Brooklyn Nets: Improved depth faces toughest test

Brooklyn Nets Shabazz Napier. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Shabazz Napier. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets are down to 10 healthy players for Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, with a full third of the 15-man roster listed as out.

As Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks put together a roster for this season with much-improved veteran depth, it may have been in anticipation for nights like the one the club faces Wednesday when the Nets host the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center.

Any hope the rapidly thinning Nets had of getting an lift were dashed Tuesday afternoon when the club announced that wing Allen Crabbe would miss his 10th consecutive game and was listed as out for the matchup with New Orleans.

Crabbe has not played since Dec. 12 at Philadelphia, when he banged his right knee hard on the floor after being fouled during a drive to the basket.

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Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was added to the injury report after leaving Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks with a strained right adductor, joining three players that have been out for some time in Treveon Graham (out since Oct. 19 with a strained left hamstring), Caris LeVert (dislocated right foot Nov. 12) and Dzanan Musa (partially dislocated left shoulder in a Dec. 16 NBA G League game).

That is one-third of Brooklyn’s 15-man roster that will be in street clothes Wednesday night, although the Nets do have the flexibility of using two-way contract holders Theo Pinson, who logged 28 minutes against the Bucks one night after recording a triple-double in the G League, and Alan Williams, who has only dressed for one game with Brooklyn and did not play.

If ever there was a testament to the value of adding those two two-way roster spots, which the NBA did for the 2017-18 season, it’s this situation.

Otherwise, the Nets might be almost to the point of having to either ask for an injured player roster exception or do what the Memphis Grizzlies were forced to do in 2015-16, waive injured players to sign healthy ones.

The good news for Brooklyn is that the improved depth has helped the Nets avoid cratering team performance when players go down.

On Saturday, a five-man unit of Jared Dudley, DeMarre Carroll and Pinson, led by out-of-the-rotation backups Shabazz Napier and Kenneth Faried, brought Brooklyn back from a 26-point deficit in the third quarter at Milwaukee to within seven in the fourth before the Bucks closed the game out.

Napier, who had played just 28 minutes since Dec. 3, matched his career high with 32 points in the loss. Faried, who had logged just 50 minutes all season before Saturday, was on the floor for 27 minutes and posted his first double-double in more than a year with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Being at 10 healthy players isn’t necessarily a hindrance for coach Kenny Atkinson, who seldom goes more than nine or 10 deep during games. Plus, the Nets will have point guard D’Angelo Russell and backup center Ed Davis — both of whom were rested Saturday — available.

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It’s just reassuring to know that those 10 players can perform at an NBA level when called upon.