The 2022-23 Brooklyn Nets roster is riddled with holes. While the front office deserves some credit for assembling a roster worlds better than last year’s, that does not make it perfect.
The quality and depth of the center position became a concern heading into the season and has only been affirmed as we sit five games in. With the Nets off to a competitive, but disappointing, 1-4 start, questions pertaining to whether or not this roster can compete for a title have not only arisen but earned validity.
The Nets entered this new campaign with Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe as their top two centers. Claxton, to his credit, looks miles better than he did last year, averaging nearly 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Sharpe on the other hand remains unable to contribute quality minutes.
Though Claxton has established himself as a starting quality center, there are two issues still stemming from the position over these first five games: spacing and physicality.
Why the Brooklyn Nets need to improve at the center position
As to the first issue (and the most prominent one), the Nets have struggled this season to provide quality spacing when Simmons and Claxton share the court. As good as Claxton has been, he’s not a stretch big, and often occupies the space that Simmons needs open in order to maximize his skill set.
In order for the Nets to reach their peak this season, they need both of these players operating to their strengths, and to this point that has not been possible. Sharpe does not help this issue either with his skills closely aligned with that of a more traditional big.
We saw the Nets choose to not pair Claxton and Simmons on the floor often during their bout with Dallas last night. At the very least, that’s progress from the coaching staff. However, the starting lineup remains a question mark, with both Simmons and Claxton starting every game thus far.
Physicality on the other hand has long been a bugaboo for Claxton. Although Clax is an accomplished defender, larger bigs often bully him down low. The Pelicans exploited this time and time again on opening night, as Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas physically dominated the interior.
I believe that this issue is less pressing. Claxton will continue to add mass physically, and only a handful of teams carry as much muscle as the Pelicans.
The good news is the Nets will have an opportunity to address these issues at the trade deadline and based on their play so far, a stretch big has to be at the top of their wish list. More trade candidates will reveal themselves as the season goes on, though currently, the most likely cited targets include Myles Turner and Jakob Poeltl.
Turner resembles the better target of the two, being able to stretch the floor to some level, while Poeltl identifies more as a plug to fix the physicality issue. Regardless, there will be an opportunity to add someone at the deadline, and Sean Marks needs to pull the trigger to give this team a real shot at the Larry O’Brien.