Brooklyn Nets Training Camp: No Doubt Nets are Counting on Depth

Spreading those minutes around has been part of the approach through Kenny Atkinson's first two seasons in Brooklyn, and with the influx of contributing veterans to a solid returning core, the coach expects that to continue in the upcoming season.

Last year nine players who finished the season in Brooklyn averaged at least 20 minutes per game, and no player has averaged 30 minutes per game as a Net under Atkinson. DeMarre Carroll (29.9) and Allen Crabbe (29.3) were the minutes leaders last year.

"That's part of our philosophy too," said Atkinson. "It's a great way to develop the roster and I think it's a great way to win. You can win playing that way. Expect us to play a lot of players and don't expect guys to play 38, 40 minutes every game. We'll manage those minutes as we have. But I do think, we are a little deeper with the vets that we've added."

Last season the Nets relied heavily on their depth and bench contributions, ranking third in the league in bench minutes per game and second in bench scoring (43.9). Among the eight returning players who averaged at least 20 minutes last year -- and also at least 10 points per game -- are guards and wings D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris Carroll and Crabbe.

Several of them will be leading a second unit this year, along with frontcourt reinforcements Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley and Treveon Graham, plus new guard Shabazz Napier. Over the first few days of camp, Atkinson has been mixing-and-matching lineups to try out different combinations. Second unit matchups could be a major advantage for the Nets this year.

"Our depth is 1-through-15," said Harris. "We’ve got a lot of guys competing for minutes, a lot of guys making each other better. You look at even the point guards that we have, Spencer, D’Angelo, Shabazz, they’re competing every single day. There’s just depth at almost every single position, so it’s one of those things where it certainly is an iron-sharpens-iron sort of situation where everybody is just making each other better.”


Last season, Harris and LeVert were Brooklyn's top scorers off the bench and naturally ended up sharing the court frequently. They played 1,138 minutes together, which was actually the sixth most-used two-man combo the Nets featured in 2017-18. The five pairings above them all consisted of combinations of Carroll, Dinwiddie, Crabbe and Hollis-Jefferson, each of whom started at least 58 games.

"Joe is a really easy guy to play out on the court with," said LeVert. "He moves without the ball obviously, he can shoot very well, he’s a low-maintenance guy. So everybody would love to play with somebody like Joe."

Harris set a Nets record for 3-pointers made off the bench in 64 games, starting in 14 of his 78 appearances. LeVert, with 10 starts in 71 games, was fourth in the league in assists off the bench (263) and tied for third in steals (71). Even his first career double-double, a 21-points, 10-rebound game against Oklahoma City on Dec. 7, came off the bench.

"I’ve said it from the get-go, Caris is an elite defender, he really is," said Harris. "He’s exceptional with his slides, lateral quickness, activity on the ball. And he makes plays offensively; he can shoot, and he can get stuff going to the rim. He’s a difficult matchup all the way around, but it’s his ability to do it on both sides of the ball. He’s looked great all the way this offseason and now into training camp.”


The Nets continued to make defense a priority early in training camp as the work in new players and consider different schemes.

"I definitely want to up our activity, but again without compromising our kind of conservative defensive schemes," said Atkinson. "I just don’t want to get too extended and too spread out. I definitely want to keep it compact and I want to take away the 3-point line, no doubt about it. Last year we were 11th in effective field goal percentage defense, which means teams did not shoot well against us. For us to be a good defense we’ve also got to balance it a little on turnovers and be a little more active on turnovers without extending our defense too much.”

Part of that effective field goal percentage was limiting opponents to the fewest 3-point attempts in the league, 24.5, and the second fewest makes, 9.0 per game. The Nets forced teams into the 2-point shots they wanted them to take. But they didn't force many turnovers and struggled with the combo of defensive rebounding and second-chance points allowed.

"I feel like, as a team, this offseason we really focused on conditioning, and I think that’s really going to help our on-ball activity and our ability to force turnovers," said LeVert. "I feel like, going into the season, whatever coach throws at us, we’ll be ready for it."

"Him and Rondae are our most active defenders," said Atkinson of LeVert. "You talk about guys that turn guys over, well turning teams over is a lot based on personnel and those guys are two active guys.”