Defensive rebounding has been the Nets’ Achilles’ heel for years.
With the way the roster has been forcibly remade for the 2023-24 season, a lack of shooting could be a weakness, as well.
How well the Nets handle both shortcomings is going to go a long way toward determining whether they can overachieve this upcoming season.
Not only are stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving gone, but so are the litany of shooters that surrounded them.
For these Nets, picture-perfect spacing is a must.
“No Patty [Mills], no Seth [Curry], no Yuta [Watanabe], no Joe [Harris]: specialists that we had to shoot the trey ball. So we’ll have to incorporate different ways to score,” said coach Jacque Vaughn, who expects more looks from Cam Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Mikal Bridges, thanks to Ben Simmons being healthy and better spacing from everybody.
“[We have to be] a more detailed team. We have to be greedy with our spacing, and we have to be extremely detailed and poised in giving guys the ability to drive the basketball. So, you might have to be a foot to the right, where you were able to be a foot to the left previously. So, detailed in our organization on the offensive end on the floor.”
Vaughn also said he is banking on the longer Nets getting stops to create looks in transition.
That will take vast improvement on the defensive glass.
Though the Nets actually boxed out well last season, they still finished second-worst in the NBA in rebounds, rebound percentage and defensive rebound percentage.
“It’s not going to be one man out there that just fixes our rebounding deficiency or our rim-protection deficiency. We’re going to have to do that by committee,” general manager Sean Marks said. “We may not be the best defensive-rebounding team in the league or offensive-rebounding team in the league, but the plan is certainly to be better than we were.”
But if one man is going to make a difference, Vaughn cited big third-year center Day’Ron Sharpe, 21.
“There are schemes we can lean towards a little bit that last year, we were just a little bit handcuffed. This is how we had to play,” Vaughn said. “With a training camp, I’m going to put more things on the guys’ plate early in the year for us to try.
“Day’Ron Sharpe gets an early look and see how he can impose his will.”
After Bridges and Johnson played for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, Vaughn said: “We’re gonna put more on [Bridges’] plate. We’re going to ask him to do more.”
One of the few players Vaughn brought up unsolicited was Dennis Smith Jr., who signed on a minimum deal. While Simmons and Dinwiddie will battle at the point (Dinwiddie also will play some off the ball), Vaughn lumped in Smith with the other lead guards.
Regarding the Nets’ spacing, Vaughn insisted Simmons and Nic Claxton can and will play together, despite being a combined 7 of 50 career from 3-point range (14 percent).