The Brooklyn Nets are gearing up for a tough matchup against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, which likely won’t bring them a ton of reprieve amid one of the toughest stretches over the 2020-21 season. With James Harden still on the mend, Denver throwing an MVP at them might be too tough to stomach.
Jokic is racing out to the front of the MVP race, as his blend of spectacular passing, quality shooting, and ability to hit tough shots with regularity. Brooklyn will be in for a difficult night, as the fact that the Nets lack interior depth has been shouted from the mountaintops until haters are blue in the face.
The Nets bigs have filled roles, as they have been tasked with checking a very specific box in order to help Brooklyn paper over the cracks. As the season has gone on, the flaws have finally started to show, and Jokic is going to show the Nets exactly what would have helped them put some distance between Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Even on days when Jokic defers to Michael Porter Jr. or the injured Jamal Murray, he can take over the game thanks to his rebounding and passing. With the Nets playing 4-on-5 sometimes due to their lack of depth, a player with his profile could be the missing ingredient that takes the Nets from very good to dominant.
The Brooklyn Nets need a big in the Jokic mold.
The retirement of LaMarcus Aldridge was crippling for the Nets, as he looked like the perfect replacement. He was able to secure rebounds, make some key passes, and operate with a smooth face-up game out of the post. None of the bigs on Brooklyn’s roster can combine all of those skills.
DeAndre Jordan is a non-factor outside of the restricted area. Nicolas Claxton is much too skinny to play the Jokic role. Blake Griffin seems like the most natural fit for that role, but his interior defense can be questionable at times.
The solution is clearly harder than just finding another Jokic. He’s a one-of-one player. However, Brooklyn’s offense is not that dissimilar to what Denver wants to do, and someone with that ability to create offense down low could help Brooklyn stay as efficient as ever without having to waste Kevin Durant’s athletic ability by sticking him in the post.
Jokic might not be the best defender in the world, but he can secure the paint, rebound with the best of them, and make key passes. With Aldridge having retied, Brooklyn needs to look around for a potential fill-in that could give that offense a new dimension.