At this time last summer, the NBA world was taken aback as Jason Kidd — at the time mere months away from being a fringe contributor to a playoff New York Knicks team — was hired as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. The first collective thought was, “But wait — Jason Kidd has absolutely no experience coaching!”
The second collective thought was: “But if Kidd is going to be a first-time coach, the Nets are certainly the team to do it for.”
Last year’s Nets roster was stacked with NBA experience to an almost unprecedented degree — so much experience that the roster felt quite creaky. There were seven Nets last season who had at least a decade of NBA experience: Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Evans, Joe Johnson, Jason Collins, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
Plus, it’s not like Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, and Andray Blatche are lacking for experience as well. Alan Anderson‘s four NBA years were supplemented with four years playing abroad. Even though last year was only Mirza Teletovic‘s second NBA season, Teletovic has been playing professional basketball since 2002.
The theory was that Kidd, third all-time in minutes played, would be able to nip any potential mutinies in the bud by being able to speak, veteran to veteran, about any potential conflict.
While that may have been the way that last year’s Nets actually operated, their sheer tonnage of NBA experience means something else entirely as Kidd transitions to Milwaukee: Kidd still does not have any experience developing young talent.
There actually were players on last year’s Nets who did not come to the team with a wealth of experience. Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike Shengelia only experienced the briefest of minutes with the Nets in their 2012-13 rookie years. With Kidd as their coach, they once more only played in the woebegone stages of blowouts — until they were both traded away from the team before the trading deadline.
In return for Shengelia, the Nets received Marquis Teague from the Chicago Bulls. Teague was also a second-year player yet to make any impact in an NBA rotation. In Brooklyn, Teague appeared in only 9.6 minutes per game over 21 games, and sat for the entirety of Brooklyn’s two playoff rounds.
In March the Nets called up point guard Jorge Gutierrez to make his NBA debut. Gutierrez would play in 15 of the Nets’ final 23 regular season games, quickly becoming a regular member of the rotation, earning 16.3 minutes per game. But, with Gutierrez only given three total playoff minutes, it’s clear that Kidd did not entrust any heavy lifting to the speedy rookie.
It’s hard to say that any of these young players — Taylor, Shengelia, Teague, Gutierrez — improved their skills under Kidd’s tutelage.
The roster that Kidd will lead in Milwaukee is almost the polar opposite from the team in Brooklyn. While veterans like O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, and Ersan Ilyasova command large portions of the team’s salary, its future and its most valuable assets are incredibly young, still in volatile formative stages in their careers.
It is not exaggeration to say that the foreseeable future of the Bucks’ franchise hinges on the development of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. While both players possess tremendous internal desires to improve their considerable abilities, there will need to be a positive team and vision surrounding them in order to translate those abilities into stardom.
Supporting players like Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and John Henson have all exhibited signs of improvement during their brief tenures in the NBA — will they develop into journeymen, or the type of meaningful contributors that make a playoff team hum?
This is not to say that Kidd is subpar at developing young talent. Only that, much like the players he has just been entrusted to coach, he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to showcase his skill at the NBA level. Kidd and his new players will swim — or sink — together.