Brooklyn Nets Training Camp: What to Watch For
Five items to keep an eye on as the Nets prep for the 2018-19 season
The Nets will tip off training camp at HSS Training Center next Tuesday, with the preseason opener soon to follow against the Knicks at Barclays Center on October 3. They open the regular season in Detroit on October 17.
Here's five things to watch for as they take the court to begin preparing for the season.
THE GUARD ROTATION
The Nets have a lot of guys who played a lot of minutes at the guard spots last season. D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe all started at least 35 games, plus there's Caris LeVert adding some point guard play to his profile and swingman Joe Harris emerging as a wildly efficient scorer. Jeremy Lin has been traded, but the Nets added Shabazz Napier, coming off a strong year in Portland. Training camp and the preseason may just be the start to sorting out the backcourt rotation.
FILLING THE 4 SPOT
Returning starter Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gives the Nets a unique fit at the '4' spot. Undersized, but not yet a 3-point threat, he excels from mid-range, in the open court and attacking the rim. His 6.8 rebounds per game in 2017-18 were third in the NBA for players 6-foot-7 or shorter, behind Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green, and he increased his scoring average by more than five points, to 13.9. The open question is who else will get minutes there, with the Nets having to decide between differing types: a rebounder like Kenneth Faried, or small-ball shooters Jared Dudley and Treveon Graham? There's also DeMarre Carroll, at 6-8 the Nets' biggest wing player, who slid down to the position at times last season, most often when RHJ was out with an injury.
ROLES FOR ROOKIES
Last season, plans for 19-year-old rookie Jarrett Allen were cautious. The 6-foot-11 center left those in the dust, earning a starting role by January and progressing far faster than even the most optimistic projections. A need at center helped open the door for Allen to get an opportunity. Now the Nets have two more youngsters added through the draft. Dzanan Musa is 19 years old, supplanting Allen as the second youngest player ever to suit up for the Nets, and listed as a guard/forward. Rodions Kurucs is 20 years old and listed as a forward. Brooklyn has far more attractive options on the wing than it did in the middle last year, suggesting tempered expectations may be best for year one. Theo Pinson, a versatile 6-foot-6 swingman, played for the Nets in Summer League and will be splitting time between Brooklyn and Long Island as a two-way player.
THE NEW GUYS
The Nets added five veterans over the summer to shore up play off the bench, and a sixth in two-way player Alan Williams. The most likely impact is up front, where strong rebounders were targeted, beginning with 6-10 center Ed Davis. Over the second half of last season, the Nets rarely used a reserve center bigger than 6-8 Dante Cunningham. Rebounding is the strongest element that Davis, Kenneth Faried and Williams offer. Jared Dudley brings a veteran presence in his 12th NBA season, as well as a career 39.6 3-point shooting percentage. Treveon Graham is beginning his third year after shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range last season. They offer depth and range on the wings, including potentially as small-ball power forwards. Guard Shabazz Napier had his best season in Portland last year and gives the Nets a pro in supporting the point guard spot.
The confirmation of Pinson and Williams as the Nets' two-way contracts wrapped up the last little bit of roster uncertainty around training camp. The Nets have two additional players in camp with point guard Jordan McLaughlin and forward Mitch Creek. McLaughlin played for the Nets' Summer League team, averaging 7.0 points and 4.2 assists over five games, after four seasons at USC. Creek is a 26-year-old forward from Australia who played for Dallas at Summer League. He averaged 14.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia's National Basketball League last season. The Nets have the ability to secure G League rights for both players. That gives them 19 players in training camp, with the room still for one more invite.