The nets will emerge from the All-Star break after playing nearly two-thirds of the schedule and still trying to figure out their best rotations and lineups for the last third.
Once Kyrie Irving returns from his last injury, the Nets will be given an enviable trio of lead guards to work with – and trainer Kenny Atkinson will have to make some decisions. You could go with a little ball lineup if you don't start games, at least to spin them … and maybe end them.
"There are only many ways we can go," said Atkinson. "We just have to make the best decision for the team, for the networks in the future."
"The big question, the big deal, is who's going to finish. How do you end? We have the option to play small, even very small. It's within our means. We'll only find out. It's hard to know until you have in your hands what exactly you're going to do. "
Atkinson rarely had a remotely healthy roster in hand. Kevin Durant didn't play. Irving and Caris LeVert appeared in only 48 of 106 possible games.
The result is that Atkinson has juggled numerous five-man lineups. But of all the combinations and permutations, Irving, with Dinwiddie and LeVert in a three-guard setup, was by far the best, along with Center Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris' replacement of the fighting Stretch-4 Taurean Prince.
"I wouldn't be surprised if you saw more small lineups. This is just the trend now," Harris told The Post. "I am already putting screens in big promotions. I never thought I would be a screener, but that's the way it is. I like picking and popping all the time. "
Irving has played the last five games with a knee sprain. After a week off for the All-Star break, the Nets continue to play in Philadelphia on Thursday.
While Irving's status is in the air for Thursday, it is expected to return at some point. And the quintet mentioned above got the best net (plus-16.7) and offensive (133.3) ratings of all Irving-led casts that recorded 15 minutes.
Of the 29 different combinations that Atkinson has used for at least 15 minutes, Irving is by far the most effective. According to the Basketball Reference, the line-up exceeded the opponents by 20.5 points per 100 possessions, the next one being a plus of 9.2.
Granted, it's a small sample size of 18 minutes, but expect it to get bigger.
"I never thought I would play the NBA Power Forward in my life, but that's the direction the NBA is going," Harris said. “And throughout the year, the teams do everything they can to win games. Sometimes it works with a smaller lineup. "
Harris is only 6-foot-6, 220 pounds. But Houston used 6-5, 245 pounds of PJ Tucker in the middle with 6-7, 209 pounds of wing Robert Covington on the fourth stretch. The nets ended the last four minutes of Wednesday's win against Toronto with Wilson Chandler (6: 8, £ 235) in the middle.
"Boys don't post a ton. It's just the way analytics does it, ”Harris said. “Every time you get a post-up, the points per possession are always lower. They are more difficult shots. Boys are strong enough, sporty enough, long enough where they can defend in the post where boys just aren't [posting up], "
According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Harris only spent 5 percent of his court time with Power Forward this season. Team sources say this could increase after the break, especially if the networks need to change a game or close one.
"I'm starting to discover this team. I know it's the all-star break, coach, you should know your team. It's not that simple," said Atkinson. "New people, I'm starting this To get to know guys better. Therefore, the longer we are together, the better we get. … The talent is there. "