The Brooklyn Nets will have an interesting mix of players on the wing to start next season. The roster overall is skewed toward younger players this year, and the wing rotation is no exception. However, the group includes both seasoned veterans and young building blocks for the future.
Brooklyn’s rotation on the perimeter will in all likelihood vary drastically throughout the season. Some of the Nets’ wing pieces are good bets to get major playing time, while others are likely to fall out of the rotation. Here is a look at the five wing players who are likely to get some playing time this year.
After an impressive rookie season, Caris LeVert is nearly a lock to receive the lion’s share of the minutes on the wing. Despite being mostly a combo guard in college, LeVert played 83 percent of his minutes at small forward last season, per Basketball-Reference.
With the addition of D’Angelo Russell and with the virtual guarantee that Jeremy Lin will play more than 36 games next year, LeVert will probably play most of his minutes next season at small forward as well. His size advantage at guard is instead converted into a speed advantage against most opposing small forwards. LeVert shot 65.8 percent in the restricted area last season, per NBA.com — well above league average, and even further above the average mark for non-big men in the paint. His solid handle helps him get to the rim more easily when he can blow by slower-footed forwards:
Caris LeVert played much better down the stretch last season with Jeremy Lin back in the lineup. This is an encouraging sign for the future. While LeVert will have to improve on his 32.1 percent mark from deep last year, his college numbers show that he is an elite shooter. Now that he has had more time to adjust to the NBA’s 3-point line, that percentage could easily climb into the mid-to-high 30’s next season.
Sean Marks really seems to have a thing for Allen Crabbe. After Portland matched Brooklyn’s four-year, $72 million offer sheet last offseason, Marks traded for Crabbe this offseason, once Portland realized it needed to shed salary to free up space for potential moves next offseason.
One look at Crabbe’s shooting numbers makes it easy to see why the Nets wanted him so badly. He was second in the NBA in 3-point percentage last year, with a spectacular 44.4 percent mark from distance. That number is not really an outlier either; Crabbe is a career 41.1 percent shooter from distance. He did not accomplish that just by standing in the corner and knocking down easy looks. Crabbe made 40.6 percent of his looks from 25 to 29 feet last season on a healthy number of attempts from that distance, and does not hesitate to put up shots from well beyond the arc:
The Brooklyn Nets under Kenny Atkinson were fourth last year in 3-point attempts, but were 26th in the league with a 33.8 percent mark on those shots. Allen Crabbe will have every opportunity to hoist up triples next season, and his success from distance will be the main reason that he will factor heavily into Brooklyn’s rotation next season. Crabbe only started seven of his 79 games in Portland last season, but finished the year with the team’s third-highest minutes total. With the starting backcourt of Lin and Russell locked in, and with LeVert securely rooted at small forward, Crabbe will probably have a similar role in Brooklyn next season.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is difficult to place in the context of wing players. On the one hand, he played 61 percent of his rookie year minutes at shooting guard. On the other hand, he played more than half of his minutes last season at power forward and had his best stretch of the season by far playing at the four with LeVert at small forward and Lin and Randy Foye in the backcourt.
Hollis-Jefferson will probably spend most of next year at power forward as well; the Nets have a glut of guards in need of minutes, and RHJ will not push LeVert or Allen Crabbe for minutes at small forward. Still, it feels disingenuous to call him a true big man, given his playing time allocations from his rookie year.
The Nets will rely heavily on Hollis-Jefferson as a defensive jack-of-all-trades next season. Brooklyn’s relatively sparse big man rotation will force him to guard bigger players frequently next season. However, his drive-and-kick game could also take a big leap forward next year. Hollis-Jefferson was not particularly consistent around the basket last year, but he showed some promising signs of being able to take opposing big men off the dribble. Even a relatively quick combo forward in Markieff Morris has no chance at slowing Hollis-Jefferson down once he gets a sliver of space:
Hollis-Jefferson’s ability to get to the rim might be compromised without Brook Lopez to draw the defense’s attention, but his passing vision improved dramatically over the course of last season. He will have many more kick-out options on the perimeter this year than he did in 2016-17.
Kenny Atkinson has been a big fan of DeMarre Carroll since their days together in Atlanta. Carroll improved from an end-of-the-bench player to a $15 million man under Atkinson’s tutelage. While he did not live up to expectations in Toronto, he will benefit tremendously from leaving Toronto’s iso-heavy offense. Brooklyn’s ball movement-heavy style will be a huge boost for Carroll’s overall play.
Carroll’s role in the rotation next year is harder to place than it is for any other Nets wing player. He could be the Opening Day starter at small forward if Atkinson wants a veteran presence, or he could be buried in the rotation behind Brooklyn’s young players to give them developmental minutes.
DeMarre Carroll will almost certainly have a larger role in November than he will in March. While he is technically new to the Nets’ system, Carroll has more experience with Atkinson than anyone on the roster besides Jeremy Lin, and should be able to fit into his role from day one. The only real question with Carroll is what exactly that role will be.
After a bounce-back season in 2016-17, Joe Harris is probably the odd man out in Brooklyn’s wing rotation. His excellent shooting from deep earned him major minutes last season, but Allen Crabbe is a better shooter and also a better defender.
Harris is not quite good enough at anything else besides shooting to work his way into a more crowded wing and backcourt rotation in 2017-18. He will be able to slot in and play right away in case of injury. However, he probably will not see the court much, if everyone ahead of him stays healthy.