brooklyn nets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest problem for the Brooklyn Nets has nothing to do with Kyrie Irving or James Harden

The Brooklyn Nets have a major problem and it’s not what you think. The headlines surrounding the Nets have largely been about Kyrie Irving‘s absence and James Harden‘s early struggles, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

The Nets are capable of overcoming the absence of Irving’s scoring and playmaking. Kevin Durant and Harden are elite scorers who can pick up slack on that end of the floor. They also have Patty Mills, who can flex between a lead guard and a blur running circles around the three-point line.

Harden is struggling to adapt to the NBA’s new rule changes. That’s obvious, but that shouldn’t be a major concern. He’s one of the most gifted offensive players in NBA history so we aren’t sounding any alarms when it comes to his inconsistency through four games.

The biggest problem in Brooklyn has to do with the frontcourt, not the backcourt.

There is no need to sugarcoat it. The Nets are weak inside. Outside of injuries, a lack of physicality was the No. 1 reason why they were bounced by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs last season.

The Nets held a 3-2 lead in the series before dropping Games 6 and 7. Brooklyn actually outrebounded Milwaukee by one in those two games, but they got crushed on the offensive glass. The Bucks hauled in 33 offensive rebounds to Brooklyn’s 20 in those two games.

Despite the additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap, the frontcourt is still lacking a big, physical presence. That lack of physicality reared its ugly head in Wednesday’s loss to the Miami Heat. Miami outrebounded Brooklyn by 20 overall and 13 on the offensive glass.

More often than not, the Nets are going to be the more talented team when they step on the court. But on the flip side, they are going to be the less physical team as well.

And for anyone who is marking this column down as an overreaction, it’s not. The thin frontcourt was the one thing I hated about the Nets in ESNY’s 2021-22 NBA Preview:

“If there is anywhere that the Nets are vulnerable, it’s in the frontcourt. LaMarcus Aldridge is the closest thing they have to a traditional center and he is in the twilight of his career. Nets coach Steve Nash seems to be comfortable with running a frontcourt rotation that includes Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Nic Claxton.

“It’s safe to assume Durant will play a lot at the four and some five in a pinch, but there are still questions surrounding this group. Can Blake Griffin hold up as the starting center for a full season?”

Do the Nets Have Options?

At the moment, no.

Steve Nash can continue to tinker with his rotations and lineups to try and pull the most out of this current group. It’s too early to completely write off this group of Griffin, Claxton, Aldridge, and Millsap.

Day’Ron Sharpe looks too raw to throw into the fire this early. Brooklyn seems content to let him develop on his own time.

As for trade targets and free agents, there aren’t a ton of options. Brooklyn doesn’t have a first-round draft pick in 2022 to try and target a big man in a trade.

In terms of free agents, DeMarcus Cousins, Aron Baynes, and Jahlil Okafor are a few names on the market. Brooklyn might be better off rolling with this current group until the buyout market starts to flesh itself out.

Until then, the Nets are going to be at a disadvantage inside against most teams.