While the Brooklyn Nets still have to figure out what is going on in their backcourt given the departure of Kyrie Irving, the frontcourt rotation might be just as impactful. Through two games, including a win against the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn started Blake Griffin and Nicolas Claxton while bringing Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge off of the bench.
Brooklyn was hoping that Griffin’s ability to space the floor on offense and Claxton’s versatility on defense could be the right combination to lead this team to wins, but that hasn’t necessarily happened just yet, as Brooklyn’s defense looks as exploitable inside as they did last year.
Much of the blame for this has been put on Claxton, as he had had to get plenty of reps against the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid in his first few games. While Claxton took his lumps against the elite, Aldridge came off the bench and provided the same offensive spark he’s exhibited for more than a decade.
Aldridge scored 23 points in just 23 minutes, using his deadly midrange jumper to make Philly uncomfortable on the defensive end. Naturally, Aldridge’s explosion has prompted some murmurs that he should be in the starting lineup, with either Griffin or Claxton sent to the bench as a result.
There is no doubt that Aldridge was phenomenal, but he might be better off on the bench, as it could be unwise to change the starting lineup to such a seismic degree in the first two games. Let this unit take some time and figure things out.
Should the Brooklyn Nets start LaMarcus Aldridge?
Griffin might not have gotten off to the best start on offense, but given his ability to space the floor, he needs to be on the floor with Kevin Durant and James Harden. Considering how well he played down the home stretch of the season, Brooklyn should feel confident trotting Griffin out there.
While Claxton hasn’t necessarily performed like the defensive stalwart we were promised, he should be allowed some reprieve considering the competition he went up against. Claxton is in his third year, yet he struggled against two MVP frontrunners. Oh, the horror!
Claxton is a young player that is still going to be an integral part of Brooklyn’s defensive plan of attack this season, and sending him to the bench because he struggled against Giannis and Embiid (who doesn’t?) might be the perfect way to ruin his confidence. Brooklyn needs to show trust in him.
The starting unit has scoring covered between Harden and Durant, but the bench features players like an offensive liability in Jevon Carter and the aging Millsap playing heavy minutes. Putting Aldridge alongside Patty Mills can help the bench retain some semblance of offensive firepower.
Unless something really catastrophic happens, the Nets shouldn’t change their rotation too much. Let Aldridge be the top interior scorer on the bench, as his perfect mid-range game and ability to secure some really tough rebounds are better off next to Millsap and Mills on the bench rather than in the starting lineup alongside Durant and Harden.
Some Nets fans might not like the fact that Claxton has to develop on the fly when this team is trying to compete for a championship without one of their best players, but the only way that the Nets can make strides on the defensive end is by turning Claxton into a versatile weapon, and that can only happen if he starts over Aldridge.
Now, if Claxton continues to struggle after a few months against some inferior competition, then we can revisit this question and weigh the pros and cons of making the switch.