Figuring out how the Brooklyn Nets will fill in the gaps around the big three is the biggest question ahead of the 2021-22 season.
The Brooklyn Nets are a top-heavy roster. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden are all going to play big minutes next season, but the rest of the rotation is still a mystery.
Nets coach Steve Nash will likely stagger Harden’s minutes with the second unit like he did last year. Who will come off the bench to join him?
There are more questions than answers at this point, but let’s try to answer a few of them anyway.
PG — James Harden — 35 minutes
James Harden is going to play the most minutes on the team and likely the most games of the big three. Although Harden dealt with a hamstring issue that limited him to 44 games last season, he’s always been an iron man. A long offseason to recover could position Harden to be the biggest minutes eater.
SG — Kyrie Irving — 33 minutes
Unless Nash decides to make a drastic change, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will mirror each other’s minutes for the most part. Irving’s minutes per game will go down slightly from last season if the big three can stay healthy. When all three are healthy and playing, there is less of a need to push someone to 38-40 minutes in a game.
SF — Joe Harris — 30 minutes
It’s possible that Joe Harris comes off the bench next season, but having his off-ball gravity is key for Brooklyn. It’s fair to criticize Harris for his disappointing playoffs, but that doesn’t change the fact that he deserves to be on the floor a lot for Brooklyn next year. Regular season Joe Harris is a nightmare for opposing defenses who are already trying to stop Durant, Harden, and Irving.
PF — Kevin Durant — 33 minutes
Durant is right there with Irving for pretty much the exact same reasons. However, once the playoffs start, expect to see Durant, Harden, and Irving logging upwards of 40 minutes per game.
C — Blake Griffin — 24 minutes
Blake Griffin showed in the playoffs that he can fill a vital role for Brooklyn. Although he’s used to playing 30 minutes or more throughout his career, playing minutes at the five will be tough on his body. The Nets will have to scale back on his minutes more than anyone else in the starting five.
G — Patty Mills — 22 minutes
Patty Mills is a point guard by trade, but he is more than comfortable playing off the ball after spending so much time in Gregg Popovich’s egalitarian offense. The 12-year veteran might not be the lights-out shooter that Harris is, but he shoots the three-ball at a .388 clip. There should be a healthy dosage of minutes for Mills.
G — Cam Thomas — 15 minutes
Cam Thomas was named co-MVP of Summer League after setting an all-time record by averaging 27.0 points per game. The Nets love shotmakers and Thomas can do that in spades. The rookie’s minutes could vary on a game-to-game basis depending on the health of the roster. He will have to take on a bigger role in games when a star is resting.
G/F/C — Bruce Brown — 22 minutes
Bruce Brown earned his stripes with the Nets last season. He was listed as a point guard but spent much of his time as a small-ball center. Brown is like a ball of clay that Nash can mold into whatever he might need at the time.
F/C — Nicolas Claxton — 18 minutes
Nets fans are waiting for the Nicolas Claxton breakout. They have been for pretty much the entire time he’s been on the Nets. It’s easy to see why given his unique skill set and athleticism. It might be this year, but there is a spot for Claxton in this rotation.
C — Day’Ron Sharpe — 8 minutes
Trying to figure out the center rotation for the Nets is no easy task. Rookie Day’Ron Sharpe looked raw at Summer League, but he can play with physicality. Even though the Nets love small ball, it’s good to have a big man who can assert his will. Rebounding will get Sharpe a few minutes.
Odd Men Out?
Last year’s playoffs were proof-positive that the Nets are done with playing DeAndre Jordan any meaningful minutes. Perhaps he could take those minutes that Sharpe is getting, but it seems to make more sense to use that time to develop the youngster.
Alize Johnson is a great guy for the Nets to have in their back pocket. He played spot minutes towards the end of last season and helped Brooklyn win crucial regular-season games.
James Johnson is a 12-year NBA veteran. That doesn’t happen by accident. He will have a shot to vie for a spot in the rotation, but there are better options on the roster.
The same can be said for DeAndre’ Bembry. Until he proves that he deserves minutes, it’s hard to justify including him in the rotation.
Jevon Carter is facing the biggest uphill battle of anyone in the “Odd Men Out?” category. Three are three different point guards (Harden, Irving, and Mills) ahead of him on the depth chart.