The Brooklyn Nets can be more competitive in games if they plug in the right pieces.
This isn’t a video game, unfortunately, and Kenny Atkinson has to make due with what he has. What he does have, though, are many guys who aren’t other-worldly talents when compared to the rest of the roster.
Everyone else is roughly at the same skill level, and that allows them to be swapped around without much dropoff.
While I’m doing this speculation, the Nets are in the middle of a four-game losing streak and have looked as miserable as ever. The defense is in total shambles, and Brooklyn has allowed more than 120 points in each of those four games.
On the bright side, there wasn’t much offensive ineptitude, and the Nets could’ve stolen a game or two had it not been for Charmin-soft defense.
As the Nets form their identity and figure themselves out, they can play around with different lineups and see who works best with one another.
Remember, Brooklyn is rebuilding. And they, essentially, overhauled the entire franchise in the span of a year. New coach, new GM (who has been phenomenal, by the way) and a host of new players all play a part in the struggle.
With Lin’s absence, the team is missing their best guard, and he’s someone who is a legitimate difference-maker. He commands the floor on offense, and Lin’s ability to penetrate makes the Nets a far more lethal team offensively.
They already jack up a ton of threes, but with Lin, those threes are uncontested because he collapses the defense.
Since he’s been gone, Brooklyn hasn’t had a true point guard. Sean Kilpatrick has been the stand-in, but he can only do so much as a floor general; Isaiah Whitehead and Yogi Ferrell have been decent as well, but they’re still getting used to the NBA.
Kilpatrick is one of the Nets best players, so he needs to be out on the floor. Whatever lineup Atkinson throws out there, the former Bearcat is at the heart of it.
This lineup is Brooklyn’s fourth-most popular one, and they’ve spent a bit more than 20 minutes on the floor as a unit, according to Basketball-Reference.
Collectively, this is the best group that Atkinson can throw on the court. And it’s not close. Not only do they score, but they rebound and defend without fouling.
Per 100 possessions, that squad is +29.3 in scoring, +6.0 in total rebounds and -3.6 in fouls; their assist margin is +6.0, which is shocking because they don’t have a “point guard.”
Four of the guys in that aggregate are the Nets best players, and Harris had made a nice impression during the start of the season.
Booker and RHJ focus on defense. The other three guys do the heavy lifting on offense. It all comes together rather seamlessly, and this is a unit that can see a ton of time going forward because of where they fall on the depth chart.
No matter what happens, all of them will be in the rotation. The only question is when they’ll get called upon.
Unfortunately, there is no data with the point totals surrendered by each lineup, but, being plus-29, the points allowed has to be low.
There is a ton of length on the perimeter with Kilpatrick (6-4), Harris (6-6) and Hollis-Jefferson (6-7), and there’s also a decent amount of athleticism. RHJ is the best defender of the three, but the other two are doing their parts to keep opponents off the scoreboard.
With Booker and Lopez, the paint is secure — well, as secure as it can be. Neither guy is a shot blocker, but both are rim protectors and are insurance to the guys on the perimeter.
Furthermore, they have the second-best rebounding differential of any Nets lineup with more than ten minutes played.
As the season progresses and Lin comes back into the rotation, this unit will get more time together if they can clean things up, especially everything on defense.