The Brooklyn Nets have underwhelmed thus far this season.While reinforcements are on the way, the answer to one major flaw is not on the current roster.
For the Brooklyn Nets, the 2019-2020 season presents an unusual scenario.
Despite a talented roster, Brooklyn has underachieved to this point. Kevin Durant’s impending return has sights set on next year.
This season is about analyzing the surrounding pieces and deciding how to complement the superstar duo of Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Through 45 games, there are several areas where the Nets must improve, but one stands out as a major problem when considering a future playoff run.
That weakness is Brooklyn’s lack of sizable defenders at the forward positions.
If the Nets hope to contend for a title they will inevitably face large, athletic ball-handlers such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, and eventually, LeBron James.
These stars have torched the Nets this season, averaging 26.7 PPG on 59.8% shooting from the field in six contests.
Other wing scorers such as Tobias Harris, Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdonavic have also given the Nets fits. Brooklyn is 1-8 against teams with the players mentioned above.
Brooklyn’s roster is undoubtedly talented. However, when you assess it, they have a lot of good guards and talented centers, but not much in between.
Because of this, the task of covering these players has often fallen on Taurean Prince, Wilson Chandler or Rodions Kurucs.
They aren’t going to cut it moving forward.
Durant will provide a bigger defender, but the Nets are going to rely on him heavily on the offensive end.
The answer to this problem is not on the current roster. Brooklyn has the flexibility to add pieces and will look to fill this need in the offseason.
So now the question is, what are the options for general manager Sean Marks?
An interesting name that has been thrown around is Serge Ibaka. The 30-year-old is in the final year of his contract and is the exact type of player the Nets should be looking for.
At 6’10”, Ibaka’s combination of size and athleticism would give Brooklyn a dependable answer to the likes of Antetokounmpo, Simmons and Siakam.
Ibaka would fit in seamlessly next to Jarrett Allen, who has proven to be one of the top perimeter defending centers in the league. A frontcourt of Ibaka and Allen with Durant on the wing would be a nightmare for opposing offenses down the stretch of games.
Offensively, Ibaka’s versatility and shooting ability would allow head coach Kenny Atkinson to play him at the four. The forward is shooting 38.0% from three on 92 attempts this season.
While signing Ibaka would take some maneuvering by the Nets and a discount on his part, the allure of competing for a championship in New York and reuniting with Durant should be enticing.
Another under-the-radar name that would fit nicely in Brooklyn is Jerami Grant. The 25-year-old has earned praise for his defensive IQ and hustle in Denver, areas Prince has often been criticized for this season.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic praised Grant’s defensive effort against Kawhi Leonard in a win earlier this month via Kyle Fredrickson.
“Jerami is someone who can match with him,” Jokic said. “Kawhi is really amazing. It seems like every shot is going in. But (Grant) made him work because of his length and how quick he is.”
At 6’9″ with a 7’2″ wingspan, Grant has the size and athleticism Brooklyn lacks against top-level talent. The wing is also shooting a respectable 38.7% from three on 3.1 attempts per game.
Grant has a $9.3M player option for next season. Brooklyn could move some pieces in an attempt to open cap space for the young wing.
The first half of this season has shown a glaring weakness that needs to be addressed for the Nets to make it through the Eastern Conference.
There will be an opportunity to do that this offseason. Marks knows that and may have more moves up his sleeve.