Brooklyn Nets NBA Restart: Roster Breakdown
Take a run through a revamped roster ahead of Friday's opener
The Brooklyn Nets have 14 players available for the NBA restart in Orlando, including two-way players Chris Chiozza and Jeremiah Martin, who are eligible for all games including the playoffs. It’s not the roster you would have expected the Nets to have this season, but that goes along with the unprecedented situation the league finds itself in.
The restart brings opportunities for younger players to make an impression in a larger role, with some newly acquired veterans fighting to secure themselves a place in the league next season. As we take a look at the new-look Nets, we might typically break players up by position groups, but the guard-heavy nature of the roster and the spread-out, positionless approach to offense doesn’t lend itself to those distinctions, so we’ll just go player by player.
Not only is Jarrett Allen back in the starting lineup, he’s got a clear field as the only true center on the roster with DeAndre Jordan and Nic Claxton out. Allen joked last week that there’s no more position group for bigs, it’s just him, and that defines Brooklyn’s Orlando roster as well as anything. Allen started 58 of Brooklyn’s first 62 games this season before Jacque Vaughn moved Jordan into the lineup two games before the season stopped. Allen is averaging a career-high 9.5 rebounds — up from 8.4 last season — and shooting a career-high 64.6 percent while averaging 10.6 points. As the Nets open up the floor even more with four guards or wings, the 6-foot-11 Allen’s athleticism should serve him well. He was strong through the scrimmage schedule, posting three double-doubles while making 17-of-22 shots.
At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Justin Anderson fits the type of a specific player the Nets have had on the roster each of the last two years, following Treveon Graham in 2018-19 and David Nwaba earlier this season before his Achilles’ injury. Guard height and skills, but the bulk and physicality to defend down through the 4 spot, and in the current scenario, possibly even the 5. Anderson came in late to Brooklyn’s practices after having some difficulty clearing COVID-19 protocols for the NBA Campus, but he has the advantage of having been with the organization since January, first on a 10-day contract with Brooklyn and then in the G League with Long Island. Long Island coach Ronnie Burrell even went to Atlanta to work out Anderson for three weeks during the hiatus.
Opportunity is wide open for the 5-foot-11 point guard who joined the Nets in Brooklyn on a two-way contract. Chris Chiozza played his way into the rotation back in March by helping Caris LeVert turn what could have been a garbage-time fourth quarter into a stunning overtime comeback win from a 21-point deficit. Now with Spencer Dinwiddie out of the NBA restart, Chiozza will play a major role in Orlando after starting all three scrimmages, putting up seven assists in each of the last two. Speedy and sharp, Chiozza can help push the Nets through Jacque Vaughn’s quicker pace and take some of the playmaking load off LeVert, allowing him to operate as Brooklyn’s top scoring option.
Was there a better-celebrated Substitute Player signing than the Nets bringing Jamal Crawford back to the NBA? Beloved by peers and fans alike, the 40-year-old bucket-getter begins his 20th season with the NBA restart after not finding a team over the first five months of the season. In 2018-19, the three-time Sixth Man Award winner had taken on a smaller role in Phoenix, but still went out with 51 points in the final game of the season. With Spencer Dinwiddie out, the Nets needed another guard who could create his own shots, and Crawford fits that profile.
Rookie forward Donta Hall is the mystery man of the Nets’ restart, participating in his first practice with the team just a week before Friday’s opener. At 6-foot-9 and a two-time All-SEC Defensive Team selection, Hall fills a need on the Brooklyn roster; a true interior defensive presence. He has a traditional center’s offensive game; interior finishing for a 61.6 field goal percentage and one 3-point field goal attempt in four seasons at Alabama. He let fly a little bit more in the G League this season with the Grand Rapid Drive. Will Hall crack the Orlando rotation? Depends partly on how deep Jacque Vaughn decides to go, and how much he likes what he sees from the small-ball looks that feature Rodions Kurucs at the 5, particularly how Kurucs holds up at the defensive end. At minimum, the Nets get a month-plus to get an up-close look at an athletic young big to weigh if there’s a roster spot for him next season.
He might be slotted in at the 4 spot a little as Brooklyn rolls with its small-ball vibe, but otherwise, just expect Joe Harris to keep on Joe Harrising. That means knocking down 40-plus percent of his 3-pointers for the third straight season and punishing closeouts with an efficient drive game that people seem still seem surprised about after he’s been doing it for a couple years now. Harris has started all 139 games he’s played over the last two seasons, missing just six in 2018-19 and one this year before the hiatus. Wherever you slot him in, nothing really changes for Harris on offense; he might have to give away a little size on defense if he’s at the 4, but at 6-6 and 220 pounds, Harris has never minded getting physical.
Keep in mind that even though Tyler Johnson is a newcomer to the roster for Orlando, he’s not a Substitute Player; the Nets cleared a roster spot to sign him once the NBA transaction window opened up at the end of June. He was in the mix even before Brooklyn knew Spencer Dinwiddie would not be available. But with Dinwiddie out, Johnson slots in as another combo guard who can create shots. He’ll help right away, and the Nets can take a look to see if the player they signed to an offer sheet four years ago — only to see Miami match — can be part of the plan in Brooklyn after all.
Among those who have been on the Brooklyn roster all season, Rodions Kurucs may have the most to gain from the bizarre turn this NBA season has taken. The two players ahead of him at the 4 spot — Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince — are not participating, and neither are centers DeAndre Jordan or Nic Claxton. Whatever the position, major minutes are sitting right there for Kurucs to take advantage of. At 6-foot-9, he’s as tall as anybody on the roster besides Jarrett Allen, which gave him the first look as a backup center as the Nets waited for Lance Thomas and Donta Hall to clear quarantine. It’s probably not a long-term role, but Kurucs is almost ideal as a small-ball center. In the three scrimmage games he shot 14-for 24, including 8-of 12 from 3-point range. He’s got the shooting range to space the floor, the athleticism to possibly be effective as a rim defender, and he won’t mind mixing it up in the paint.
Over the final six weeks of the season before play was halted, Caris LeVert was 12th in the NBA in usage rate at 30 percent, and that was while starting alongside Spencer Dinwiddie. With no Dinwiddie and no Kyrie Irving in Orlando, LeVert truly becomes the center of the Brooklyn offense, and he took charge during the scrimmages with 27 points against San Antonio and 23 against Utah. LeVert has plenty of playmaking experience, but the Nets may not go all-in on a lead guard role for him; having Chris Chiozza available to soak up point guard minutes and let LeVert get time off the ball will be a way not to put too much on him. But make no mistake, eyes across the league will be on LeVert, who has shown several stretches of stardom-level play over the last two seasons and looks primed to do so again in Orlando.
The season that has brought Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot back from the brink continues with what looks like an expanded role as the restart begins in Orlando. Back in October, the 2016 first-round draft pick was cut out of training camp by Cleveland. He took a two-way deal with Brooklyn on the eve of the opener, trusting the way the organization has handled its two-way and developing players, as well as his connection with Long Island coach Shaun Fein, a teammate back in France. He found a rotation role for Brooklyn in mid-December and signed a contract for a full roster spot in early February. Luwawu-Cabarrot is shooting a career-high 35.8 percent from 3-point range on nearly three attempts per game, and threes are accounting for 56.7 percent of his shots. The loss of frontcourt depth opens the door for minutes at the 4 spot, and with it a greater role.
Jacque Vaughn has liked what he’s seen out of Jeremiah Martin in Orlando, with the two-way guard picking up a little more prominent practice role while the Nets were shorthanded in early July. Now that Jamal Crawford and Tyler Johnson are here, the bad news is the Nets have a lot of guards. The good news is the Nets are going to play a lot of guards. How deep Vaughn is willing to go in the rotation may determine if there’s a role for Martin once the games start to count.
Brooklyn’s spread offense could be tailor-made for Dzanan Musa to make an impression in Orlando, if he can earn the playing time to do it. The Nets are going to go deep with guards in a small-ball approach, and the 6-9 Musa brings some size to the floor that others can’t. Sliding him down and pairing him with Rodions Kurucs in the frontcourt can allow Brooklyn to play a little bigger version of small ball, with decent size but the guard skills to go with it.
The Nets need Garrett Temple to keep on doing what he does, maybe even more so than he has all season long. With new faces and young players integral to Brooklyn’s hopes in Orlando, Temple remains the steady veteran who can help keep things together. When injuries left the Nets searching at the point guard spot earlier this season, they turned to Temple, and he’s been solid at whatever the Nets have needed. There’s no shortage of playmakers and creators here, so it allows Temple to do what he does best — spot up for threes, keep the offense moving, provide solid defense, and keep the second unit stabilized.
The Nets have brought in veteran forward Lance Thomas for the second time this season, after he spent training camp with the team. He provides needed depth up front, where the Nets are playing without forwards Taurean Prince and Wilson Chandler and centers DeAndre Jordan and Nic Claxton. Thomas will be a reliable reserve, but the Nets look ready to primarily play small with Rodions Kurucs behind Jarrett Allen at center.
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