The Brooklyn Nets may have a hole at the center position if they end up being unable to retain Blake Griffin, but with players like Nerlens Noel and Khem Birch on the free agent market, Sean Marks will have plenty of options when it comes to beefing up that position.
One player that could be of particular interest to the Nets is Birch, who joined the Toronto Raptors last year after the Orlando Magic parted ways with the backup center following the addition of Wendell Carter Jr. to the rotation. Birch ended up starting on a Raptors team that also struggled to get production from the center spot.
Birch, a native Canadian, took advantage of his role with Toronto, becoming a quality starting center who put up the best offensive numbers of his career while showing that he can maintain his high level of play on the defensive end.
If the Nets believe that the player they saw in Toronto is indicative of the type of production that Birch will provide as a starter in Brooklyn, Marks should try to convince the Montreal-born center to trade in his red and black jersey for a chance to compete for a championship in New York.
Khem Birch could be a solid addition for the Brooklyn Nets.
Birch averaged 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game with Toronto last year. Birch averaged 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career, and he proved that he can actually put the ball in the basket if given enough opportunities.
Birch was a major impact player on both sides of the floor for Toronto, and that could help fan the flames of the Nets’ interest. The Raptors were 4.8 points per 100 possessions better when Birch was on the floor, proving that even on a Toronto team that had some awful defense at times, he can serve as a bright spot.
The Nets saw Birch score eight points and record seven rebounds in an emphatic 11-point win against them this year. His dominant performance against a very good Jazz team should crystallize the idea that he could succeed with the Nets.
As much as everyone loves Nicolas Claxton, his lack of bulk could get him into trouble against some of the better, bigger centers in the league. At a muscular 233 pounds with the mobility to keep up with more athletic bigs, Birch could have plenty of appealing traits for a Nets team that is still looking to upgrade in the post.
Birch comes with some flaws that Brooklyn will need to address. First, Birch is going to be 29 years old by the time the season starts, and we only have one quarter-season of above-average offensive production on the books. Conversely, we have three seasons in Orlando in which he didn’t even tally five points per game.
While Toronto did have him slightly improve his perimeter shooting, Birch is a liability on the offensive side of the ball outside of the paint. Part of what made Griffin effective is his ability to space the floor and shoot, a trait that would be lost with the addition of Birch.
The signing of Birch, and the requisite success of that deal, will hinge solely on the big man being able to replicate his Toronto production in Brooklyn. As risky as it may sound, the Nets should make a play for Birch, as he could provide quality stat-stuffing regularly without breaking the bank.
Marks needs to only give him a short-term contract, however. If he reverts to his Orlando form, they will have to cut ties with him as soon as possible and look elsewhere for replacements.