The Nets cannot stop big men. The team is 1-6 in their last seven and have gotten burnt by Kristaps Porzingis, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Jokic for 30 or more points each in three of those losses. Earlier in the season Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each took turns torching the Nets with 41 points. The team can’t stop big men from scoring or rebounding. Every game this season the opposing team has had a player lead everyone in rebounding. Basically, the frontcourt combination of Timofey Mozgov, Trevor Booker, Quincy Acy, DeMarre Carroll, and Jarrett Allen have not been good enough.
Right now the Nets are 25th in opponents points scored in the paint, 26th in opponent’s fast break points, and 28th in opponent’s second-chance points. These are way below league average and all of them stem from the fact the Nets small ball approach gives up too much in the paint. No one expected this team to be good this year but that doesn’t mean they can’t look at every possibility to improve. It is extremely important that the team keeps as many draft picks as possible as well as stays as young as possible. For the following trade scenarios, D’Angelo Russell might be Brooklyn’s only “untouchable” asset. The big men below all share certain features that make them attractive for the Nets: they’re young, talented, in a situation where they’ve either asked for a trade or have been rumored to be on the trading block, and might need a fresh start to truly showcase their abilities.
Noel has only been in the league for three years but it has been an up and down experience so far. Injuries, other players being drafted at his position, and finally a trade means that no one is really sure just how well Noel can play if given the right situation. Right now his playing time in Dallas is up in the air because of a contract dispute. The Mavericks gave Noel a one-year qualifying offer for this year. The team might be playing him less to make him a less attractive commodity on the open market. Two things are sure, he’s young (23 years old) and can play defensively. Noel would be given an opportunity to be the starting center in Brooklyn and show everyone whether or not he deserves the money he wants with his first big contract. Noel would be the perfect replacement for the Kenny Atkins high flying offense while a great improvement on the defensive end.
Bobby Portis broke Nikola Mirotic’s face with his hands. Portis was suspended and now it seems that his teammates want him back and don’t really care for broken face Mirotic? Anyway, the situation in Chicago has deteriorated quickly. Portis was once thought of as Chicago’s big man of the future but now Lauri Markannen has taken over that role and Portis is, at best, complicated. In his sole game this year Portis had 21 points and 13 rebounds on 8-13 from the field and 3-5 from three. He’s still only 22 years old, can shoot, defend, rebound, and plays some defense. The only problem with Portis so far has been his inability to not break teammate’s faces. The last Chicago Bull to be famous for punching a teammate was His Airness himself. While Portis won’t ever be signature shoe good, he is a definite upgrade over all of New York’s current big men and he also definitely needs a change of scenery to revitalize his young career.
Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph, and Willie Cauley-Stein are all the frontcourt options the Kings have. Rookie Harry Giles is out until January with an injury and Georgios Papagiannis has barely seen the court this season. The Kings have had a messed up front office for a few years and the Cauley-Stein trade rumors were already floating around before this season. He currently leads the team in minutes played for a frontcourt member but hasn’t really improved on his career numbers of seven points and five rebounds per game. His numbers have been pedestrian so far but there’s no doubt about his defensive prowess and willingness to run the floor. At some point, the Kings are going to have to fix their logjam in the frontcourt. The Nets will hopefully be one of the teams that benefit from the Kings inability to stop drafting big men.
Kyle Kuzma looks good. Does that mean the Lakers would be willing to trade Randle to the Nets for a bag of peanuts like they did with D’Angelo Russell? Nets fans can only hope so. Randle has been on the brightspots on the Lakers that no one seems to care about. He’s still only 22 years old and is averaging 12 points, nine rebounds, and 2 assists in his three-year career. With the emergence of Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr., the minutes have slowly dried up for Randle. Also, Brandon Ingram, Brook Lopez, and Lonzo Ball will all be expected to get their own shots leaving only so much left for everyone else. This offseason is another where the Lakers are expected to sign every big name out there. At some point, it seems inevitable that Randle will be the odd man out, and if that’s the case, hopefully, the Lakers will be looking to get something for him before all of the qualifying offer madness.
Yes, Okafor is still in the league. While he’s wasting away somewhere in the 76ers basement there are all kinds of trade rumors about the former Duke star. Of all the available young big men out there, Okafor is the least attractive because of his lack of defense and particular offensive style. He slows the ball down and needs it in very specific spots to be effective. Also, it seems that he’s not always willing to run the floor and be part of a fast-paced offense. That being said, he is big, young, and talented. At only 21 years old the book on Okafor’s NBA career is just beginning and those willing to write him off should step back and rethink it. Growth and change are two of the most important aspects of an NBA player. Okafor started his career with a bar fight in Philly so maybe going somewhere else and becoming an integral part of another team will be all he needs to prove people like myself and others wrong about he is and isn’t capable of.
The Nets need to add a young big man to their young core. This team’s young group has the feel of a few players that will grow together in a positive way and change the fortunes of one of the league’s worst franchises. Getting D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez was a steal and should hopefully only be the beginning of the team’s young and talented pickups