them have the potential to thrive offensively and do enough defensively.
Aldridge brings even more variety to the Nets offensive attack — already the best offense in NBA history. Aldridge adds another strong post up option to attack switches on smaller players and a high level pick and pop option. Claxton and Jordan are north-south rim rollers that put pressure on the rim as lob threats, Griffin can pop, slip, and roll some, and then there’s Aldridge who can pop, or even slip and quickly seal a smaller player in the post. Aldridge simply lengths the Nets list of options depending on matchups and how teams want to defend the Big Three.
The Nets can pretty much transform to whatever matchup they have.— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 27, 2021
Now, what are the potential downsides? Sure, Aldridge could mean Nets fans’ beloved Claxton sees less time if the Nets opt for a more experienced frontcourt featuring Jordan instead, but more likely the Nets coaching staff will recognize the value Claxton brings as an elite switching big with springy athleticism and elite length and opt for ‘Clax’ over the aging Jordan. Some Nets fans have concerns that the coaching staff won’t acknowledge the very evident gap between Claxton and Jordan at this point, but I think that’s quite foolish.
Are we not going to give Steve Nash and the coaching staff any credit? Lately, Nash and the staff seem to be pushing all of the right buttons, putting players in position to succeed, and maximizing lineup combinations. After all, it was the coaching staff that creatively decided to use the 6’4’’ Bruce Brown as a quasi-5 on offense, unlocking Brown’s elite floater game and playing a limited offensive player to his strengths.
To those that are concerned that the Nets will opt to play the FOK, Jordan, over Claxton for political reasons, I wouldn’t worry either. It’s officially the stretch run. The Nets understand the challenges ahead of them and are solely focused on maximizing their title chances. Evident by the team’s ever lasting pursuit of upgrades, the time for experimentation is over.
Expect Nash to consider all the players he has at his disposal, but choose only those that maximize the team’s chances per matchup come playoff time. Sometimes that could be Jordan in bigger matchups like Philadelphia, but most times, I’d expect the better player in Claxton to get the nod.
Aldridge is expected to see a significant amount of his minutes at center for the Nets.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 27, 2021
Even in what some fans would deem a ‘worst case scenario’ of Jordan playing over Claxton, the Nets now have the talent and depth in their frontcourt to still win. Claxton will have a long career, hopefully a large portion of it repping the black-and-white, but if the Nets win the title — even if he’s out of the rotation for most of the playoff run — is it really going to matter? Nets would be champions and Claxton would have had invaluable experience learning under multiple All-Star bigs and felt what a championship team feels like. Things could be worse.
That’s the point, the Nets, from one to seventeen, are all trying to achieve something greater than themselves. Collectively, the Nets have a sole goal of winning a championship. Along the way, some players may play more than others, but they understand that and are all willing to sacrifice to achieve the common goal. Note that Aldridge and Griffin both gave up millions of dollars with no guarantee of major minutes all because they wanted to secure that elusive first title and believed Brooklyn was the place to make it happen. This is a special group willing to sacrifice. Do not worry about who plays. Rotations will be fluid and matchup dependent.
While the Nets still have the flexibility to add one more player if they so choose, Aldridge very well could be the final piece to Brooklyn’s puzzle. With ownership committing to a hefty tax bill, the front office relentlessly looking for upgrades, the coaching staff maximizing its pieces, and players sacrificing on multiple levels, Brooklyn — from top to bottom — is all-in for its pursuit of the organization’s first title.
As any fan of the game would tell you, it’s incredibly rare to see a team this talented be put together — let alone on your team, Nets fans!
What we’re seeing with the Nets is excellence from top to bottom. The players are dominating, the coaches are thriving, and Marks is perfecting a roster he continues to mold. Celebrate it, cherish it, and be thrilled to add yet another highly decorated NBA legend to the team.
Welcome, LaMarcus Aldridge.