Brooklyn Nets Training Camp: Frontcourt on the Front Burner

Plenty of forward and center options for Nets to sort out over preseason

The open question as the Brooklyn Nets tipped off training camp on Saturday is what the frontcourt rotation will look like when they open the regular season in just over three weeks against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center on October 23.

They are long on options, but that also leaves plenty to sort out.

Start at center, where 21-year-old incumbent starter Jarrett Allen is joined by DeAndre Jordan, a three-time All-NBA center.

Drafted out of Texas after one season, Allen claimed the starting spot midway through his rookie year and started all 80 games he played while continuing to progress through his second season. The 31-year-old Jordan has started every game he’s played since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

“I look at it as our biggest strength,” said head coach Kenny Atkinson. “We have real depth there and we have real choices there. I hope that makes sense. Sure, it’s competitive. Those are two competitive guys. The problem is they both played really, really well today. It’s two really good players. It will evolve. It always plays itself out. Yeah, I think those guys both know that they’re competing for something.”

Atkinson has new wrinkles in mind for a new season, tweaks that don’t register as radical changes. One of them that can be impacted by how the frontcourt rotations evolve is an ambition to be more aggressive chasing offensive rebounds.

“I think we could take more advantage of the offensive boards,” said Atkinson. “That goes with transition defense if that makes sense. How you’re attacking the boards. That determines what you’re doing going back. Just some tweaks there. Some tweaks with our pick and roll defense, not going to get into the specifics. Change some things. I think, we talked about it yesterday, it’s personnel based. We have DJ now. That changes some things. And Garrett Temple and Taurean (Prince). Just understanding what our personnel looks like.”

The Nets are also figuring out the power forward spot, where the list gets a lot longer. There’s Rodions Kurucs, who started down the stretch of the regular season as a rookie last year. There’s free agent Wilson Chandler, but he’s out for the first 25 games for a PED suspension. There’s training camp invite Lance Thomas and two-way player Henry Ellenson.

Atkinson tossed fourth-year guard David Nwaba, listed at just 6-foot-4, into the mix as well, describing him as “strong as heck, middle linebackerish, tough.”

“We felt him. We felt him defensively today,” said Atkinson. “Everybody felt him in the gym. He made a mark and that’s how you make a mark as a role player in this league. But we all saw that today, that he can add that element. It’s important.”

But the highest upside at the spot may belong to newly acquired Taurean Prince. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward came over in a trade with Atlanta that sent Allen Crabbe and first-round picks to the Hawks.

A first-round pick in 2016, Prince’s rookie year included a reserve role — with a brief detour to Brooklyn to play for the Long Island Nets in the G League — before he moved into a starting role the last two seasons.

Prince brings shooting range to the forward spots, and has made a quick impression there with Atkinson.

“Better shooter than I thought. Although I think he’s 38 (percent) career, correct me if I’m wrong? The ball should go in,” said Atkinson. “That piece is going to be huge for us. And then the challenge for him is to be our defensive stopper. I think his early years in Atlanta where that was who he was, he was a three-and-D guy, we’ve got the three, we’ve got to get him to play that D.”

Prince has moved between the two forward positions a bit in the NBA and played plenty of the 4 while in college at Baylor. And he said he’s got plenty of experience guarding bigger NBA players. He said after practice on Saturday that he expects time at the 4, and it’s no problem.

“There’s no difference at all,” said Prince. “No, there’s no difference at all, really. The league now is positionless. There are no really positions unless you’re a 5 man. A lot of teams play 4-out, especially in the playoffs. It’s a 4-guard game. Like I said just being on the floor is the most beneficial thing for me.”

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