Why Brooklyn’s Backcourt 2.0 Will be Effective

Apr 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) with the ball against Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Nets win 121-111. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) with the ball against Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Nets win 121-111. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports /

The Brooklyn Nets acquired a very talented player in D’Angelo Russell last week. A big question that has risen as a result of this trade is how Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn’s most talented player, and Russell will play together in the backcourt.

Russell has played the point guard position for a majority of his professional career. According to  Basketball Reference, the 6-5 guard has played 89% of his possessions at the one and only 11% at the two.

When playing shooting guard, Russell shared ball handling responsibilities with Jordan Clarkson, who is similar to Lin. Clarkson is another athletic guard whose speed allows him to be effective without having the ball in his hands.

Los Angeles trotted out Clarkson and Russell as its starting backcourt in 11 games this past season. Luke Walton often paired Nick Young and Russell in the starting lineup instead of playing two ball handlers together. In those 11 games, Clarkson and Russell proved to be an effective backcourt, leading the Lakers to a 5-6 record. To put this in perspective, Los Angeles only totaled 26 wins over the course of the entire 2016-2017 season. When Russell played beside another ball handler, the Lakers had one of their best stretches of the season.

Russell does not need the ball in his hands to be effective. He shot 38% in catch-and-shoot situations last season. The percentage was just higher than what he shot on pull-ups or shots off the dribble.

Russell shot a similar percentage, 37.2%, with catch and shoots from behind the arc. These reliable numbers came in midst of a season in which Russell improved his game mightily.

He shot three pointers off of passes almost as many times as pulling up from the arc. Russell was successful last season while showing a variety of ways to put the ball in the basket.

A trade to the opposite conference was a blessing for Russell, defensively speaking. He went against some of the best backcourts in the league in Western Conference play. The Eastern Conference showcases more reasonably talented guards with Toronto, Washington and Boston headlining the most ferocious of the bunch.

Russell has the build to match up against many shooting guards in the league today. The average height of an NBA shooting guard is 6-5, which Russell fits perfectly. His biggest issue defensively is his athleticism. Scouting reports prior to the 2015 NBA Draft listed his agility as one of his biggest weaknesses. Russell’s lack of quickness will be difficult for him to become a reliable defender. Ideally, Atkinson would be able to hide him in these situations. But if Russell doesn’t improve, he may not see that much action in crunch time.

Russell and the Nets’ 23rd ranked defense will need to greatly improve to even come close to living up to Metta World Peace’s prediction of a playoff berth for Brooklyn this season.

Lin knows a little something about playing with ball-dominant guards. The Harvard alum has had Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Kemba Walker as teammates.

The Lin-Harden experiment was rarely successful as Lin was ousted from the starting lineup by a player who had been playing overseas. When Kobe played alongside him in 2015, Lin’s ability to play with another ball-dominant guard diminished.

However, he seemed to figure it out in the 2015-2016 season. Charlotte had one of the best seasons in franchise history, winning 48 games and making the playoffs. Lin came off the bench for most of his sole year in Charlotte, but played shooting guard.

The pairing of Lin and Walker brought fire power to the court, with each guard taking turns attacking the opposition’s defense. The duo created one of the most potent offenses in the NBA that season.

Lin got a taste of playing next to Sean Kilpatrick, who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Hopefully he can recreate the magic that transpired in Charlotte two seasons ago, now that he is healthy.

Lin seems to think this is a strong possibility. In an interview with the New York Post, he sounded extremely optimistic about the possibility of playing him and another combo guard together,

"“I’ve always loved two combo guards playing together. I’ve always been an advocate of that, whether it’s me playing alongside Patrick Beverley or playing alongside Kemba [Walker] Me and Kemba’s pairing was the most fun I’ve had.”"

It is clear that both players will have to sacrifice a little to make this tandem successful. But with Lin feeling excited, Nets’ can’t help but feel the same way.