Will the 'Replace-Nets' Get a Chance in Orlando to Prove They Belong?

“Meet the Nets. Meet the Nets. Step right up and greet the Nets…”

With apologies to the Queens baseballers, the Brooklyn squad that descended upon Orlando this week looked far different from the one that took the Staples Center court in March and upset the mighty Lakers in the last game prior to the NBA’s COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Oh, the Replace-Nets, as one Twitter handle coined them, could construct a plausible starting lineup of familiar faces – Caris LeVert, Garrett Temple, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, and Jarrett Allen – when games resume on July 31 inside the Disney World bubble (assuming no further viral outbreaks occur).

But the bench? Brooklyn played 64 contests pre-shutdown, and only two of the remaining reserves, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (39 games) and Dzanan Musa (35 games), played more than 11 of them on a Nets uniform. Even then, both of them spent time in the G-League with Long Island this season, as did two-way players Chris Chiozza and Jeremiah Martin.

With seven rostered players (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Wilson Chandler, and Nic Claxton) either opting out of the resumption or injured, Nets general manager Sean Marks spent the last week on his bicycle seeking out reinforcements.  

What Marks came up with was an eclectic mix of veterans and projects who will have an opportunity to make an impact not just on the remainder of this season, but beyond as well.

Here, then, are the Replace-Nets…I mean replacements, in my order of least-likely-to-most-likely to be donning a Nets jersey in 2020-21:

Justin AndersonThough a Third-Team All-G-League star for Long Island this season, Anderson, who turns 28 in November, probably shouldn’t still be classified as “developing.” A 2015 first-round pick by Dallas, Anderson has since moved around to four other organizations, including Brooklyn, who signed him to a 10-day contract in January. In that cup of coffee, you saw why Anderson has not found a home: he’s a dreadful perimeter shooter for a wing and, while I don’t doubt his diligence, he was far from the “lockdown” defender he was purported to be. Some players just aren’t meant to shine higher than the minors; many other ex-Nets, like Milton Doyle, Isaiah Whitehead, and Theo Pinson, fit that mold.

Donta HallGiven the Nets’ lack of height up front, Hall should receive opportunities in Orlando to show he can take the next step up after an All-Rookie G-League season for the Pistons’ affiliate. Like Allen, Hall is strictly a lobs-and-blocks guy. Hall has the hops and the wingspan, but it’s unknown at this time whether he can bang with the big boys at 6’9”. He had two 10-day trials in Detroit, but I find it curious that they opted to sign center Justin Patton over Hall. Besides, the Nets seem committed to Claxton at this spot going forward, but for this purpose, why not take a flyer on Hall over a limited veteran like Amir Johnson?

Tyler JohnsonMarks, who signed Johnson to such a ridiculous offer sheet in the 2016 offseason that the restricted free agent said he threw up, got his man much cheaper this time. The Heat didn’t get nearly the worth of the $50 million they invested in Johnson when matching, so they offloaded him to Phoenix last season. The Suns waived him prior to March 1, which made him eligible to play for Brooklyn in the bubble. The hope is that injuries hampered Johnson’s production the last two seasons, and he still has to be better than the recently waived Pinson. However, per NetsDaily.com, Johnson is only signed for the remainder of this season, and I can’t see how the Nets would offer him anything more than the minimum thereafter. The limited free agent market may value him higher, just nowhere near what he got in 2016.

Michael Beasley and Jamal CrawfordI’m lumping these two veterans together because they are the types of players Marks will need to acquire to fill out their roster in the organization’s tight window over the next two seasons before KD and Kyrie can opt out. When injuries struck this season, Brooklyn was forced to give significant court time to guys who weren’t ready to play, like Pinson, Musa, and TLC. This is untenable going forward. While these two particular players, neither of whom have suited up this season, have flaws – you won’t get much out of them on the defensive end and the team’s total pass numbers will take a humungous hit when they’re on the floor – Crawford and Beasley both have one elite NBA skill: they get buckets.

Crawford is extremely well-liked in NBA circles and Beasley, though his career has been mired by troubles (including a five-game suspension he must serve in the bubble for violation of the NBA’s anti-drug policy), is a Friend Of Kevin. Could they advance to become something like the 11th and 12th guys at the end of Brooklyn’s bench next season? Sure, provided they show Marks something in Orlando.

If nothing else, Crawford and Beasley should make the Nets somewhat entertaining in the bubble. Before their signings, LeVert was really the only player interim coach Jacque Vaughn could run the offense through.   

Some have taken these substitutions as a sign that Marks intends to compete in Orlando. That’s hogwash, though, because the Nets might have still eked out the eighth seed in the East over similarly shorthanded Washington had they went with all development projects. Either way, they’re still likely to be unceremoniously bounced in the first round by Milwaukee or Toronto.

No, the priority in Orlando is to evaluate options for next season. That includes these Replace-Nets.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.

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