The Brooklyn Nets must utilize the five-man unit of Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Mirza Teletovic and Brook Lopez more often.
Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo went with the usual starting lineup of Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Lopez against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night. But when the Nets made just two of their first seven shots and fell behind 16-6, Teletovic, Brooks and Bogans entered the game and sparked a furious comeback. Brooklyn hit five 3-pointers in the quarter, and cut the Bobcats’ lead to 29-26 after one.
Bogans (37 percent) is a better 3-point shooter than Wallace (33 percent), and Teletovic, despite being a 6’9” power forward, is a finesse player that makes the majority of his shots from the perimeter.
When Bogans and Teletovic replace Wallace and Evans, it allows the Nets offense to space the floor and create driving lanes for the Nets’ guards. It also draws defenders away from Lopez, allowing the seven-footer more room to operate in the paint.
Starting Evans and Wallace together, Carlesimo has opted to emphasize defense and rebounding over spacing and scoring. Brooklyn’s power forwards lead the NBA in rebounding (15.8 per game) and rank last in scoring (11.8 points per game), according to hoopsstats.com. For the most part, these stats reflect the strengths and weaknesses of Evans, who averages 3.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Evans’ prowess on the glass has been impressive, but the Nets’ inability to score has been a major issue. Prior to the win over Charlotte on Wednesday, Brooklyn lost four out of five, and averaged 88 points per game during that stretch. They rank 19th in the NBA in scoring.
Evans failed to score a single point in three consecutive games following the All-Star break. He’s been a liability on offense to say the least. According to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, the power forward leads the team in three-second violations and has had 22 percent of his shots blocked this season.
Following back-to-back losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls over the weekend, interim coach P.J. Carlesimo told the Daily News he planned to reduce the rotation from 11 players to 10. On Wednesday, a league source told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com that power forward Kris Humphries would be the odd man out.
The tightening of the rotation has opened the door for Mirza Teletovic to play more minutes. The rookie has played an average of 8.5 minutes per game in 2012-'13. He’s struggled in his limited role, shooting just 37 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range.
His most productive game of the season (14 points) came in a 113-93 blowout of the Sacramento Kings on January 5. He shot 3 of 6 from beyond the arc in a 113-106 win over the Toronto Raptors on January 15.
Carlesimo has to hope more minutes will help the Bosnian get into the flow of the offense. Teletovic scored three points in 14 minutes in the 99-78 win over the Bobcats. It will be interesting to see what he’s capable of down the stretch in his expanded role.
Small forward Keith Bogans wasn’t known as 3-point shooter when he came into the NBA, but he’s turned himself into a very efficient offensive player in Brooklyn. When opposing defenses choose to double Williams or Johnson, Bogans is usually spotted up in the right-hand corner waiting to bury an open shot.
According to Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times, Bogans is shooting nearly 40 percent from the corners this season. He’s been clutch, too. He drained three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the 101-97 win over the New Orleans Hornets on February 26. Bogans has evolved into a valuable role player for the Nets, and his role could expand in the new rotation.
The Nets will continue to lean heavily on youngster MarShon Brooks to produce while Joe Johnson continues to recover from plantar fasciitis. The foot injury caused Johnson to miss three games. He returned to action last Friday but scored only 11 points in losses to the Mavericks and Bulls. It’s clear the Nets’ starting shooting guard isn’t close to being 100 percent healthy.
Brooks is athletic, talented and very young. He’ll continue to make mistakes, but there’s a reason P.J. Carlesimo chose to keep him in the rotation. His ability to slash through the paint and get to the rim provides a nice complement to sharpshooters Bogans and Teletovic. The Nets will need his scoring production and play-making ability as they continue their playoff push.
When Lopez is on the floor with Williams, Brooks, Bogans and Teletovic he’ll have to stay closer to the basket and focus his energy on rebounding. The Nets’ starting center is averaging 7.1 boards per game, but has the size to make a bigger impact on the glass if Carlesimo chooses to use him in that role.
This lineup is undersized and will take time to gel. But it could give the Nets the scoring punch they need to stack some wins in the final month of the season.
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