May 8, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts during the second half in game two of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets Frontcourt Lacks Depth

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The Brooklyn Nets will attempt to rebuild their front court this upcoming season.

The Nets let veteran forwards Paul Pierce and Andray Blatche go to free agency. First year head coach Lionel Hollins now is tasked with constructing a lineup that lacks frontcourt depth.

Pierce and Blatche spent little time in Brooklyn but their presence will be missed. The Nets went to the playoffs but failed to advance past the second round in a year which saw Pierce’s scoring average drop five points.

Pierce will turn 37 in October and although capable of knocking down clutch shots; his age appears to be catching up with him. The potential Hall of Fame candidate may not be able to get it done on a nightly basis anymore, or defend the league’s elite small forwards but he certainly will be missed on the sidelines and in the locker room.

Blatche found a niche in Brooklyn’s lineup during his two years with the team. He was used at the 4 and 5 spots on any given night and can stretch the floor.

Blatche is a valuable commodity; teams are looking for versatility that give defenses fits. Unfortunately, that versatility doesn’t translate to the defensive end. The 6’11” Blatche had his effort questioned later in the season and slowly saw a decline in minutes.

Blatche has already been given the door by general manager Billy King  and visited with the Toronto Raptors this month. He is looking for more than the $1.4 million he earned with the Nets last year.

The Nets neglected to address the need for a big man but did acquire rights to Cory Jefferson in the 2014 NBA Draft from the San Antonio Spurs for cash. The Baylor product is strong, and can finish at the rim but also has range.

With Kevin Garnett still not a lock to return for a 20th season and center Brook Lopez‘s health a concern, look for Jefferson and forwards Mirza Teletovic and Andre Kirilenko to take on expanded roles.

Lopez quickly burst onto the NBA scene and established himself as one of the top centers in the league before succumbing to foot problems two out of the last three seasons. The former all-star boasts career averages 18 points, seven rebounds and nearly two blocks.

Coach Hollins is used to running the offense through the post. Hollins turned his former lower-post talent in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph into all-stars. Lopez isn’t your prototypical center though and Hollins might elect to use him more like Pau Gasol in pick and pop situations. If the seven-footer is unable to stay healthy, Hollins will be at odds to find a reliable number one option.

Apr 5, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic (33) during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Nets defeated the Sixers 105-101. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Lopez is notoriously known around the NBA and amongst Net fans for not being a great defender. The Stanford-product lacks the footwork, speed and intelligence (like a Roy Hibbert) to guard the premier centers in the league.

Teletovic is the one player with the most to gain this season. The Bosnian had his role in Brooklyn increase this season after virtually no playing time his rookie season. Teletovic was able to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting but had the frame to post up smaller players at the three spot; he reminds me of Linas Klieza and his time spent on the Denver Nuggets. He is an average defender at best.

Expect to see a heavy dose of Mirza early on this season as Hollins tinkers with lineups. Kirilenko struggled with injury in his first year with the Nets and has been on the decline for the better part of the last two seasons. The Russia-native will be used to spell the starter and to collect fouls, nothing more.

Prospect Sergey Karasev is an interesting addition. Like Teletovic, expect to see the second-year pro make full-use of his early season playing time.

One thing is for certain. Lionel Hollins didn’t inherit a team with much defensive talent. If Brooklyn is planning on making some noise this coming season, Hollins will need to employ a sound team-defense to compensate for the lack of individual performers on his team.

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Tags: Andray Blatche Brooklyn Nets Lionel Hollins Paul Pierce

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