The Brooklyn Nets have been willing adjusters this season. If this is news to you, well, you’ve been living under a moderately large-sized rock. The team tossed out its 29th starting lineup on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, a franchise record in a single season with still 17 games to spare.
Now sure, some of that lineup flexibility has come from the sheer number of absences that Brooklyn has faced. But certain games come to mind with regard to preparing for a specific opponent — the February 13th meetup with Golden State, for example, in which Steve Nash went full mad scientist and started 6’4” Bruce Brown at center.
That ingenuity, that creative process... expect it to continue into the postseason.
“Each round, if you’re fortunate enough to advance, poses different problems, different matchups, and therefore different rotations,” explained Nash about his playoff philosophy. “A lot of that just depends on where we’re at physically when we get there, what the matchups are from round-to-round, and then lastly, situationally — is there a situation that demands or asks for one of our guys that typically isn’t in the rotation to do a job for us.”
Paramount is deciding on a (somewhat) firm frontcourt rotation, which is in flux after LaMarcus Aldridge’s sudden retirement.
“I think it’s more matchup-based for us,” said Nash about the center rotation. “I don’t think it makes sense to just pencil something in if the matchups aren’t more favorable for us. We look at our fives — DJ, Nic (Claxton), Blake (Griffin), Jeff (Green) — they all bring something different, they all bring slightly different profiles. So I think that is to our advantage to mix and match and to see who — on a night-to-night or matchup basis — gives us what we think is a perceived advantage or the lesser of two evils when we face superstars.”
Presumably, there will likely be a larger sample of DeAndre Jordan and possibly Blake Griffin to mirror the bulkier stars and jumbo contenders in the league. You know, the Joel Embiids, Giannis Antetokoumpos, Anthony Davis, and Nikola Jokics of the world. Whereas matchups against some of the more small-ball-centric squads could call on the switchable skillsets of Nicolas Claxton and Jeff Green.
Going matchup-dependent doesn’t automatically exclude the youngins. Players like Alize Johnson have real shots at earning playoff minutes provided the context is viable and expectations are exceeded.
“It can change, for sure,” explained Nash. “You always leave the possibility for players to perform and earn opportunities. It really comes down to earned opportunities over who and when, because we’ve got at least four guys that you can mark down as 40-plus minutes a night. You’ve got others that are right there beneath them. It becomes a little more situational.
“But certainly, if a guy outperforms expectations and is in a great run of form, then he could play more minutes than expected, be in a playoff rotation, or in a series (where) he can feature that you perhaps didn’t foresee at this time in the season.”