Nets

Nets Need to Net a Critical Component

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As the Brooklyn Nets ended the 2023-24 season with only 32 wins and without a draft pick, it has the fan base and basketball enthusiasts alike inquiring about the team’s plans to improve during the off-season.

The most significant factor is re-signing Nic Claxton, which Nets GM Sean Marks stated was “the No. 1 priority”. 

Marks further explains how the Nets hope to build around him. Claxton had an immense impact defensively while he was in the game, averaging 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest. Once he sat on the bench, however, it was a struggle to defend without a backup center, as the team allowed 116.8 points per game from their opponents this season (a 4.1 increase). An efficient center is needed to stop opponents’ domination in the paint while Claxton is on the bench. 

Bridges’ Struggles 

Mikal Bridges had an exceptional run after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns in the middle of the 2022-23 season, averaging 26.1 points per game for the final 27 contests.

He quickly became the franchise’s centerpiece. All eyes were on him. Because of this, Bridges experienced most of the team’s backlash due to the failures the Nets faced this past season. During his exit interview, Bridges expressed that he believed not being in the right headspace, being mentally drained, and lacking confidence hurt his abilities in the end.

Although Bridges’ playmaking and ball-handling improved, his production decreased to 19.6 points per game this season. This lack of production can be caused by his change of role, which requires him to play more on the ball and be a facilitator. Known to be exceptional off the ball and a role player, this change was clearly difficult for Bridges to adjust to in one season. To solve this issue, the Nets should look into guards who can take responsibility from Bridges and be the No. 1 option for the team.

It is evident that adding a player to the roster to address the defensive center issue is crucial, but signing a facilitator should not be overlooked. During this off-season, there are key players that Brooklyn should pursue that would enhance its existing core. 

Jonas Valanciunas: Center | New Orleans Pelicans

Jonas Valanciunas will be a free agent this offseason after spending two seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 12.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Valued for his ability to use his body and size to crash the boards, his hustle on both ends of the court and his 7-foot-6 wingspan have helped Valanciunas convert second-chance buckets. This past season, the Nets suffered many injuries that affected the team’s success and player availability.

Valanciunas, however, remained healthy and was available to play all 82 games. The Nets would benefit from having an available defensive center that can accompany Claxton at the center position. Not only would Valanciunas work effectively with Claxton, but he would be of great importance if Brooklyn cannot re-sign Claxton. 

Donovan Mitchell: Shooting Guard | Cleveland Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell can be deployed as a combo guard.

He facilitates the offense or plays off the ball. Furthermore, Mitchell has been immensely successful in taking the role of facilitator for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mitchell’s first option is to look into getting his teammates involved rather than playing in isolation for his own shots. His ability to pull defenders would lead to others having an open shot. Players like Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Dennis Schröder would dominate with these open-shot opportunities. 

Mitchell has developed into one of the best shooters in the NBA, averaging 26.6 points per game this season. He produces immaculate offense with his three-point shooting, mid-range jumpers, and is also a defensive threat. The 27-year-old possesses many qualities that the Nets lack and would benefit from.

Trae Young: Point Guard | Atlanta Hawks

With the addition of Trae Young, the Nets would be looking to have a complete backcourt.

During this past season, Young averaged 25.7 points and 10.8 assists per game. Young would complete the Nets’ strong core with his elite playmaking and shooting. Ben Simmons, Bridges, Claxton, Johnson and Young would become one of the strongest cores in the East.

With Young being the first option, Bridges could return to playing off-ball and increase his productivity. The Nets’ sharpshooters would have numerous open shots, with Young pulling defenders and making it incredibly difficult for the opposition to decide what they want to live with.

Young would be a critical component the Nets have been missing to make a successful run during the regular season and possibly the postseason.

Bench Depth

This season, once the first unit went to the bench, the second unit needed more depth and an effective facilitator. 

This led to opponents gaining significant leads and the first unit playing catch-up for the remainder of the game. With the addition of one of these prospects, the Nets’ second unit would be more complete. Schröder and Thomas would be an exceptional second-unit backcourt alongside the Nets’ dominant role players.

As a result, the second unit would continue to be productive when the first unit is off the court. With Valanciunas’ size, Mitchell’s extraordinary skills, and Young’s offensive threat, the Nets could address at least one of the team’s current weaknesses.

This would result in the success of the franchise’s future. 

About Guadalupe Maravilla

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