Brooklyn has Five Point Guards, and That’s Okay
In a quietly impressive offseason, the Brooklyn Nets raised eyebrows by amassing a total of four point guards as their final roster nears completion. Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack are returning from last year, Steve Blake was picked up in Brooklyn’s draft day deal with Portland, Shane Larkin was signed to a two-year deal and Ryan Boatright was signed to a partially-guaranteed deal.
Five is an unusually high number of players for one position on an NBA roster. With 15 available spots and qualities like balance and diversity in roster creation considered pivotal, it’s easy to see why some are skeptical of this impartial construction. But it’s really no big deal, in fact it’ll likely bear out to be a positive.
Last season, the Nets came into the season with four point guards, but just two of them offered NBA-level production. Outside of Williams and Jack were Darius Morris, who has played for five NBA and two D-League teams in his four years of pro ball and Jorge Gutierrez, who played sparingly before being traded to the Bucks early in the season.
This wouldn’t be an issue if these two stayed relegated to the pine, but beyond the scope of anticipation, the Nets saw Williams sit out games due to soreness, only to come back, struggle and get seated for a lengthier stretch thanks to a rib injury. In his absence, Jack was forced to play a host of 38-minute plus games with Morris has his backup. The Nets were outscored by double-digits per 100 possessions with Morris on the floor, yet he was forced to play over 12 minutes a night in January.
Williams is 31 now, hasn’t played an 80-game season since 2008 and has only played one 70-game season in the past five. Jack has remained relatively injury-free, but is turning 32 in October. Coach Hollins could try to prevent future injuries by resting his elder statesmen, but he doesn’t believe in the practice. So naturally, signing more point guards (that can hold their own) is a smart way of avoiding this issue down the line. And so GM Billy King did, with Blake still capable as a third guard despite his age and Larkin showing promising signs with the Knicks last year. Boatright’s a project, a low-risk high-reward acquisition, so short of a massive, unprecedented injury plague or Linsanity-esque surprise he likely won’t be a factor.
Insurance isn’t the only reason obtaining these points guards makes sense. Last season, Hollins experimented heavily with a Williams-Jack backcourt. Dual point guard pairings have become increasingly popular in today’s NBA, so watching Hollins try out a modern basketball development was a pleasant sight. What wasn’t pleasant was the combo’s performance. Brooklyn was outscored by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in 661 minutes when Williams and Jack shared the floor.
Hopefully this doesn’t dissuade Hollins from trying out more two point guard lineups, because they can be effective with the right personnel. And the Nets might just have that. Larkin is quick enough to match strides with the many blistering ones the league has to offer, which can’t be said of Williams, Jack or Blake. Pair him with Williams or Blake - someone who can spread the floor and hide defensively on a shooting guard - and we could see positive results.
The Nets still have holes at other positions, namely the backup five spot, but one trade can easily amend those. At the end of the day, if Brooklyn’s worst problem this summer was stockpiling one too many players at a position held back by injury and poor play, as opposed to gifting assets in a delusional pursuit of a championship, there shouldn’t be much opposition to chalking this up as a win.