Who Should Be Brooklyn Nets' Clutch 5 in NBA Playoffs?

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Who Should Be Brooklyn Nets' Clutch 5 in NBA Playoffs?
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Brooklyn should consider using Keith Bogans in its crunch-time lineup.

The Brooklyn Nets’ roster has no shortage of players capable of delivering in the clutch.

In the NBA playoffs, having true professionals that can deliver in crunch time is often the difference between winning and losing a series.

Not convinced?

Look no further than LeBron James’ 45-point, do-or-die Game Six effort in Boston last June. With his team’s back against the wall, James delivered a heroic clutch performance for the ages. His unforgettable thrashing of the Boston Celtics allowed the Miami Heat to live to fight another day, and to eventually win an NBA Championship.

Brooklyn has its own pair of superstars in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Like LeBron, Williams and Johnson have plenty of playoff experience. More importantly, they want the ball when the clock is running out and the game is on the line.

As the NBA playoffs approach, coach P.J. Carlesimo must decide which group of five gives his team the best chance to win when the chips are down. There’s no doubt his clutch five will include D-Will and Joe Johnson, but after those two there will be some tough tactical decisions to make. 

 Top Five-Man Floor Units

#

Unit

Min

Off

Def

+/-

W

L

Win%

1

Williams-Johnson-Wallace-Evans-Lopez

519.0

1.09

1.08

+16

15

19

44.1

2

Williams-Johnson-Wallace-Humphries-Lopez

189.8

1.06

1.07

+0

6

8

42.8

3

Williams-Bogans-Johnson-Humphries-Lopez

121.9

1.16

1.00

+38

8

3

72.7

4

Williams-Bogans-Johnson-Evans-Lopez

114.8

1.00

1.14

-28

9

7

56.2

5

Williams-Bogans-Johnson-Wallace-Lopez

106.2

1.15

0.92

+43

10

3

76.9

(Table from 82games.com)

Gerald Wallace is the Nets’ starting small forward. He’s earned his spot in the rotation with tremendous defense, hustle and leadership. His exceptional athleticism and shot-blocking ability have certainly been of value. But his poor shooting and finishing make him a liability on the offensive end.

The better crunch-time option at small forward is 6’ 5” veteran Keith Bogans. At the age of 32, Bogans has played nine seasons in the NBA.  During that time, he’s been a part of three playoff teams including the 2007-08 Orlando Magic, 2009-10 San Antonio Spurs and 2010-11 Chicago Bulls.

The battle-tested Bogans has developed into a serviceable spot-up shooter in his first season with Brooklyn. He’s currently shooting nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 40 percent from the field. Wallace, meanwhile, has connected on just 29 percent of his three-point field goals.

Bogans has done most of his damage from the corner in his tenth NBA season. That works just fine for the Nets. There’s a place for a spot-up corner shooter in every crunch-time lineup.

When Bogans runs off a Brook Lopez or Reggie Evans’ screen and moves to his favorite spot on the court, it spaces the floor and draws defenders away from D-Will and Joe Johnson. If the defense decides to double-team Williams or Johnson, Bogans has no problem making them pay.

According to the table above, Bogans has been featured in three of the Nets' five most frequently used lineups.

Should the Nets replace Reggie Evans with Andray Blatche in crunch time?

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Deciding on a crunch-time power forward should be a little easier for Carlesimo. The Nets simply can’t afford to have Reggie Evans, who shoots 47 percent from the free-throw line, on the floor late in the fourth quarter when the outcome is still in doubt.

Make no mistake, Evans is one the best rebounders in the league. But the absence of a jump shot in his offensive repertoire allows opposing defenders to clog the paint or double-team Williams or Johnson. At times, Evans also has issues on defense. He’s tough, but at 6’ 8” he struggles against taller forwards on the perimeter, who shoot over him with ease.

The 6’ 11” Andray Blatche is a better clutch option. He possesses a dynamic offensive arsenal and his tremendous size is imposing to smaller forwards. What the Nets lose in size by playing Bogans instead of Wallace, they make up for by using Blatche in place of Evans.

Carlesimo has rarely used Lopez and Blatche in tandem, despite expressing the desire to do so. This may be due to the fact that Brooklyn lacks a true backup center. Playing the two together significantly handicaps the second unit. But at the end of the must-win game, why not pull out all the stops?

Individual Player Floor Time statistics

Player

Min

+/-

Off

Def

Net48

W

L

Win%

Johnson

72%

+225

1.11

1.07

+4.5

39

23

62.9

Lopez

56%

+159

1.09

1.06

+4.1

34

25

57.6

Wallace

53%

+96

1.08

1.05

+2.6

29

26

52.7

Williams

72%

+53

1.09

1.09

+1.1

32

30

51.6

Watson

38%

+36

1.07

1.06

+1.4

34

28

54.8

(Table from 82games.com)

Having center Brook Lopez in the clutch five is pretty much a no-brainer. The 25-year-old made his first All-Star appearance this season and averages an impressive 19.1 points per game.

He and D-Will have developed into one of the league’s most formidable inside-outside threats. When they play the two-man game well, it’s nearly impossible to stop one of them from getting an open look.

According to the table above, Lopez ranks second on the team in +/-, win percentage, and offensive points per possession.

Scoring in crunch time is important, but so is getting stops. Williams, Johnson, Bogans, Blatche and Lopez give Brooklyn a clutch five with ample offensive firepower and defensive prowess. These players complement each other well. Williams and Johnson are the primary options, Bogans brings toughness and is a perimeter threat, while Blatche and Lopez provide length and create mismatches in the paint.

For more Brooklyn Nets analysis, follow Andrew on Twitter

 

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