How will Hollins use the Nets on offense?

Tayshaun Prince, Mike Conley, Lionel Hollins
How will the Nets run under Lionel Hollins? (AP)

Fitting the Nets roster

Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams

Brook Lopez stands to gain the most from the offense Hollins ran in Memphis. In a pick-and-roll scheme, he’ll be the most utilized roll man: he has range from 18 feet, moves well in space, and is deadly in the post. Getting the ball to Lopez in the post organically is a welcome departure from swinging the ball side-to-side waiting for Lopez to free himself. The only real downside: defenses will have plenty of time to get set as Lopez lumbers downcourt to initiate a pick.

Deron Williams undoubtedly had a down year last year, but he has all the assets to excel in Hollins’ system. He remains masterful in the mid-range to keep defenses honest when they “ice” the pick and roll, and he’s comfortable distributing the ball. He assisted on 31 percent of Brooklyn’s field goals last year, better than Conley in Memphis. Ultimately, if Williams’s ankles heal properly (and I am going to go as long as I can this offseason ignoring health concerns) he should be able to turn the corner more effectively while getting added benefit from the return of the team’s most efficient scorer, Brook Lopez. (Jarrett Jack, the Nets backup and likely part-time shooting guard, demonstrates a similar skillset to Williams and may thrive in a Brooklyn atmosphere with more shooters and less Mike Brown running the offense.)

Dwyane Wade, Chris Andersen, Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson (AP)
Joe Johnson should serve as a gravitational force for defenders looking to assist on a Lopez/D-Will pick and roll. Joe Jesus deserves more than just a sharpshooter role: during the Memphis era B.D., Hollins used Prince’s length nominally in the post out of necessity, an area where Johnson excels. But the habits of Rudy Gay, in Memphis C.D., suggest there should be ample opportunity for Johnson to work in space.

In the Johnson hypothetical, the onus is on Hollins to devise a scheme that gets Johnson the ball creatively in space -– e.g. on the nail against smaller opponents. It’s not hard to imagine Hollins up to the task, given his effective use of Gasol as an off-ball screener. A step back for Johnson would be to allow him to revert to his less appealing Iso-Joe habits of the past — something we saw a lot in Memphis with the less efficient Rudy Gay.

We touched on Gasol’s effectiveness as a passer out of the high post. This role does not seem fitted to Lopez’s skill set, but other bigs on the roster are comfortable in this position. Andrei Kirilenko seems out of place in a pick-and-roll dominated offense, but he’s maybe the heir apparent to Gasol’s role in the high post. Kirilenko lacks Gasol’s jumper, but he’s an artful passer with greater foot speed than Gasol. Staying within the confines of his Memphis offense, Hollins can also kick the tires on a Kevin Garnett/Lopez front court pairing given KG’s comfort operating from the high post. KG’s jump shot and (illegal) screening ability are two more things that fit well in these schemes.

All of the rotational big men would seem to fit into Hollins’ offense in one way or another. Mirza Teletovic represents a weapon Hollins lacked, an authentic stretch four. Ideally, he’s a pick-and-pop option that should give help defenders fits when they’re looking to gum up a D-Will/Lopez action. Mason Plumlee’s athleticism makes him an ideal dive man in any pick-and-roll situation and fans should be encouraged by his reported work over the summer on his jumpshot and in the post. (But that shot chart is painted gold.)

Slovenia Basketball Eurobasket
Bojan Bogdanovic (left) is the newest Nets guard. (AP)

On the wings, Alan Anderson isn’t in Tony Allen’s universe, defensively or mentally, but Anderson’s three-point shooting and off-the-bounce play represents a major upgrade on offense. Markel Brown’s athleticism, especially if he expends it on defense, may let him see some court time next season, and he also projects as a player with more range (.379 from the college 3-point line his senior year) and ball-handling ability than Hollins had in Memphis.

Finally, the hope for Bojan Bogdanovic is extra scoring punch of the bench, but it’s hard to speculate how he’ll adjust the NBA, especially on the defensive end. Unfortunately, poor defense is the easiest way to find yourself in Hollins’ doghouse. (Hi OJ Mayo!) But, the Nets seem high on him, and Hollins has suggested ways to use the younger scorer to Billy King.

Hollins has the personnel to run a similar offense to what he ran in Memphis, one that’ll likely be enhanced by the Nets more viable shooting options. Can Brooklyn’s perimeter players elevate Hollins’ standard offense to a new level efficiency? That’s for the season to tell.

But what becomes abundantly clear when analyzing Hollins’ coaching style is this: the best way to for a player to find the court is to demonstrate ability and effort on defense. How will this impact players like Mirza Teletovic, Bogan Bogdanovic or even Jarrett Jack, not known for their work on that end of the floor? We’ll have to see.

We’ll take a look at how Hollins may bring (a more electric) Grit-n-Grind defense to Brooklyn next week. That’s Hollins’ bread-and-butter. Hand-churned butter, if you’re from Memphis.

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