The Brooklyn Nets have used the same starting lineup in all 7 games this season, but coach Kenny Atkinson said after Monday’s loss a change could be coming.
After watching his Brooklyn Nets completely annihilated on the backboards in a 115-96 loss to the New York Knicks Monday night, coach Kenny Atkinson admitted he is contemplating a change to the starting lineup that would insert Ed Davis into the first unit over Jared Dudley.
The Knicks outrebounded the Nets by a 53-32 margin Monday night and the next opponent on the docket is the Detroit Pistons back at Barclays Center on Wednesday — a team that features two solid rebounding bigs in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin.
Drummond was the NBA’s leading rebounder last season and is currently second in the NBA at 15.8 per game leading into Detroit’s Tuesday night matchup with the Boston Celtics.
Griffin is grabbing 10 rebounds per game — the most since he averaged 10.9 per game in his second NBA season in 2011-12. Griffin is also fifth in the NBA in scoring at 28.4 points per game and is tied for fifth in 3-point shooting at 55.6 percent (15-for-27).
In the Pistons’ 103-100 season-opening win over Brooklyn in Detroit on Oct. 17, Drummond and Griffin combined for 50 points and 28 rebounds, 11 of those on the offensive glass.
The Nets’ concerns are valid. They were outboarded in Detroit 46-39 and gave up 21 second-chance points. On Monday, Brooklyn surrendered a whopping 29 points off extra opportunities.
Atkinson was concerned about the rebounding situation after the loss to the Knicks, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post and said of the possibility of switching Davis for Dudley:
"“It could be something we look at. I don’t know how many rebounds Jarrett [Allen] had, but he’s going to have to rebound. Ed’s going to have to rebound, we know with our group it’s five guys.”"
Dudley has been starting at the 4 for the Nets since DeMarre Carroll was injured in the preseason and is averaging 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds. 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 24.7 minutes per game.
He was scoreless in 18 minutes Monday night against a big New York frontcourt that featured 7-foot Mitchell Robinson and 6-foot-10 Noah Vonleh as the starters and was backed up by 6-foot-11 Enes Kanter and 6-foot-8 Lance Thomas.
Dudley is 6-foot-7 and has spent most of his career as a wing. In his career, he has averaged 5.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, a mark that is at 4.2 this season.
Detroit presents a similar size challenge. Drummond is 6-foot-11 and a hulking 279 pounds. Griffin is 6-foot-10 and 251 pounds. Backup center Zaza Pachulia is 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds.
If you were looking for the beef, try Detroit.
Part of Brooklyn’s issues on the glass have been attributed to young center Jarrett Allen, who is improved as a rebounder, but can get pushed around by bulkier, more experienced bigs. He’s averaging 7.1 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game.
Davis, on the other hand, is the team leader at 8.4 rebounds per game despite averaging only 16.9 minutes a night. His per 36 minutes rate this season is 18.0, which is on pace for a career-best and well above his career mark of 11.4.
By comparison, Allen is at 9.5 rebounds per 36. Besides Davis, the only other players at better than 10 boards per 36 minutes are recently returned-from-injury Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at 10.1 and currently out-with-an-injury Rodions Kurucs at 10.0.
Atkinson had been reluctant to play Davis and Allen concurrently over concerns about the spacing, something Dudley has helped with. But against an opponent with a gargantuan frontcourt, rebounding may finally trump spacing.
How reluctant has Atkinson been to pair the Allen and Davis? Through seven games, the pair has been on the court twice, but only for the briefest of moments, per NBA.com/stats.
When you begin to ponder how to deploy the pair offensively, though, you can understand Atkinson’s reluctance. You could play Davis above the break as a screener and put Allen in the corner where Dudley had been.
But that takes away Allen, who has been the team’s best roll man thus far, and puts him out on the floor where he will have to handle the ball and make decisions with where to go and what to do with it.
His passing has been terrific — from the low post — the last three games, as he has 11 assists in that span after notching just three in his first four games.
But Allen still doesn’t look comfortable actually handling the ball out in space. Allen is, however, at least a somewhat credible threat to knock down a corner 3 — he’s 2-for-6 from deep this season.
Davis, on the other hand, is a crasher and banger down low much more than a finesse handler of the rock. And as a shooter? Davis is 0-for-2 from 3-point range — in eight-plus NBA seasons.
This season, Davis hasn’t attempted a shot longer than 10 feet and 79.3 percent of his attempts are in the restricted area.
So probably not so much spacing if you deploy Allen as the screener and Davis in a corner.
But the Nets really should have enough shooters to make up for the deficiency, while at the same time giving themselves a fighting chance to keep Drummond and Griffin from inflicting slow death by offensive rebound against them.
I love what Dudley has brought to the team, but he’s not really a guy who should be averaging half a game.
I thought it odd that Davis only played 12 minutes as Kanter and friends were grabbing more glass than a suction cup at a window factory and it might be good to at least have a fighting chance of keeping the rebounding tally close to even.
This doesn’t have to be a permanent solution — against the Houston Rockets on Friday, you certainly wouldn’t want to emphasize size over spacing. But against this Pistons team, it might be a prudent roll of the dice.