With Brooklyn Nets media day 2019 on the horizon, certain critical questions must be answered by the organization’s personnel.
As summer has come and gone, the folks patiently awaiting a press conference from the Brooklyn Nets‘ new pair of superstars were left vastly disappointed.
Per News Days‘ Greg Logan, that daunting silence will be broken on Friday, Sept. 27 — the date of Brooklyn’s official media day.
With the gang of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks finally together, they’ll assuredly be peppered with a variety of questions. Some topics may include Brooklyn’s successful offseason, the state of the league, past successes and failures, the upcoming regular season and a whole lot more.
With countless angles and themes to explore, I’ve developed a list of questions for the 2019-2020 Brooklyn Nets.
Kenny Atkinson: how does he plan to use Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant within the offense?
On paper, the thought of a Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll is stimulating at the very least. With KD’s stretch abilities as a 40.8% catch-and-shoot three-point shooter, he gives Irving the perfect pick-and-pop partner. If the Nets were feeling particularly persnickety, they could invert this pick-and-roll pairing and have Irving screen for Durant like my colleague Danny Small described recently.
Irving and Durant both rank within the 75th percentile or higher (in KD’s case) as isolation scorers, and this gives the offense breathing room if a pick-and-roll playset breaks down. If a defense switches correctly and/or features two plus defenders to stymie the KD-Kyrie pick-and-roll (think: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe), Kevin and Kyrie can simply work their magic as one-on-one scorers. For Kyrie, this may mean executing a swirl of crossovers before dancing to the rim; for Durant, picture him posting up from 10 feet out and attempting a Dirk Nowitzki-esque fadeaway.
What I’m interested to see is if Atkinson honors Durant’s Golden State roots and implements some Warrior motion offense. Perhaps we see more cross-screening in Brooklyn’s flow. (For those of you wondering, a cross-screen is a pick that faces either sideline and is very close or within the painted area.)
Imagine Joe Harris sets a hard screen on the low block against KD’s man, giving Durant room to establish post-position and launch his patented midrange J. The defense would be placed in a world of havoc; switch incorrectly and it could potentially result in an open layup for Harris, an easy post-up for Durant, or even a spot-up look in the opposite corner for Joey Buckets. Harris’ gravity could be the catalyst that fuels a next-gen upgrade to the Brooklyn offense. Here’s a great Durant-inclusive example of a successful Warrior cross-screen:
If the Nets were feeling particularly freaky, they could also adopt Golden State’s stagger screening to make the most of Kyrie Irving’s off-ball talents. Irving blitzed three-point shots off the catch at a 45.4% clip last season. Placing him in Stephen Curry-light situations could greatly accentuate this form of scoring.
Essentially, two of Brooklyn’s larger players would perform “stagger” screens — consecutive off-ball picks facing the same direction — for Mr. Irving. With the protection of Brooklyn’s “bigs,” Kyrie should have all of the time in the world to sprint behind the arc and launch a heat-seeking missile. Picture Irving in Steph’s place:
Keep in mind, this action doesn’t necessarily have to initiate from the pinch post. You could also perform it in either corner.
These are just a couple examples of Irving and Durant’s effect on the offense from a geeky know-nothing blogger. Imagine what Kenny’s genius concocts next season.
DeAndre Jordan: what role will he play for the Nets?
I hate to ask the generic “do you want to start or come off the bench?” type of question, but, like, it’s kind of one of the bigger storylines for the Nets early on.
I have no idea if the former All-Star will be Brooklyn’s starting center on opening night. What I do know is that a successful season for the Nets entails him coming off the bench by the end of the year. Brooklyn’s future hinges upon the continuing development of budding center Jarrett Allen.
DeAndre is only one year removed from being one of the better pick-and-roll lob threats in the league. Just two years ago, he won Defensive Player of the Year. In a vacuum, he’s the perfect role-model for Jarrett Allen. His peak may represent Jarrett’s ceiling.
Kenny’s system should be a cozy incubator to a slight DeAndre Jordan renaissance. On offense, he won’t be asked to do much other than gobble up rebounds and provide spacing with his roll game. Atkinson’s defensive scheme primarily instructs his bigs to hang close to the basket, and this favors Jordan’s verticality talents.
Oh, and what’s the deal with the three-point shot, DAJ? Is that just offseason chatter madness? Or is it a real thing?
Kyrie Irving: how does he see himself fitting into Brooklyn’s offense?
I’m really high on this offensive system for Kyrie Irving in particular. As stated before, Irving is a dominant isolation player with killer pick-and-roll effectiveness. Last season, he dished a career-high 6.9 assists. As a passer, I affectionately call him a Russell Westbrook-like distributer; most of his dimes stem from the gravity of his shooting and his all-world acrobatic drives.
I have a feeling it may be even easier for Kyrie to rack up assists as a Net. Atkinson won’t ask him to do much as a passer. Just simply launch hook passes to the corners and loft kick-outs to the wing.
Last season, he did just that in Boston. The Celtics featured a multitude of guys who could knock down looks from the left corner. Yet no one could connect from the opposing right corner. Here’s a look at the shooting stats from Boston’s primary players:
- Marcus Morris: 26.3% from the left corner; 17.2% from the right.
- Jayson Tatum: 43.9% from the left; 29.2% from the right.
- Jaylen Brown: 46.2% from the left; 27.5% from the right.
- Marcus Smart: 41.3 from the left; 34% from the right.
That is some stinky, smelly spacing for a contemporary spread offense. Brooklyn, meanwhile, features a more complete lineup of shooters. See for yourself:
- Taurean Prince shot 42.6% from the left corner and 43.8% from the right.
- Garrett Temple: 41% from the left and a near-league average 34.7% from the right.
- Joe Harris: 52.4% from the left and 51.2% from the right corner (dear god).
With shooting threats located in both corners at all times, don’t expect Kyrie Irving to face as many double teams. He should have ample room to snake his way to the basket. If a secondary defender overcommits, he can initiate three-point splashes to either corner. On paper, Brooklyn’s 2019-2020 offense is like a delicious modern-day basketball cake; it’s layered in flavorful shooting.
Taurean Prince: how did he prepare for his first season with the Nets?
While it’s not exactly the most pointed question, there is an answer I am searching for.
Taurean Prince has untapped potential. While his outstanding shooting statistics don’t necessarily imply this, he has room to grow on defense. Great defenders do three things well. They have excellent tools, they put forth effort and most importantly, they study hard.
Ideally, Prince prepares for this upcoming season by diving deep into film. Perhaps he focuses on how the Nets toggle between zone and traditional man-to-man coverage. He could even lock onto specific players (DeMarre Carroll would be a good one) during film sessions and envision himself within that specific role as a defender.
Taurean could also travel back in time and rewatch footage from the Atlanta Hawks’ 2017 first-round series versus the Washington Wizards, in which rookie Prince made headlines for his breath-taking defensive effort. After all, at many times, the best motivation comes from within!
Caris LeVert: what’s next as he expands his game?
LeVert could go many ways with this type of a question — shooting, playmaking for others, or even consistency on defense — and I have a good feeling his answer would satisfy the audience no matter what.
Joe Harris: what did he pick up from his Team USA experience with coach Gregg Popovich?
There’s nothing in particular that I’m looking for as an answer. Joe’s already an outstanding role player. I just like listening to the dude talk about hoops. Period.
Kevin Durant: why did he specifically choose the Nets?
For Durant, certain topics must be avoided like the plague. Namely…
When are you returning to action? (Pressing Durant about his rehabilitation process is a great way to piss him off).
Or even worse…
What caused you to change your tone on the New York Knicks? (He’s been peppered with Knicks questions since last November’s altercation with Draymond Green. No reason to dig this topic further into the ground.)
Instead, it’s best to keep questions Nets-centric and holistically positive. During his infamous sitdown with Yahoo! Sports‘ Chris Haynes, Durant ushered these legendary words about his big free agency decision.
“If I was leaving the Warriors, it was always going to be for the Nets”
What made Brooklyn stand above the rest? Perhaps it was that Barclays Center crowd, which Durant recently cited during his interview with the Wall Street Journal’s J.R. Moehringer, plus the opportunity to play with his “best friend in the world,” Kyrie Irving. But I’m interested to hear if there’s more. Kenny Atkinson’s offense, Brooklyn’s player-first culture, and the Nets’ excellent medical staff could have also played a part in Durant’s commitment.
To most, it still feels like a fantasy to have Kevin Durant — arguably the best player in the world prior to his untimely injury — on Brooklyn’s roster. If he’s asked the right questions, Durant could hammer home that this dream scenario is the Nets’ new reality.