Bam Adebayo had his way with the Nets bigs the other night, dominating whoever Jacque Vaughn put out there. It’s been a recurring issue: big, quick 5s take advantage of the Nets front court. But few with the aplomb of Adebayo.
As Mark W. Sanchez of the Post writes, Andre Drummond was a step slow while others were a step weaker in guarding the Heat’s “new look” big.
The 6-foot-10, 279-pound Drummond has averaged 9.1 rebounds in 21.4 minutes with the Nets and been the bulldozing option he projected to be. But matched up Thursday against Miami’s Bam Adebayo, an agile and mobile new-age center, Drummond consistently was a step slow.
The Nets were outscored by 10 points when Drummond was on the court, the Heat repeatedly using pick-and-rolls to create mismatches and exploit the speed difference. Miami was up five with just under eight minutes remaining when coach Erik Spoelstra called for a handoff at the 3-point line from Adebayo to guard Tyler Herro. Herro took the ball, and Adebayo took off toward the hoop, easily outsprinting Drummond and catching an alley-oop for an and-one.
Drummond was supposed to be a new-age center himself coming out of UConn where he regularly won wind sprints, beating all his smaller teammates. But Adebayo had his night against the Nets other bigs as well...
Even Aldridge, though, struggled with the quicker Adebayo, who finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. The Nets’ best matchup was Nic Claxton, who played well for six minutes — which was more than usual for the center, who has been buried since the James Harden trade.
The Nets also could have turned to Blake Griffin, who did not play. Acting head coach Jacque Vaughn mostly stuck with the bigger bodies, which backfired.
Will the rotation change with the addition of two 6’11” bigs who normally play other positions, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons? KD looked All-Defense before going down with an MCL sprain while Simmons has twice been voted All-Defense and finished as first runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year balloting last year.
Or will the center-by-committee remain in place with Drummond continuing as committee chairman. Drummond may just need more conditioning work. He’s moving from a back-up role playing 18.4 minutes a game in Philly to the starter playing 21.4 mpg. It may seem like a small increment but the Nets have increased his training regimen and he’s been resolute in doing what is needed, even doing post-game cardio.
His role as the first among equals has already had consequences for Day’Ron Sharpe who was assigned to Long Island on Friday after starting eight games in Brooklyn and Griffin whose minutes are once again up and down.
The larger mystery is what’s up with Claxton? After returning from hamstring woes, the 6’11” big has played sparingly. In the 10 games since the trade deadline blockbuster that brought Drummond to Brooklyn, Claxton has had six DNP-CD’s and another game where he played only garbage minutes. The Nets plan for him remains foggy. They barely played him in the post-season last year and his progress this year has been stalled by both illness and injury.
The Nets indeed have a lot of decisions to make this summer with their bigs. Drummond, Claxton, Aldridge and Griffin are all free agents of different stripes. All are also coming off minimum deals and may want to get paid. It’s no surprise the Nets are playing Thon Maker big minutes on Long Island, hoping for a developmental surge from the 25-year-old.
In the meantime, expect Drummond get the bigger share of minutes. It’s the safe choice.
- Andre Drummond’s struggles vs. Heat raise questions about Nets’ center rotation - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post