Youth Movement: Youngsters Pushing for Increased Roles with Nets
With the continued presence of seasoned players such as Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko and Joe Johnson, one might not realize that the Brooklyn Nets are younger than last season. With the departure of Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche and the recent injury to Brook Lopez, head coach Lionel Hollins will find himself relying on a few younger talents to fill the void.
The average age of the roster has decreased from 28.8 years old, one of the oldest in the NBA last season, to 27.2 years old. Eight of the 17 players on the preseason roster are under the age of 26, also an increase from last year. Contrary to popular belief, Hollins is no stranger to youth, despite his reliance on veterans in Memphis, and the aging core in Brooklyn.
In his last four seasons in Memphis, Hollins coached teams with more younger players, than older ones. In his first season with Memphis, Hollins played a young backcourt duo of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo for 32.1 and 38 minutes per game respectively, proving his willingness to let young players contribute.
So who might be those players that turn heads this year as part of a younger group of role players this season?
Mason Plumlee: The Proven
As a gold medalist for Team USA, Plumlee has had himself quite the offseason. Despite playing just 18.2 minutes per game last season, the Duke product saw playing time on a team full of the the best young talents in the NBA. While some questioned his inclusion on that team, Plumlee’s time in Spain last summer was a positive sign for Brooklyn.
In his limited playing time off the bench last year, Plumlee shot just under 66 percent from the field and had the third highest total rebound percentage on the team behind Garnett and Reggie Evans. So far in the preseason, Plumlee has seen limited time, averaging just a slightly higher 21.6 minutes per game>. In his second game as a starter after the injury to Lopez however, Plumlee notched 20 points and 17 rebounds to show what the 24-year-old forward is capable of.
Bojan Bogdanovic: The Mystery
Despite his increasing role on the team, there’s not a lot to go on when trying to determine Bogdanovic’s role with the Nets. The 6-foot-8 swingman has started all five preseason games at shooting guard, and according to Hollins, that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. After saying he didn’t want to change anything about the starting lineup on Friday, this mystery talent from Croatia looks primed to start for the Nets on opening night. But who is he, really?
Playing in Europe last season, Bogdanovic averaged 30.6 minutes per game for Fenerbahce, while scoring 14.8 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting from the field. In his three years with the club, his minutes have steadily increased before he decided to make the jump to the NBA. The 25-year-old rookie specializes in scoring from outside, despite struggling with his shot so far in the preseason. Although Hollins seems to like him as a starter, Bogdanovic has averaged just 6.6 points per game in the preseason on 36.4 percent shooting from the field so far in the NBA.
What’s more optimistic about Bogdanovic, like Plumlee, was his time in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The Croatian put in a team-leading effort against France in the semifinals, where he scored 27 points against NBA opposition. Bogdanovic also led Croatia in scoring and minutes played during the tournament, while still shooting 50 percent from the field. Brooklyn seems to believe in him, as the shooter knotched a three-year contract worth over $10 million dollars without seeing action on an NBA roster.
Jerome Jordan: The Wild Card
Jerome Jordan is not very young. But as a 29-year-old D-League prospect, the center has impressed the Nets in the preseason. Having only seen NBA action with the Knicks in 2011, the 2010 second-round pick turned some heads after a 17-point performance against the Celtics on Oct. 19. As a 7-footer and big body, Jordan has a serious chance at making the roster after the injury to Lopez.
Despite that slam that was a part of his 7-7 shooting performance against Boston, Jordan is yet to earn a guaranteed contract with the team, but his combination of size and ability might prove too intriguing for the Nets to pass up on.
Sergey Karasev: The Project
Karasev joined the Nets this offseason in the Jarrett Jack deal and has enough upside to warrant a mention. As the youngest player on Brooklyn’s roster, the wing has a lot to prove to Hollins, but in short bursts with Cleveland last season, he showed what he might bring to the table for an NBA team.
The problem for Karasev is the position that he plays, and the current status of those above him. Joe Johnson has been the most consistent player for the Nets since he joined the team, and the early indications are that Hollins likes what Bogdanovic does on the perimeter with his size and skillset. Karasev will have to fight for minutes behind these two by showing Hollins his commitment to defense, which the Nets head coach looks for in his perimeter players.