Brooklyn Nets Should Focus on Bigs in NBA Draft, not Free Agency

True centers have become a dying breed in the NBA. Thanks to the Golden State Warriors under Head Coach Steve Kerr, small ball is taking over as a prominent force that can propel a team to success. The Brooklyn Nets have begun to adapt to this ever-changing NBA atmosphere, though they have yet to strike a balance between using small ball effectively and not becoming a liability on the glass as a consequence.

In an interview with Nets Magazine on YES Network, Sean Marks has emphasized upgrading at the 3 this offseason. However, Marks has also stated that he’ll be looking at everyone, and for good reason. After a 20-win season, the Nets could arguably use a boost at every position, and even in a small ball-dominant league, bigs should not be overlooked. We’re in for another roster shakeup, and it’d be a major disappointment if Brooklyn doesn’t bring in someone new to back Lopez up at the 5. No offense to Justin Hamilton.

(For the time being, the Nets upgrading at center means finding a formidable backup behind Lopez. Only the Almighty knows whether Brook Lopez will retire as a Net or whether the Nets will decide to pull the plug on him.)

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Currently, Lopez and Hamilton are the only two centers on the Nets’ roster. While that might sound impressive from a size standpoint (after all, they are both twin giants standing at 7 feet), Nets fans are all too familiar with their deficiencies. Lopez, despite committing all nine years of his career to the team, has often been at the brunt of criticism for his lack of rebounding capabilities, which only further supports pundits’ wishes for the Nets to move the big man.

The 2016-17 season was particularly poor for Lopez on the boards. He dropped from averaging 7.8 per contest the prior year to just 5.4 this year (which might have to do with him spending a lot more time on the perimeter). His counterpart, Hamilton (who’s also reputable for being a three-point marksman), does not provide much force on the glass either. The 27-year-old averaged only 4.1 rebounds per game this past season in Brooklyn.

Something’s gotta give.

In general, there aren’t many centers in the NBA who can “do it all” — score, rebound and shoot consistently from long range. Many players such as Lopez can provide two of those three things at a respectable level, but few can provide all three. Names like DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol and Karl Anthony-Towns come to mind for players who can do all three, though they are the outliers based on the direction the NBA is heading in.

To their credit, the Nets are more likely to see success by pairing Lopez in lineups that have another player who can clean up the glass in place for him. Trevor Booker and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (who replaced Booker as the starting power forward in the second half of the season) actually led Brooklyn in rebounding this past season, with eight and 5.8 per game, respectively. It wouldn’t hurt for the Nets to move further in this direction of having a dominant rebounder at the 4, but they’ll need the right pieces in place for this to work effectively.

Free Agency

It’s absurd to think Lopez will suddenly turn into the rebounding threat the Nets need, though it would be helpful for the Nets to acquire a backup this offseason who could get the job done on that end. Still, when looking at potential free agent targets, the options for talented rebounding centers are as barren as they can get. Brooklyn has been tied to some 5’s on the market this summer, but none exactly jump out at you as guys who could make up for the Nets’ rebounding flaws.