Brooklyn Nets Training Camp: Roster Breakdown

The Brooklyn Nets are headed across the country to training camp in San Diego with a group that includes seven players returning from Brooklyn’s playoff roster — Bruce Brown, Nicolas Claxton, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Joe Harris, and Kyrie Irving — and one sort-of returning player in LaMarcus Aldridge, who joined the Nets in midseason and then retired after just five games due to an irregular heartbeat. After receiving medical clearance to play over the summer, Aldridge is back.

“I thought he added a lot to our room, and unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of him on the floor, but he was an experienced, skilled, versatile big that has a high IQ and knows how to play and was adding a lot just to our collective IQ and our experiences,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash of Aldridge. “So we’re excited to have him back.”

Going back to last December, there are five players remaining from the team that opened up the 2020-21 season. The Nets have reloaded their depth after rostering 27 players last season, shoring up the point guard depth and with some late-summer moves generating a wealth of options in the frontcourt. Brooklyn’s embrace of positionless basketball is supercharged by the multi-faceted skills of its three superstars — Durant, Harden, and Irving. The Nets can put a guard-heavy lineup on the floor and also feature floor-spacing bigs like Aldridge and Griffin.

The Nets have added six veterans through free agency or trade: DeAndre’ Bembry, Jevon Carter, Sekou Doumbouya, James Johnson, Patty Mills, and Paul Millsap.

“Patty obviously is a championship player with the Spurs, been there for 10 years,” said Nash. “I think he’s an incredible lift to our culture, just being the type of character he is, the personality he has and his ability to shoot and play with pace helps us immensely as well. Paul Millsap’s a tough, intelligent, skilled big who’s seen it all, so another guy that can play a few positions and stretch the floor or play inside, can pass and play-make and facilitate and understand and be able to fit into any defense.”

Brooklyn added two first-round draft picks in guard Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe.

“These guys have been in the gym a lot for a few weeks now, and that’s the positive,” said Nash. “They worked hard. I think we see NBA players in them, and it’s just a matter of developing them all. It’s a tough team to break into, so some of these rookies have their work cut out for them if they’re going to get in the rotation for sure. But that’s a great challenge for them. I was a 15th pick who only played my rookie year when KJ (Suns star Kevin Johnson) was injured. It’s not how you start, it’s how you get there. That’s what I definitely have preached to some of our rookies already. You’ve got to play the long game, and whether you crash the rotation or not, whether you don’t play a minute or spend some time in the G League, it’s important to think long-term and not give away days. If you have that mentality and attitude, this will be a very productive year for you whether you play or don’t play.”

In addition to Thomas and Sharpe, there are two more rookies headed to camp. Second-rounder Kessler Edwards has been signed to a two-way contract. Undrafted rookie David Duke Jr. could be in the mix for the second two-way deal, along with third-year forward Devontae Cacok, signed earlier this week.

“Regarding the two-way, I think it’s nice to go in and have healthy competition,” said Nets GM Sean Marks. “That’s the way we’re going to look at that. There’s going to be nothing set in stone. There’s nobody with a leg up per se. Regarding the 19th spot, I think we’re going to use this next week, next few days to try and figure out, do we want to fill that out. Steve and I have had multiple discussions with the coaching staff how they want to attack camp. A lot depends on the reps in camp and do we need to go in with 20, do we keep it at 19.”

The offseason changes came in three waves, starting with the drafting of Thomas, Sharpe, and Edwards. As the free agent window opened, the trade with Phoenix that brought in both Carter and the rights to Sharpe as the 29th pick became official and over the next week the Nets signed Johnson, Bembry and Mills and re-signed both Brown and Griffin. After a quiet few weeks, the Nets signed Aldridge, picked up Doumbouya in a trade with Detroit, and signed Millsap in a late summer boost to the frontcourt.

“As far as the big men, I think we just looked at it as an opportunity…What’s available? What can we add to our team? Will it be tricky at times to find playing time for everyone? Sure. Part of being a championship team is being part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” said Nash. “We have guys that understand that they all come here knowing that we’re trying to get across the line, and it’s not about the individual’s minutes or touches. That’s something that collectively, we’ll deal with, and I’m sure Kevin will play all over the place. I know we have a bunch of quote-unquote ‘centers’ on our roster, but there’s times he might play the 5, there’s times when he’ll play the 3. I think it’s also a little bit unnecessary to name positions the way we play the game nowadays. It’s kind of like, ‘Is there a center and then four perimeters? Or are there five perimeters sometimes?’ So I don’t get too caught up in positions, and a lot of that is going to dictate how this thing goes and how our health is and how the chemistry is. We’ve got options, and we’ve got a lot to get through, to sift through, before we recognize really clear patterns as to what we’re going to do.”