Brooklyn Nets: How Long Before Hollins Explores Lineup Change?


The Nets have started the season with two straight losses and despite spurts where the team looked in sync, each game they’ve gone through periods where their offense has stalled and their defense has looked like a sieve. Although it is early, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Coach Lionel Hollins mulls over a change in the starting lineup.  With Brook Lopez and  Thaddeus Young locked into the lineup for the next three years, it’s likely one of the other three starting positions will be up for grabs before the season is over.

Oct 19, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (R) knocks the ball away from Brooklyn Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic (44) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The first change to the lineup could be replacing surprise season-opening starter, Wayne Ellington.  Ellington has played a total of 30 minutes in the first two games and shot 1 for 9 while playing substandard defense against opposing shooting guards.  His position was likely tenuous from the moment he was named a starter, but it’s become even shakier with Bojan Bogdanovic being aggressive on the offensive end.  Because of that, Bogdanovic’s minutes have seen a leap from 19 minutes in the first game to 29 minutes in the second game.  Although he only shot 6 for 14, it was noticeable how willing he was to take control during offensive sets and looked like the player he was during the tail end of last season.  If Ellington continue to struggle Bogdanovic could get the chance to capitalize sooner rather than later.

Along with Ellington, Hollins could decide to make a change at the other wing position with a substitution of rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in for veteran Joe Johnson.  The 34 year-old Johnson has looked his age this season and his drop-off in production last season doesn’t appear to be a fluke.  He’s been forced to play against two of the NBAs top talents in Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard both nights, but with Brooklyn seeking a playoff spot, he’ll need to at least hold his own weight in those matchups.  Going 5 for 22 in two games shouldn’t set him in panic mode just yet, but he should take notice of his rookie backup if he doesn’t produce in the next three games versus less talented competition. Hollis-Jefferson, despite being extremely raw offensively, has given the Nets a spark off the bench and with his length and athleticism he’s seen his share of offensive touches around the basket and taken advantage of them.  Defensively he’s certainly a better option than Johnson even without the experience and his two steals and three blocked shots should be an indication of what the future may hold.  With a lineup of Jack, Ellington, Johnson, Young, and Lopez holding little to no defensive presence, Hollins could eventually decide it’s time for youth to flourish over experience.

Experience versus youth will likely be the debate all season versus a Nets squad stuck in between rebuilding and competing for a playoff spot. At the helm of that debate could be Jarrett Jack versus Shane Larkin.  With Jack missing the first game of the season, Lark had an opportunity to shine. He didn’t player terribly, dishing out eight assists and nabbing three steals, but the rest of his stat line was essentially non-existent.  He did have some flashes versus the Spurs, shooting 3 for 5 with 4 assists in 16 minutes, and if Jack gets hurt again, he’s looked like he’d be a capable fill in.  The question with Larkin, however, will be his jump shot.  He was off balance on more than one occasion and in comparison with Jack, he didn’t look as composed and confident.  If he focuses on attacking the basket, he could make a play for the starting spot, but until then the coaching staff will likely rely on the veteran to run the first unit.

Only two games in and the Nets have no reason to make wholesale just yet, but if the first two games are any indication of what is to come, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if the coaching staff eyes another direction ten games into the season.  With 80 games ahead and six out of the next eight games against teams in the playoffs last year, this beginning stretch could set the tone for the season and changes could be made if that tone isn’t to the coaching staff’s liking.

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