Few teams have had as hectic and chaotic a week as the Brooklyn Nets last week. It began with a back injury that sidelined starting center Brook Lopez, but minor injuries also kept Joe Johnson (flu) and Mirza Teletovic (hip) out of multiple games, forcing head coach Lionel Hollins to fill out four different starting lineups in the team’s four games. After Monday’s blowout loss at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk that the front office had begun entertaining trade offers on their “Big 3” of Deron Williams, Johnson, and Lopez, leaking just hours before trading Andrei Kirilenko, Jorge Gutierrez, and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for forward Brandon Davies and guard Darius Morris. Amidst all the injuries and trade speculation, and after three-straight 20-point losses against good Eastern Conference opponents, the Nets responded by sweeping the two games of their back-to-back against the 76ers and in Charlotte Saturday night, leading by as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter against the Hornets.
Brooklyn will have another tough four-game week on the schedule, with a back-to-back against the Miami Heat and in Toronto starting Tuesday, and games in Cleveland Friday and home against the Detroit Pistons next Sunday. Brook’s back will keep him out of an additional three games, but even the threat of his return prompted questions following Saturday night’s victory as to whether it’s a positive for this Nets offense, considering their recent stretch of ball movement.
In the Week Eight Three Man Weave, our experts will address the performances of some of the Nets’ young and unlikely starting players from last week, the possibility of a major trade, and if the offense is better without Brook. We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments.
1.) Between injuries and ineffectiveness, Lionel Hollins made multiple changes to his starting lineups last week and got nice performances from some of his young players (Mason Plumlee, Sergey Karasev, Cory Jefferson); which young guy were you most impressed by last week?
David Vertsberger: I still have to see more from Karasev and Jefferson, so by default Plumlee gets my vote. He was able to play well by sticking to what he does best and not trying to make plays he can’t make. See: posting up.
Brian McNichols: I was most impressed by Cory Jefferson (ridiculous 16-foot 3-point attempt not withstanding). With his athleticism and activity he gives the Nets a youthful feeling that they lack with Lopez and KG. If he can become one of those energy guys that just wreaks havoc on defense and gets 10 points in 18 minutes that could mean a lot for a team that needs to rest guys. I also want to quickly mention Plumlee here; not that he was super-impressive, but he looked closer to the player we saw over the summer. His return to form is incredibly important for this team.
Kenny Garner: I was impressed that Cory Jefferson was able to step back on a basketball court after that horrible airball. All kidding aside, Mason Plumlee has really played well in Brook Lopez’s absence. He posted two double doubles this past week and is slowly becoming more of an offensive threat. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, he has really found himself.
2.) Do you think the Nets trade one of their “Big 3” this season? Should they?
Verts: The only reason I’m saying “no” here is because I’m not sure any team in the league is very willing to take on Williams, Johnson or Lopez. Although all three can be helpful, their contracts are a burden to say the least. Enough so to outweigh the potential benefits of trading for them.
McNichols: I think they should trade Brook Lopez. I like Brook a lot, and he’s a very talented offensive player, but he slows everything down. I’m starting to wonder if Brook just doesn’t quite fit in today’s NBA, but I’m not ready to conclude that. I do think he’s not right for this team as it’s currently made up, though. That said, I don’t think anyone goes anywhere. With those contracts there are only a few options out there, such as the Lakers, Knicks, or Pistons, and I’m not sure the Nets will want any of the wares being peddled by those teams.
Garner: I think they want to, but I question the market for those guys. Johnson and Williams are both past their primes and are making a lot of money. Lopez has had issues with his health, but I think he has the most value. Centers are at a premium in this league and he is only 26. I can see the Kings making a play for Williams or Johnson. Vivek Ranadive appears to have unrealistic expectations for his team and it wouldn’t surprise me if he risked his team’s future to trade for Joe Johnson or Deron Williams. The Hornets are another team to pay attention to after reports said they were shopping Lance Stephenson.
3.) Is the Nets offense better without Brook Lopez?
Verts: Story coming soon. Can I just leave it at that? Look, statistically it isn’t. But schematically, boy does it looks way better without Lopez. That’s the simplest answer to a complex question.
McNichols: I kind of answered that above but… yeah. Sorry, big guy.
Garner: Their small-ball lineup worked well without him last year, but two years ago they won 49 games with him. After two double-digit wins without Lopez, Net fans are ready to trade the big. However, beating the 76ers and the Hornets is nothing to be proud of. As Tim Cato of SB Nation points out, it’s the Nets defense that actually suffers with Lopez on the floor. Either way, unless the Nets can find a trade partner for Lopez, they need to find a way to use him. Lionel Hollins has made bigger lineups work before, so he should be up to the task.