When rooting for any basketball team, there can be a tendency to live and die with players in the moment. After all, if Joe Harris had a great game last night, he must be good! And if Brook Lopez was poor last night, he must not be. In addition, there is a tendency to evaluate players on the roster in comparison to one another, as opposed to in comparison to the league as a whole.
Nevertheless, Sean Marks cannot operate this summer on such fan like perceptions. Like or hate the Nets roster, and blame Sean Marks for a 6-15 record or not, one thing is certain: the Nets cannot become a playoff contender with this group of 15 players. Over the course of time, changes will need to be made.
Nevertheless, in the interests of preserving some continuity, building a base of players who want to be here and can convey that desire to free agents, and maintaining the roster’s few positives as more are brought in, while roster change is necessary, not everyone is a goner.
So, what do the Nets have on their current roster? Here is a look at all 15 players, sorted by impact in the present. A look at other teams’ depth charts, for comparison, is here.
The final tally: the Nets have one third banana, one clear starter, one low end starter or high end reserve, two sixth or seventh men, three fringe rotation players, two rosterable pieces, one unknown, two non NBA caliber players, and two players who solely offer leadership.
Here is the breakdown:
Brook Lopez: What the Nets have in Lopez is somewhat of a conundrum. On one hand, Brook deserves more credit than many fans provide him. In his ninth year, Brook is playing his best ever basketball, is shooting the three for the first time (a great thing for the Nets, whether they keep or dump him), and is moving better than ever. Given his multiple foot surgeries, that Brook has become such a fantastic offensive player is a product of hard work, work that should not go unnoticed. Brook is a top five offensive center. On the other hand, Brook is likely a bottom ten defensive center. He gets beat too often to loose balls, scored over too often inside, and out of place too often on defense. He struggles defending the pick and roll — the most important action to defend. At $21-$22 million, Lopez is properly paid, but if he seeks $25-$27 million per in 2018 (the three increases his value, and the cap has spiked), is he worth that? Lopez is a good player who would thrive playing with a star as a third banana, but is miscast as a star with the Nets. Brook is likely a top 6-10 center. However, whether the Nets should keep him is no easy question (and worth its own column).
Jeremy Lin: Given Lin’s sincere impact on the Nets in a small sample — the team looked competent with him and has cratered without him — Lin has value. The Nets were fourteenth in the league offensively and eighteenth defensively when Lin got hurt. They are 24th and 28th respectively since. Lin is also likely a top 15-20 point guard in the NBA, if one reviews the above NBA depth charts. We should be at a point where people car not about where Lin or his family is from, and just evaluate him as a basketball player. And to get a clear starting point guard for $11-$12 million per season is nothing short of an excellent move by the Nets this summer. Given the need teams have for multiple guards if they want to compete, Lin’s great contract, and the Nets need to bring quality players in without draft picks, it is hard to argue that the Nets should trade Lin. Lin is a clear starter.
Trevor Booker: Booker is the Nets’ third best player right now, and second best with Lin out. That should say it all, as far as 6-15 is concerned. Booker has been a nice find by Sean Marks, and I personally like Booker a lot: that all must be said. Booker works hard, makes plays off the dribble and finishes better than anyone expected, defends, rebounds, and plays every game like it is his last. He deserves credit for all of those things. However, he is simply not good enough to be a team’s top two or three player. Simply take a look at the depth chart of power forwards above: so many are better than Booker. There are arguments against dealing Booker: if you are trying to build a culture of workers, Booker epitomizes that culture. However, as a mid career veteran who provides mostly energy, players like Booker are readily available, at all times of the year. If the Nets can get value for him in the way of speculative youth or draft picks (good luck getting a first), that has to be considered. Booker is a low end starter or high end reserve.
Sean Kilpatrick: Without a doubt, Kilpatrick is one of the league’s best stories. He was in the D league ten months ago. And he had had a few tries to latch on with other teams, tried that failed. However, he came to the Nets, and he found himself. Kilpatrick is the second leading scorer on a NBA team — a bad one, sure, but given he was just a D leaguer, that is some story. Kilpatrick is not perfect, and his struggles do get glossed over because he is such a feel good story. He can become too trigger happy with his shot, force jumpers or drives, and make poor decisions at times. However, he is a very skilled scorer, and has value off an NBA bench as a sixth or seventh man. There is little reason for the Nets to let him go and they should exercise his option this summer.
Bojan Bogdanovic: It is true that Bogdanovic’s scoring is up, and that he has the ability to fill the bucket. However, after hearing all summer about “Olympic Bojan,” and how good he would become, it must be said that expectations became out of whack. Bogdanovic is shooting just 33.3% from 3, which is a problem because perimeter shooting is his supposed calling card. Couple that with his being slow footed, and his struggles defensively, and I question Bogdanovic’s fit in Brooklyn. In Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Trevor Booker, the Nets have begun to quietly show a trend in their acquisitions, in that they want versatile players who can play multiple positions and have various skills. Bogdanovic is not versatile. Does Sean Marks really want to pay him 50 million over 4 years to remain in Brooklyn, and remain as one of the worst starting wings in the league? If not, it is time to explore the trade market. Because year 3 is the jump year for young players, and this year 3 is not that good. Bogdanovic is a sixth or seventh man.
Justin Hamilton: Hamilton is a better backup center than the fanbase gave him credit for when he was signed this summer. His defense is passable. And to date, despite a massive shooting slump, he is shooting 34.2% from three, which is competent for a big man. Hamilton is readily movable, but he is a competent reserve, and low end or fringe rotation player.
Joe Harris: Harris has been up and down as a Net, but more up than down of late, which could be a sign of positive development. He is shooting 36.6% from 3 on the year, and if he can remain above 36%, that provides the Nets with a bench weapon. He is also surprisingly adept at putting the ball on the floor which is critical for any shooter. Harris is a low end or fringe rotation player, easily replaceable for the Nets (unless he continues trending upward).
Isaiah Whitehead: Whitehead is far from polished as a point guard. He averages 3.5 turnovers per 36 minutes, which will have to be cut down if he is to become a reliable point guard in the NBA. However, the hope with rookies is not to see a polished, finished product: often, rookies who do not make mistakes have less room for growth. The goal is to see upside, and that is present with Whitehead. He is a good defender for a rookie, has good court vision, and competes. For now, he is a low end or fringe rotation player. But there is something there. And he fits the Nets apparent goal of having multiple athletes between 6’5 and 6’8 who display versatility.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: There is a lot to like about RHJ. He has a great attitude, and a sincere thirst to improve. However, there is an elephant in the room. Injuries last year aside, RHJ is a bad player in the present. He is shooting 32% while forcing up shots, which is just brutal. And despite his potential to be a great defender, one day, he is not there yet. The Nets defensive rating is actually worse when RHJ is on the court. At the moment, the idea of what RHJ could be is intriguing, but the actual of what he is is simply poor. RHJ is rosterable, but is not a rotation player on a good team at this moment. The question becomes: do the Nets believe he ever gets there? If not, he should be a trade candidate now. If, 12 months from now, he shows no growth, his value will go in the tank, as teams will weigh his actual more than his potential by then.
Anthony Bennett: Bennett is a bust; that has to be said. He was picked first in the draft, was supposed to go top 10, and has not produced to that level in now year 4, period. However, Brooklyn may have found something here. Bennett did leapfrog Scola in the rotation. He is averaging 16.9 and 10.9 per 36 minutes, and his rebounding has been very good. The Nets are also better when he plays than when he sits. Bennett, for now, is merely rosterable, but even that is better than what he was one year ago.
Caris LeVert: LeVert at this point is an unknown simply due to the fact that he has played one game, and nine total NBA minutes. However, Brooklyn clearly believes in him, and I was a big fan of his debut. He has a great cadence handling the ball, a nose for the ball (recall those halfcourt steals), nice court vision, and a great attitude. Obviously, LeVert will need to develop from here, and has a ways to go, but his debut was a good sign of what he can be. The early returns are good.
Spencer Dinwiddie: As of now, Dinwiddie is not a NBA caliber player, given what we now of him at this point. The Pistons and Bulls gave him a shot, and he flamed out. However, Dinwiddie has thrived in the D league, and at 6’6 he fits the mold of what Sean Marks wants to build. Sean Kilpatrick flamed out of more than one stop before latching on with the Nets, so perhaps Dinwiddie latches on here. However, there is precedent that indicates that he may not.
Chris McCullough: Young players deserve time to develop, and snap judgments are just not fair. But McCullough is now 1.25 seasons into his career, and has shown nothing on a NBA court. His 19.9 and 8.1 D league averages are good, but not eye popping, and that is a concern: a NBA player should destroy the D league, and most commonly, the D leaguers that thrive at the next level did just that. McCullough is not a NBA caliber player until he shows otherwise.
Randy Foye and Luis Scola: Both are high character veterans who provide end of the roster leadership. Neither, frankly, provides anything more than that at this juncture.