After defeating LeBron and the Cavs, the Brooklyn Nets can’t get out of their own way. Are the frontcourt injuries just too much to overcome?
The Brooklyn Nets have been in a slump as of late. They currently hold a 4-7 record which is fifth in the Atlantic Division. Entering the season, the Nets were just about fully healthy. Now with a 4-7 record, almost half the roster is dealing with injuries.
In the first game of the season, the Nets lost their starting point guard Jeremy Lin for the season. This was the beginning of the rough injury road for the Nets. Jeremy Lin’s injury is the harshest hit for the Nets this season and hopefully will be all season.
Since the middle of October, injuries have been piling up for the Nets. The Nets clearly have a huge big-man hole to fix. The hole was caused by the departure of Brook Lopez to LA and hasn’t been filled since. Even with all of the Nets frontcourt players healthy, opponents attack their weak frontcourt. To make things even worse, the majority of the Nets’ recent injuries have been a majority of frontcourt players.
Carroll has missed only one game, against the Nuggets on Oct 29, due to ankle soreness. But the Nets struggled without his lockdown mid-range defense and had a rough shooting night. Nuggets forwards Wilson Chandler and Paul Millsap had an excellent mid-range shooting night. That probably doesn’t happen with Carroll in the lineup. He’s also a key offensive contributor. The Nets aren’t as good at either end of the floor with him on the bench.
Like Carroll, Hollis-Jefferson missed the game against Denver, sitting out with a hip contusion he suffered against Phoenix on Nov. 6. His absence was clearly a factor in that game. The Nuggets attacked down low a majority of the game with drives and forcing fouls. The Nets were outrebounded and struggled on defense. Hollis-Jefferson’s absence not only affected the Nets defense but on the offensive end as well. Tyler Zeller stepped up in wake of his absence but did not have the same presence if Hollis-Jefferson was on the floor. The Nets need him on the floor to win, evidenced by his performance against Portland on Friday.
While Booker returned to action Saturday against Utah, the four games he missed previously saw the Nets struggle. The Nets lack heart when Booker isn’t on the floor. The big man brings excitement, will, and the want to win feeling to the Nets. Without Booker, the Nets frontcourt gets weaker when it comes to rebounding and scoring. Booker is averaging 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game off the bench for Brooklyn. Without those numbers, the Nets already weak frontcourt really becomes empty and a go-to spot for other teams to attack.
Acy has been a surprising contributor to the Nets. Acy has missed 3 games so far for Brooklyn this season. When he is not on the court it doesn’t make all the difference but some areas get weaker. Acy loves to shoot the ball when he is on the court. Acy is shooting .366 this season from field goal range and .378 from three. Acy’s presence is felt a slight bit when the Nets primarily focus on a small ball offense. Acy has also been a solid defender but often had foul trouble this season. When Acy isn’t on the court, the Nets lose one of their most consistent shooters and a tough presence on defense.
Allen has missed five games due to a foot injury. Allen has not seen action on the court much for Brooklyn this season. Allen has only seen action in 5 games. The Nets can adjust without Allen in their lineup. Allen is only a rookie and should not rush back from his injury. He still needs time to develop and learn the NBA play. The 19-year-old rookie out of Texas is averaging 4.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in his 5 games played for Brooklyn.
Zeller has really made an impact for the Nets as of late. Zeller is getting a lot more minutes due to the frontcourt injuries. The two-year big man had himself a career game against the Nuggets. Zeller put up 21 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes of action. The Nets eventually lost that game but Zeller really kept the Nets in the game at least on the offensive end of the game. The Nuggets attacked the Nets frontcourt all night long. Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic recorded a majority of their points against the Nets frontcourt and in the paint. Jokic has a career game putting up 41 points against Brooklyn.
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Coach Kenny Atkinson has had to draw up some unusual Net lineups due to the build-up of player injuries. Atkinson primarily leans his starting lineup towards a small ball offense lead by the Nets backcourt D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe. Zeller has been adjusting to the small ball offense well. It can be hard for Zeller to play in a small ball offense but the big man has shown he can shoot from mid-range.
The Nets frontcourt injuries have been the blame for the sluggish losing pattern as of late. The Nets are in the middle of their rebuilding stage and are currently hunting for a low playoff seed. Injuries are the main roadblock for the Nets when it comes to achieving their goal of a playoff spot. The Nets cannot afford to have frontcourt injuries due to their frontcourt being weak to begin with.