The Brooklyn Nets’ emphasis on positionless basketball

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 24: DeMarre Carroll
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 24: DeMarre Carroll /

With the recent acquisition of DeMarre Carroll, Sean Marks has shown a firm commitment to embracing the concept of “positionless basketball”.

We are currently witnessing a revolutionary time period in the NBA. What once a bigman-dominated league has been replaced by an era of lightning-quick wings and premier guard play. As a result, the three point shot has gained a significant pedigree.

Each year, teams hoist them up at unprecedented rates. For example, the Brooklyn Nets took 31.6 threes per game last season, good for 4th in the league. Back in 1997 (the earliest NBA stats tracks), they took just 16.7 per game.

 This ridiculous jump in attempts per game is linked to a de-emphasis in strict positions. Sean Marks has embraced this change well during his short tenure as GM.

Over the past few months, Sean Marks has made numerous moves, all of which were well received by the basketball community. While most of these moves consisted of acquiring draft picks via salary dumps, they generally follow Marks’ philosophy.

All but one player acquired during Marks’ regime possess the ability to play multiple positions (Timofey Mozgov). However, the acquisition of Mozgov also netted the Nets’ potential franchise player, so it gets a pass.

A good example of Marks’ philosophy is the acquistion of Andrew Nicholson. Although the overpaid veteran has yet to find his footing in Brooklyn, Nicholson can play either the four or the five.

The newest Brooklyn Net, DeMarre Carroll, can play anywhere from the two to the four. The list goes on and on.

So where does the three point shot tie into all of this? The answer is quite clear. Kenny Atkinson runs an offensive system which relies on stretching the floor and quick decision making.

Marks has listened to his head coach, and has acquired talent which can play in KA’s Budenholzer-esque system. This system doesn’t rely heavily on traditional positions; rather, it employs athletes who can all play simultaneously.

For example, the Brooklyn Nets’ fourth most used lineup last year was Dinwiddie-Whitehead-Kilpatrick-Acy-Booker. This lineup outscored opponents by a whopping 10.4 points per 100 possessions.

On paper, this line up has two point guards, a shooting guard, and two power forwards, but this was not the case in actuality. With no positional restrictions, players were free to roam the floor, and responded with great shooting numbers.

Next: Examining DeMarre Caroll's Role in Brooklyn

Of course, the Nets aren’t the first team to embrace this style of play, and certainly won’t be the last. The unpredictability of an offense without positions is too dangerous to be ignored. Brad Stevens, head coach of the Boston Celtics, summed the ideology up perfectly last week:

All of the signs show Marks is in the same boat.