Evaluating Potential Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineups

Heading into the 2021 NBA offseason, the Brooklyn Nets were determined on improving the roster that was already star-struck. While the Nets are still the betting favorites heading into the offseason, GM Sean Marks was not shy away from stressing the importance of improving the roster specifically the “need to get better on the defensive end….need to get better rebounding..” 

The Nets did just that as they made big moves this offseason. They signed a highly respected veteran forward in James Johnson and traded for a defensive first guard in Jevon Carter. Additionally, on draft night, the Brooklyn Nets drafted 6’11 pro typical NBA center in Dayron Sharpe. However, the two main acquisitions that got everyone talking were the return of 7x all-star LaMarcus Aldridge and the signing of 4x all-star Paul Millsap. With these two new massive acquisitions, the Brooklyn Nets now have more diversity in different types of startling lineup they can run. Today we’re going to examine some of these possible starting lineups and evaluate them. 

Harden/Irving/Durant/Millsap/Aldridge

In this Nets starting lineup, we start our new free agent acquisitions right away. One of the Nets’ primary issues last year was their lack of size. Aldridge’s 6’11” height , 7’5″ wingspan makes him the Net’s best choice at protecting the paint and help their interior defense. Paul Millsap as Shams Charania reiterated will get the chance to start at the 4. Millsap brings size and spacing but more importantly pushes Kevin Durant to the 3. KD at small forward will instantly help out our defensive struggles against trying to guard wings and adds much needed wing-depth. Ultimately, as you can tell we have a tall lineup with tons of size on the frontcourt. A big reason why the Nets often turned to small ball last year was that they didn’t want to sacrifice offense and hurt the spacing by running a traditional rim runner (DeAndre Jordan) hence why they struggled with rebounding all season. 

While I do like this lineup, I will admit I’m not comfortable starting Millsap and LMA together. Although, both bring size, both are near the downsides of their careers. Even though, statistically speaking, Millsap was still a good defender last season in Denver, Millsap struggled with switches and had trouble keeping up with smaller guys. LMA is also slow-footed, thus starting the two together might present certain problems. Let’s look at the next lineup. 

Harden/Irving/Durant/Millsap/Claxton 

Similar to the previous starting lineup, we are once again starting Millsap at the 4 and pushing Kevin Durant to the 3. We are going big again but with a slight twist: We start 22-year-old Nicolas Claxton at center. Claxton took a massive jump on defense in his sophomore year.  Last year, Claxton has shown glimpses of being an elite perimeter defender, being able to switch on to guards and keep up with them. Claxton at the 5 allows us to call for more switches on defense. More so, Durant and Claxton are both two long, lengthy defenders that will give any team issues on defense. 

But like all things, it’s not completely perfect. To say the least, Nicolas Claxton has a very limited offensive game. Claxton at the very most shown to be a lob threat when running the pick and roll with Harden but outside of that, is very limited. He struggles to finish against centers bigger than him and is a below-average free throw shooter. A big reason as to why Claxton struggled to see playing time in the postseason was due to him, at times, being a black hole on offense. While you can make the argument the Nets wouldn’t need his offense as he playing against 3 superstar offensive players, the Nets also can’t afford to give heavy minutes to a player who is a liability on offense. Let’s take a look at the final lineup. 

Harden/Irving/Harris/Durant/Griffin

This is the starting lineup the nets rolled out in the 2020-2021 postseason against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. It’s no secret the Brooklyn Nets are a strong believer in a small ball and for good reason. Small ball allows the Nets to maximize the offense with elite perimeter play and forces other teams to play small. It is analytically pleasing and the Nets have always been pro analytics since Sean Mark’s arrival. The Nets are starting Joe Harris at the 3, who although had a disappointing second-round performance, lead the league at 3pt shooting at an insane 47% with min 6 attempts. Blake Griffin, who looked rejuvenated last season in Brooklyn, is coming off a strong performance against the Bucks. In my opinion, Griffin did an excellent job protecting the paint against Giannis and Lopez. Griffin in his time with the Nets shot 40% on catch and shoot 3s and  38% overall. The 6x all-star is also an aggressive rebounder and is still a very good post defender. The biggest issue with this lineup is that they’re  going small on the front-court. Although the Nets are maximizing offense, they’re also making it harder to secure rebounds. Nets rebound struggles played a role in their defeat against Milwaukee last postseason.  

Ultimately, the Brooklyn Nets are a super-team with a surplus of talent. All of these lineups can work and all of them have their plus and minuses. The Nets don’t need to stick to one starting lineup on a day-to-day basis. It should be dependent on the matchup.  Ultimately, having to choose between a running lineup that includes current/former all-stars is a luxury. Let’s see what Coach Nash can do with this star-struck super-team.

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