This morning, the Brooklyn Nets signed two of their second round picks that they purchased in the 2014 NBA Draft, inking Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson to rookie minimum contracts. With those two signings, the Nets officially have 15 players under contract, the maximum that an NBA team is allowed to employ. Since they will no longer be players on the free agent market barring some unforeseen roster move, lets assess what the Nets will look like heading into 2014-2015:
Projected starting lineup: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Mirza Teletovic, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez
The only spot really up in the air is the small forward position. I gave Teletovic the nod just from his experience with the team, and his ability to spread the floor. While the loss of Paul Pierce was certainly unanticipated, the Nets do have quite a few options to replace him minutes wise. Other than Teletovic, the Nets also signed Bojan Bogdanovich to a three year deal, who had been playing overseas since the Nets drafted him in 2011.
The team also acquired Russian prospect Sergey Karasev from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Jarrett Jack deal (more on him momentarily), and Karasev could also potentially crack the rotation at small forward. Andrei Kirilenko is also returning to the team, and could potentially fill the void here as well, but the Nets are more comfortable with AK-47 coming off the bench as a jack of all trades playing multiple positions and causing havoc.
While the Nets have had some major changes in their roster, and philosophy of spending this summer, the starting five is remarkably similar to the start of last season, only substituting the aforementioned Pierce for Teletovic, or any of those possibilities at the small forward position.
Projected bench: Jarrett Jack, Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovich, Alan Anderson
The bench is pretty solid, led by Jarrett Jack, who had a disappointing season with the Cavs last season, but is more than capable of bouncing back. If he can channel his game from his Golden State Warrior days, there will definitely be the minutes and opportunity for Jack to compete for Sixth Man of the Year next year. I see Jack being used very similarly to how the Clippers use Jamal Crawford in Los Angeles in terms of the type of minutes he will get, specifically in the fourth quarter.
Though I don’t see him starting, I can see coach Lionel Hollins using a closing lineup of Williams-Jack-Johnson-Garnett-Lopez in the fourth quarter of games.
The rest of the bench screams one thing: versatility, which is something the Nets prided themselves on last season. Kirilenko proved last season he can make a difference at multiple positions, especially defensively. Mason Plumlee may end up seeing more minutes at power forward this season, and while he doesn’t bring the necessary skill-set offensively, he is certainly athletic enough to potentially defend that position for small spurts.
Bojan Bogdanovich, like most European players when they come to the league, is really the wild card for this Nets team. Many have compared his game to that of now former Net Paul Pierce, and if he can do anything near that, the Nets will be happy they brought him to the states. Following his career thus far, consistency seems to be the biggest flaw in his game. Some nights he looks like the next Dirk Nowitzki in terms of taking the league by storm, and other nights, he looks like someone who can’t compete against inferior competition, let alone in the NBA.
The real question is this: with so much competition at that position, how long will Hollins stick with Bogdanovich as he attempts to adjust his game to the NBA? We may very well see Bogdanovich get the same treatment that Mirza Teletovich got when he first came to the Nets, a very short leash that may end with him riding the bench this year.
With a veteran coach like Hollins, I definitely see Alan Anderson getting minutes over many of the younger guys on this roster. His defensive tenacity will surely make him a favorite with the coaching staff, and his ability to spread the floor, and even play some minutes at small forward in a small lineup makes me believe he will be a healthy part of the Nets rotation this year.
Bench warmers: Sergey Karasev, Jorge Gutiérrez, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson, Marquis Teague
Look for many of these guys to spend a lot of time in the D-League, much like the Nets did with Tyshawn Taylor and Toko Shengelia last season before trading them. Sure, there is a shot one of them may end up cracking the rotation, especially if injuries pile up. I would give Karasev and Jefferson the best shot, especially with Kevin Garnett definitely being on a minutes restriction, and Brook Lopez possibly doing the same coming off injury.
Markel Brown definitely brings two things the Nets lack overall: youth and athleticism. Though I think they like what they’ve seen so far, we may be a year away from Brown getting any run on the team. Marquis Teague… well, he’s basically useless, and that is probably an insult to the word useless. He should try and shadow Alan Anderson’s cheerleader tactics on the sidelines.
This Nets team is very interesting; that’s the best word I can think of. I am not quite sure how many of the pieces go together, and strictly on paper, it seems they have taken a step backwards. However, the step back may be necessary, as the team was just trying to throw money around, taking shortcuts of trying to build a championship team.
With LeBron James leaving Miami for Cleveland, the East has become much more competitively balanced, but it still seems like a pipe-dream for the Nets to compete in the East, especially with teams like the Wizards, Raptors, Pistons and Knicks improving. Pair that with the Hawks and Bulls getting healthy, and you are running out of potential playoff spots in the East.
This Nets team is extremely reliant on the health of both Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, as any team should be on their supposed two best players. However, until they prove otherwise, pessimism is really the only logical conclusion to draw from the notion that they can both compete at a high level over an 82 game season.
While the team is heading more toward the right direction, and the roster is developing that international flavor that probably pleases owner Mikhail Prokhorov, don’t be surprised by a 7 or 8 seeded Nets team this season, if not watching the playoffs from home.
Frank Santos- NY Sports-Kings Co-Manager