Could Boatright and Reed overtake Larkin and Bargnani?


The NBA regular season doesn’t begin for another two months, but rosters for most teams are set and it can be easily speculated as to which players will get the majority of rotation minutes off the bench for the entirety of the season.  The Nets bench, however, has no certainty for production as it’s composed of journeymen and unproven players.

Projected to lead the second unit, point guard Shane Larkin was signed in the offseason after a failed stint with the Knicks last season.   In 24.5 minutes, Larkin averaged 6.2 points and 3 assists while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and a weak 30.2 percent from long range. He struggles against bigger athletic guards and the average height of the point guard position has increased over the past decade. He does run the pick and roll effectively and shows nice quickness and has a quick first step which sometimes allows him to get into the paint with ease.  The key for Larkin, however, is that he sometimes settles for fadeaways or distant floater in the paint when he should drive to the basket.  He doesn’t turn the ball over, which is important in a backup point and he has natural point guard tendencies as a floor general.  His athleticism and ceiling, however, isn’t that of Boatright and he hasn’t shown much improvement from his rookie season with the Mavericks through his second season in New York.

A diminutive point guard himself, Boatright has a lot of the characteristics of Larkin.  He excels best when attacking the defense in the pick and roll and sometimes struggles to convert in the paint.  Yet despite that issue, he still maintains the athleticism explosiveness that Larkin doesn’t possess. He’ll need to add strength to be able to finish at the basket at a higher rate, but the natural gifts are there.

The key for Boatright will be out-shooting Larkin when he gets time on the court. Since being signed by the Nets, he’s show the ability to consistently knock down the three when his feet are set.  He’s not as consistent off the dribble and would likely be best used when there is another ball-handler on the court. After shooting 43.6 percent from three in Summer League, he could provide the Brooklyn bench with a better offensive option off the bench if Larkin fails to deliver on his opportunity.

Along with the point guard position, the Nets could eventually find themselves with a competition for the backup center position with Andrea Bargnani and Willie Reed looking to garner as many minutes as possible behind Brook Lopez.

As of now Bargnani is in line to be the immediate backup to Brooklyn’s star center, but there’s no certainty he holds onto the role.  Also a Knicks’ defector Bargnani drew the ire of Knicks’ fans over the past two seasons with numerous injuries and failed to offer the production that matched his $11.5 million salary.  Now making slightly above $1.3 million in Brooklyn the value he brings will certainly be closer to his paycheck.

Bargnani actually had arguably his best season since 2010, averaging 19.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from deep range.  Offensively, he’s actually been significantly more effective inside the arc despite his reputation as a long range shooter, shooting 35 percent from deep for the four years prior to last season.  They key for Bargnani’s long-term success will be whether he can defend his position without getting overpowered in the paint.

It is on that side of the court where former D-Leaguer Willie Reed has the chance to make his impact. During Summer League Reed averaged 13.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks while shooting 60 percent from the field. More importantly, he held his own defensively and shown the potential to be a bruiser and enforcer down low. He notably put on more muscle during the offseason and there were numerous occasions in Vegas where opponents were frustrated with Reed’s physicality in the paint and Brooklyn’s roster is certainly lacking in that regard.

With Coach Lionel Hollins’ reputation for committing to players who can offer production on the defensive end even at the expense of the offense, Reed could eventually get the opportunity to prove himself if the Nets’ coach isn’t satisfied with Bargnani’s ability on that side of the ball.  His high motor and hustle will certainly endear him to Nets’ fans and coaches.

With the season not even in full swing, it’s highly unlikely either Boatright or Reed will get a chance to earn a significant role in the rotation. Yet if by the quarter point of the season, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Coach Hollins give either young player the opportunity to prove they deserve more time than their more veteran counterparts.