It’s almost time for basketball in Brooklyn. The preseason kicks off at the Barclays Center on Thursday night at 7:30, and it’s a totally revamped Brooklyn Nets team taking the floor.
The roster is no longer a rag-tag bunch of guys who were thrown together out of necessity–this year’s squad features a satisfying blend of youthful and experienced players who will suffer through the learning curves together.
More exciting than the roster additions is the new head coach, Kenny Atkinson, who will kick off his solo coaching career.
Offensively, prepare to see a lot of passing. With a group of guys who have no chemistry together, the amount hands the ball touches will be phenomenal. Contrarily, it may also mean guys are too unselfish and passing up good looks for better ones that they might not get.
This squad will be looking to gel as quickly as possible, and limiting isolation possessions is a good start.
Sometimes, however, the team can get a little overzealous and pass too much. At that point, there needs to be someone who can take charge and force something on offense so the defense can react. Jeremy Lin will be the one for that.
There’s also Brook Lopez, who provides them with a bailout guy if the possession breaks down. A good amount of the offense will run through Lopez to begin with, but when the clock dips under ten seconds, the ball handler can just dump it to him in the low post.
If the offense routinely falls apart, at least the Nets can hang their hat on defense.
With Lin and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the perimeter, Brooklyn has two ball hawks who can provide constant pressure to opposing guards. Both have great size and athleticism, and RHJ specifically has the chance to become an exceptional defensive player. Even though it’s only preseason, Hollis-Jefferson will come out energized.
Since he missed extended time because of ankle surgery, expect RHJ to spend a lot of time on the court to get back into a defensive–and offensive–groove.
Chris McCullough is someone similar to RHJ, and this will be an excellent time to evaluate him as a defender. Not only is he young, but he brings the length (7’3.25″ wingspan) and athleticism that all great rim protectors need.
McCullough can jump out of the gym and has a frame that will fill out nicely. He’ll spend the preseason learning more about defensive schemes–not over-rotating, effective post defense–and not relying so much on physical attributes.
Luis Scola, Brook Lopez, Lin, and possibly Bojan Bogdanovic will likely not see a ton of minutes tonight. All of the young guys who are expected to spend a decent amount of time in Brooklyn will monopolize the minutes and allow the coaches to gauge their potential.
Isaiah Whitehead will see some time at the point. Sean Kilpatrick will become a focal point of the offense, and Anthony Bennett will use the dress rehearsal to help reinvigorate his NBA career.
On top of those guys, McCullough will see time along with Joe Harris, as the two look to make a mark with their ability to shoot from three.
If all of those guys manage to be on the court together, the offense will look funky and disjointed. And that’s okay.
The more mistakes they make–and the earlier they do it–will mean that they’ll know what they need to work on heading into the regular season.