Brooklyn Nets Second Half Preview: Five Things to Watch

The Brooklyn Nets hit the All-Star break as the hottest team in the NBA, winners of 10 of their last 11 games. They’ve now got the fourth-best record in the league, and they’re a half game out of first place in the Eastern Conference with a 24-13 mark.

They’ll open the second half on Thursday against the Boston Celtics, having added Blake Griffin during the break and looking forward to incorporating Kevin Durant back into the lineup after he missed 12 of Brooklyn’s last 13 games before the break.

“We can definitely improve,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “Kevin Durant is one of the all-time greats, so to add him to our team will make us better automatically, but we can still improve with our cohesion, continuity of hopefully having some health for an extended period of time. We can get better defensively, our understanding and refining our schemes and learning to feel tighter together. That’s a big part of it – not just knowing what to do but knowing who you’re playing with and how you can communicate and make things easier and more effective, so plenty of good areas to improve in and that’s the fun. The fun is seeing growth and improvement.”

Aside from Durant’s return, the most significant curiosity for the second half is the addition of Griffin. The five-time All-NBA forward signed with the Nets over the break after agreeing to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons, and his arrival winds through several of the big-picture angles to keep an eye on for Brooklyn as the season resumes. Here are five of those things to watch.


The Nets have signed Blake Griffin. Ten-day contracts on Tyler Cook, Andre Roberson and Iman Shumpert have expired, though all are eligible to sign on for one more 10-day. Two roster spots are now open. Twenty-three different players have already appeared in a game for the Nets this season. What’s the next move? Bringing back two of the 10-days won’t limit Brooklyn’s flexibility as the front office keeps an eye out for further buyout candidates to sign. The trade deadline is March 25 if the Nets go that route.


Through much of the season, Nash has rolled nine-deep. When Durant went out, Nash plugged in Tyler Johnson. Nic Claxton’s return coincided with Jeff Green missing four of five games, and both have performed well. Bringing back Durant and Green makes the Nets 11 deep, and that’s before you define a role for Griffin. Playing 12 players a night isn’t realistic, but will Nash push the rotation to 10 or stick with nine?


This is an extension of the rotation question, but we’re zeroing in here because this is where it gets interesting. Suddenly, after giving regular minutes to rookie two-way player Reggie Perry following the James Harden trade, after starting four guards for the last few weeks, the Nets are going to have a crowd up front, with some real options and decisions.

Durant obviously goes back into the starting lineup and DeAndre Jordan, aside from some occasional matchup moves, likely stays there with him. Green has been outstanding, shooting at career-high rates and playing significant minutes at center, including as part of Nash’s favored closing group. Claxton returned with a flourish, rolling, finishing, and defending to the tune of 10.0 points in 15.2 minutes per game on 69.0 percent shooting in the final five games before the break.

Now, the Nets are bringing in the 6-foot-9 Griffin, who — like Green — is as likely to see minutes at center as well as forward, if not more so. That’s five guys for two positions, with 96 minutes per game to cut up between them, and figuring 36 of those go to Durant, that’s 60 minutes for the other four. Will one be the odd man out for now? Will matchups dictate? Or will the minutes come from the guard group? The perimeter ability of Green and Griffin allows Brooklyn to put both size and shooting on the floor and make Durant the 3 on occasion.


The Nets did not have a game postponed during the first half of the season, so they have 35 games remaining through the close of the regular season on May 16. They’ll play 18 of them on the road, including a stretch of seven of eight games late in the season before they close with three homes games, including a finishing weekend back-to-back against Chicago and Cleveland. The NBA playoffs are scheduled to begin on May 22.


Navigating through COVID protocols while playing through a condensed schedule has made for a stressful season so far. Those who didn’t spent most of their weekend in an Atlanta hotel room before playing in the All-Star game had a chance to take a breath for a few days.

“Honestly, I think mentally it’s really important,” said Nash before Brooklyn’s final game of the first half. “Physically, it’s tricky. You don’t want guys to deload and then have to go through the adaptation process again. It’s impossible. You know, they’re not going to be fully ready to play the next game because they can only practice once before that game, so when guys take five, six days off, it’s really difficult. I think physically, they’ve got to stay in shape but mentally, it’s really important for them to get away, to see something different, to get out of the facility and off the road and all that stuff. So I think it’s a great moment for us to reset and recharge and get ready for what will be a critical homestretch here.”