Brooklyn Nets 2020-2021 Player Previews: Frontcourt Edition
Ahead of the upcoming season, a preview of the Brooklyn Nets’ frontcourt rotation. They’ve got six able bodies ready to assist and contribute in the team’s title chase.
As we approach the 2020-2021 season, there’s been too much chatter about the frontcourt and wing depth on this Brooklyn Nets team. It’s welcome publicity, sure, but don’t be confused: this team’s greatest strength may lie in their six-man frontcourt rotation. In addition to the familiar faces we saw last season — Nicolas Claxton, Jarrett Allen, and DeAndre Jordan — Brooklyn added veteran forward Jeff Green and drafted forward Reggie Perry. Oh, and that Kevin Durant guy should be pretty good too.
What should fans expect from Brooklyn’s frontcourt? Who’s going to start this year, and who’s going to follow them up off the bench? Which (if any) of the guys are going to be fighting for minutes throughout the regular season? Let’s take a look at that and more as we preview the upcoming season and a potential Brooklyn Nets’ run at the title:
Starting Power Forward: Kevin Durant
There have been few sighs of relief throughout history that were felt around the world. Think of when men discovered fire. Can you imagine how cold you have to be, to attempt and create a warming force out of thin air? I’ve got a confidence level equal to that of Spencer Dinwiddie shooting from half-court that I would have failed and died under those circumstances.
Fast forward a couple of thousand years and Kevin Durant finally suits up for the Brooklyn Nets–522 days after he tore his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals. He gets on the court, starts moving well, and then just seconds later he slams home a dunk attempt that alleviated a tension felt throughout the franchise’s entire fan base. It only got better from there, as Durant finished the night with 15 points in 24 minutes of play. Suddenly, all those feelings fans felt on the night the Nets announced their free agency tidal wave last year rushed back–the title chase is on once again in Brooklyn.
And it will have Durant’s fingerprints all over it. Before his injury, the 6-10 forward was coming off of two back-to-back seasons averaging 26+ points per game, and that’s next to one of the best scorers in NBA history, point guard Steph Curry. Now playing alongside Kyrie Irving, expect to see a few (if not more) similarities between the two systems, even if only at the ground level. Durant’s going to man the power forward position for the majority of the regular season, and then once (hypothetically speaking of course) they reach the postseason, look for him to man the center position a whole lot more to close out playoff matchups.
Starting Center: DeAndre Jordan
There may not be any player in Brooklyn with more to prove this year than DeAndre Jordan. Whether or not he wants to is the question. Jordan is 32 years old, but debatably still sits among the most elite of rebounders in the NBA. Kevin Durant is Jordan’s friend, yes, but it’s often overlooked why the big man ended up with the Brooklyn Nets in the first place. Jordan isn’t yet overlooked as either a defender or a rim protector—he averaged 8.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in six games as a starter last year. “Small sample size” me all you want, but there are several underlying reasons why he may have elected to hold back in his first year with Brooklyn. The largest, and most obvious, is Durant’s absence.
Now that this roster is healthy, Jordan will have no reason not to compete. And in a season that’s got the potential to earn him a championship, expect to see him return to form. It’s also likely he found little motivation last season in being brought off the bench. Now, Jordan is all but guaranteed as the season-long starter at the five. He was benched for the majority of last season behind Jarrett Allen, a young guy who definitely needed the exposure in a year prioritizing development. Once Irving went down, the Nets’ goal was simply preparing their supporting cast for the season to come, and winning as much as possible along the way.
Not even two years ago Jordan was a walking double-double for the Dallas Mavericks, who traded him on an expiring contract–not exactly a statement of talent, or lack thereof in this case. The Nets don’t have a better option for starting center, aside from Durant, but he’ll play out most of the regular season manning the power forward slot, ensuring Jordan another opportunity to dispel the narrative around him. As the Brooklyn Nets gear up for a shortened season (in length, but not in difficulty), it’s DeAndre Jordan they’ll rely on to help protect the paint and keep opposing big men off of the glass.
Second Unit: Jeff Green and Jarrett Allen
It’s hard not to downgrade in both physicality and experience when you’re pulling guys like Kevin Durant and Deandre Jordan for rest in the middle of a game. But the Brooklyn Nets are lucky in that regard, with veteran swingman Jeff Green and young up and comer Jarrett Allen replacing them from the second unit. In those two, they’re rolling out guys that should be able to continue providing some floor spacing and rim protection in those allocated minutes without Durant or Jordan.
Green is an NBA journeyman in every sense of the term; he’s played for seven different teams in the last five seasons. But as he showed last year with the Houston Rockets, he’s a prime candidate to play the small ball center role in today’s NBA. Green averaged 11.6 while knocking down 43 percent of his 4.5 attempts from deep in 12 playoff games last season. That’s a trend the Nets will hope continues, as Allen’s deep shot has yet to inspire any confidence, even on wide-open looks from the corner.
Green will play the role of Kevin Durant lite within the second unit. He’s got a similar versatility on offense in that he can score on all three levels, and if we’re being honest, he’s arguably got a better three-point shot than Durant. Jeff Green would have been a somewhat notable signing no matter where he landed in free agency. But in this role with the Brooklyn Nets, he should have other teams and executives regretting their missteps in allowing him to walk onto one of the league’s most potent offenses.
That doesn’t exclude Allen either. The 22-year old big should enjoy his new role as the second-string center and the opportunities it provides on offense. He finished last season averaging 11.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks as a starter in all but six games. Allen played just five of them, but was still productive, posting nine points and eight rebounds per game. But if you look away from the stat sheet you’ll see something far more considerable—this kid’s got the juice, and that’s straight-up invaluable.
Imagine the Brooklyn Nets are down 12, it’s the end of the first quarter/beginning of the second, and some pick-and-roll action queued up by either Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert (TBD) results in Allen thundering home a poster over the top of any anonymous inferior defender. That’s just one of many ways to shift the tides of momentum in a basketball exhibition. His ability to make his presence known as a big man isn’t common, now the Nets just have to figure out how to up its frequency.
After starting for the near entirety of last season, Jarrett Allen will enter the upcoming campaign having to compete for his old job, and against a seasoned veteran in DeAndre Jordan, no less. He’s got his work ahead of him, but so do the Brooklyn Nets.
Outliers: Reggie Perry and Nicolas Claxton
As it stands today, rookie Reggie Perry and sophomore Nicolas Claxton are on the outside looking in. Brooklyn’s returning young big is already starting slow, as he’s missed the entirety of training camp with right knee tendinopathy. This comes after making just 15 appearances for the Nets last season, where he averaged an uninspiring 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. But Claxton is an intriguing young prospect nonetheless, with his 22nd birthday months away in the Spring.
He didn’t play much with the team’s G-League affiliate last year, the Long Island Nets, but in his nine games with the team, he definitely looked comfortable. Claxton averaged 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from deep.
So expect head coach Steve Nash to utilize him at Barclays Center when injuries and absences for resting stars allow.
Elsewhere, Perry’s stock continues to rise. As YES Network’s Sarah Kustok noted on Zach Lowe’s most recent episode of the Lowe Post, “people have been talking really high” of the Nets’ new rookie. Perry played well in his first appearance for Brooklyn, a preseason win over the Washington Wizards. He tallied five points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes of play. As it stands, Perry has a leg up on Claxton, and who knows? Maybe he’ll give Jarrett Allen a run for his money, though doubtful.
Young bigs Reggie Perry and Nicolas Claxton represent the back-end upside within the frontcourt for this Brooklyn Nets team. Everyone has a part to play when it comes to championship runs, but for these two, that much has yet to be decided.