Following a four-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19, the NBA is getting ready for a long-anticipated league restart. Beginning on July 31st, the top 22 teams will compete at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Given that there will be a secured “bubble”, concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and no fans, it’s safe to say that this will be a season finish unlike any other. Taking the unique NBA landscape into consideration, the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff continues this contenders or pretenders series with the Brooklyn Nets.
Can the league’s most-depleted roster overcome the odds in the NBA Disney Bubble?
Contenders or Pretenders: Brooklyn Nets
Stars Opting out
Heading into the NBA Disney Bubble, Brooklyn’s roster will look completely different than before play was suspended in March. Not one, not two, not three or four, but five Nets decided to opt-out of playing for the NBA restart.
Star point guard Kyrie Irving was vocal about sitting out of the restart, citing his wishes to remain focused on social reform. This is more of a chemistry issue for the Nets. Irving underwent season-ending shoulder surgery back in March, however, his leadership will be missed.
These losses will force interim head coach Jacque Vaughn to use an entirely different starting lineup and rotation for the Nets. These aren’t just role players sitting out, but five starters or key contributors that Brooklyn is without.
Aside from Irving, Dinwiddie and Prince were usually penciled into the Nets starting lineup each night. Dinwiddie, a combo guard, started in 49 games and averaged 31.2 minutes of action. He led the team in points (20.6) and assists (6.8) per game. Prince started in 61 of the Nets 64 games, scoring 12.1 points per game.
The Replacement Cast
With such a depleted roster, Brooklyn has scrambled to put together a complete roster for the restart. This process has also proved problematic.
The Nets signed journeyman veteran Michael Beasley as a substitution player on July 9th. By July 16th, he was declared out after testing positive for COVID-19. The Nets also signed Justin Anderson, who was only able to join the team yesterday after issues testing positive for COVID-19.
Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen highlight the names of players Brooklyn Nets fans are familiar with. The rest of the rotations will enlist new additions and depth chart players including Jamal Crawford, Chris Chiozza, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa, Lance Thomas, and Tyler Johnson.
Lack of Size
With all of the changes to the Nets roster, the biggest question mark is the team’s lack of front-court depth. Brooklyn is down to one true center with Allen. Allen is a solid option, starting 58 games this year and averaging nearly a double-double (10.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game).
Kurucs, Musa, and Thomas round out the Nets front-court, although each is undersized for their positions. Kurucs and Musa stand at 6-foot-9, while Thomas is listed at 6-foot-8.
Guard play will be vital for the undersized Nets. LeVert was playing his best basketball before the season suspension. Over Brooklyn’s last 16 games, LeVert averaged 24.1 points and 5.3 assists, while shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range. Harris started in 63 of 64 games this year, scoring 13.9 points per game.
The rest of the guard play is a question mark. Chiozza will start at point guard with only 28 career games played. And what can fans expect out of a 40-year-old Crawford, the oldest active player in the league?
Look to the Future – Brooklyn Nets Verdict: Pretender
Currently, Brooklyn sits in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference at 30-34 overall. The Nets are 0.5 games ahead of the eighth seed Orlando Magic and six games up on the ninth seed Washington Wizards. At the very least, Brooklyn will be forced into a play-in situation for eighth entering the playoffs.
Brooklyn’s status as contenders or pretenders comes down to one thing: the roster. This cast of substitution players doesn’t have nearly enough talent to make waves in the NBA playoffs. Regardless, the future is bright for the Brooklyn Nets. Last offseason, the Nets acquired stars Irving and Kevin Durant. With a healthy roster, and continued improvement from Dinwiddie, LeVert, and Prince, the Nets will be a top-tier team. Unfortunately, this won’t start until next season.
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