You begin with the stars and then you work your way down from there. That’s how it will work for the Brooklyn Nets during the 2022-23 season
With the team committing roughly 65.0 percent of its payroll to its big three in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons, it makes sense for the team to build its rotation with those three players as its pillars. Of course, each guy’s incredible on-court skills further that argument as well.
However, stardom does not always come without complication. While we expect Durant and Irving to fit well with Brooklyn’s surrounding players given their independent skills on the court, the same cannot be said for Simmons, who mainly plays team ball given his strengths and weaknesses.
With Ben10 being a defensive, pass-first, but strong inside scorer, his game may not hum properly beside the team’s expected starting center Nic Claxton.
Although Claxton looks to have improved his jump shot this offseason, we know not how it might translate to an in-game environment. Unless he indeed starts hitting shots, Claxton and Simmons together on the court might derail Brooklyn’s offense.
With two players unable to shoot from deep on the floor at once, there’s less hardwood for the defense to cover. In today’s NBA, you want five or at the very least four players who threaten from deep and draw defenders away from the paint.
At this point we cannot expect Claxton and Simmons to do that, making them unplayable at the same time for long stretches.
So while Claxton and Simmons resemble two skilled players, they might become a headache for Steve Nash to manage as a duo. Naturally, you want your top talents on the floor as often as possible, but unless either begins shooting from deep, the right answer is to keep them separated.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, backup big man Day’Ron Sharpe is not known for his shooting either, at least at this point as someone set to begin their sophomore season.
So unless the Nets want to play Markieff Morris over 20 minutes per game, Brooklyn will need Simmons to play the five if they still want to stretch the floor adequately and feature all their stars at once.
Simmons rarely did this in Philly, only fielding 9.0 percent of his minutes from the 2020-21 season in that spot according to NBA.com. However, Simmons still stretches out to six-foot-eleven and last clocked in at 240 pounds. That frame leaves him well equipped to play center even if his experience argues otherwise.
So whether it’s helping Claxton, Simmons, or perhaps Sharpe develop a shot, or instead teaching Simmons to play the five, Nash will have his work cut out for him this season.
While surely dealt a rough deck of cards, Nash has not done much to impress Brooklyn fans so far during his tenure as coach. However, navigating through Simmons and Claxton’s weaknesses to get the best out of both players could quickly change that.