As free agency dies down and the rumors turn from “Deron Williams” to “Antawn Jamison,” most teams have some understanding of what their roster will look like come season time. The Brooklyn Nets are one of these teams; with 11 players under contract and at least one more (likely Kris Humphries) joining them soon, the Brooklyn Nets have put together a near-full rotation that they’ll kick off the season with. Given the past few seasons of turmoil, the roster’s built with surprising flexibility, as multiple players can play multiple roles and positions. Here’s a brief look at it broken down:
Deron Williams is the first line of offense here, for obvious reasons; he’s the long-term face of the Brooklyn Nets, one of the best scorer-creators in the NBA, the team’s lone Olympian, and somehow averaged an assist percentage of 45.8% last season playing 1,348 combined minutes with Shelden Williams and Johan Petro. Williams played an uncomfortable role last season that didn’t maximize his talents, acting as the first offensive option (the second being “whoever he just passed to”). After a top-to-bottom roster makeover, Williams should create abundant offensive opportunities for himself and others within the flow of a finely constructed offense.
After signing a veteran’s minimum contract over the weekend, C.J. Watson becomes the first man off the bench to back up Williams. Like former backup Jordan Farmar, Watson is a talented shooter from beyond the arc, particularly from the right corner. Unfortunately, he’s also a horrific finisher; Watson dubiously shot worse at the rim (38.8%) than beyond the arc (39.3%) last season, and it was hardly an aberration. Watson ranked similarly in assist percentage (25.6%) to Eric Bledsoe (25.5%) and Derrick Rose (25.0%), though it’s also worth noting that Watson’s plus-minus in Chicago was easily the worst on the roster.
When both Watson and Williams need a rest, the Nets will likely turn rookie Tyshawn Taylor, who played well (albeit not spectacularly) in Orlando Summer League. Summer League inferences are generally meaningless and hold a tenuous connection to NBA success, but Taylor’s summer league stint didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: he’s a solid defender, a willing scorer & good shooter, and makes occasionally makes poor decisions with the ball in his hand. Barring injury or sudden Lin-like explosion, he’ll get minimal minutes on a talent-laden roster
Joe Johnson is the marquee name after Williams. The Brooklyn Nets introduced the two together in their pep rally last week, and Johnson is the Robin to D-Will’s Batman; alleviating pressure from double-teams and creating on and off the ball. Johnson will also likely see time with Deron Williams and MarShon Brooks on the floor, playing the prototypical “small forward.” The “best backcourt in the NBA” moniker is a decidedly PR move, but if all goes according to plan, that’ll be more truth than fiction on the good nights.
MarShon Brooks is the next prototypical “shooting guard” after Johnson, and the name fits; Brooks’s most successful asset is his ability to create solid looks against solid defenses. His move to the bench is a welcome one, considering his struggle to fit in with Brook Lopez; Lopez and Brooks shared the floor for 113 minutes last season, and Brooks’ shot attempts slashed in half as he scored just 31 points in over two full games’ worth of minutes. Small sample size alert, but outside of a fluky 6-6 from 10-to-19 feet with Lopez on the floor, Brooks just looked bad — an ugly combination of passive and uncomfortable. A big part of Brooks’s development will come with learning to play with Lopez, and using his minutes effectively when he enters for 4-to-6 minute stretches.
Veteran guards Jerry Stackhouse and Keith Bogans likely won’t play much — I’d assume Bogans more than Stackhouse, but that’s to be seen. These two late, veteran’s minimum signings round out the sudden glut of shooting guards. Bogans is a decent aging defender, Stackhouse a not-so-decent aging scorer; seeing these two play more than twelve combined minutes per game would be a surprise.
Crash Army Knives
Gerald Wallace is in a unique position. He’s the only bona fide “small forward” on the roster, but he’s capable of playing both in the post and on the wings. He’ll play mostly with Williams and Johnson, but quicker with Williams, Brooks, and Johnson. His success will come from a garbage man role; as the fourth or fifth option and second-best rebounder in the starting lineup, Wallace will have to crash the glass, defend every possession, and find slivers of daylight to cut into for layups to maximize team success. If the 30-year-old Wallace puts up an effort and stat line comparable to Shawn Marion’s around the same age, I’d consider that a success.
This year’s wild card, Brook Lopez can potentially make or break this team’s season. At max, he’ll build upon his second and third years, push his rebound percentage back into the 14-15% range, score more easily and efficiently than ever, enjoy an improved agility on the defensive end defending switches, never face a double-team (and make smart decisions when he does), and push the Brooklyn Nets from a middle-of-the-pack playoff team to a second-seed still-not-Miami juggernaut. At worst, he’ll overextend his capabilities in an attempt to justify his maximum contract, fall back on midrange jumpers when he hits his fatigue point, shoot through every double team that will inevitably come if he doesn’t pass from them, continue his downward spiral on the glass, never hedge a pick-and-roll, and ensure this team is first-round fodder. I lean towards the former over the latter, but (cliché alert!) that’s why they play the games. If healthy, I’m unconcerned about Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace. Brook Lopez is entirely another matter.
Don’t forget about Mirza Teletovic, the stretch 4 and possible starting power forward. The favorable comparisons put him in the conversation with Ryan Anderson, and if he can befriend Brook Lopez anywhere near Anderson’s level I think we’ll find success here. I’d speak further on Teletovic, but Euroleague Adventures guru and rumored pants-wearer Sam Meyerkopf already did such a bang-up job breaking him down that I’m going to withhold any further judgment until I see him play against NBA players.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, comes the beastly Reggie Evans. We have thoughts on him coming in a couple of days, so for now I’ll only say that Evans’ total rebound percentage of 23.3% in the past two seasons is second in the NBA during that span, and his career average of 21.1% would rank second all-time behind Dennis Rodman if he played enough minutes to qualify.