Kenny Atkinson Goes for a New Look by Starting Joe Harris


Written by Nick Agar-Johnson (@nba_johnson) on 27 December 2016   

After a recent stretch of poor play, Kenny Atkinson decided to switch things up for the Nets going into their Monday night against the Hornets. Brooklyn went with Jeremy Lin and Sean Kilpatrick as the starting guards, with Joe Harris and Trevor Booker as the starting forwards and Brook Lopez in at center. Bojan Bogdanovic, who had started the first 29 games of the season for Brooklyn, moved to the bench. The change seemed rather sudden and shifted Brooklyn’s rotations in a strange way. Here is a look at how the swap affects the major players in Brooklyn's wing rotation.

Joe Harris

Joe Harris has been a favorite of Kenny Atkinson’s since training camp, and he finished off his climb in the rotation with a spot in the starting lineup. Harris is a solid shooter who can make three-point shots at a high volume with decent efficiency. Harris excels in the half court offense; he ranked in the 90th percentile in half court offense prior to the win against Charlotte on Monday according to Synergy Sports. Additionally, he had scored 1.12 points per possession on spot-ups.

Harris struggled with his defense during his time in Cleveland but has been much better on that end for the Nets. Harris is in the 56th percentile of defenders this season according to Synergy Sports. He is more of a shooting guard defensively than a forward but does have the bulk to handle those larger players when necessary. The Nets have struggled on the defensive end of the floor this season and are currently last in the league in opponent points per game. Moving Harris into the starting lineup may help the bench defense, but will hurt the Nets on the other end. Harris played only 12 minutes against Charlotte and took just two shots (both three-point misses), so he may end up only being a token starter going forward.

Sean Kilpatrick

Sean Kilpatrick has been a revelation for the Nets this season, averaging 15.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Kilpatrick started a few games for the Nets at point guard during Jeremy Lin’s injury, but he is primarily a shooter who looks for his own shot at least once before looking to pass. He will occasionally be a black hole on offense and drive desperately into defenders instead of kicking the ball out. He is shooting a reasonably efficient 56.2% True Shooting, but he will hopefully be more willing to give the ball up more often with Lin back in the lineup.

Kilpatrick’s defense is a concern, however. He was in the 7th percentile as a defensive player prior to Monday according to Synergy Sports. Kilpatrick often gets lost away from the ball and does not have the quickness or length to recover to shooters after missing their initial action. His defense was hurt by weeks of guarding point guards with Jeremy Lin out (not usually one of his responsibilities), but he is not a plus defender on shooting guards anyway. That being said, the starting backcourt of Walker and Batum shot just 13-of-33 on Monday, and Kilpatrick was able to hold both of them in check at different times during the game. Kilpatrick also put up 23 points on 15 shots in addition to five rebounds and four assists in their win against the Hornets. If he can continue to produce like that, his defense will matter less than it otherwise might. Kilpatrick’s offense makes up for his defensive deficiencies, and playing him alongside Joe Harris will be a defensive boost in comparison to Bojan Bogdanovic. 

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan was the only Net to start every game this season prior to Monday’s game in Charlotte, so his move to the bench was surprising. Bogdanovic is a solid shooter with a 56.7% True Shooting Percentage.  He has a similarly quick trigger to Kilpatrick but less ball-handling ability. However, his hot streaks rival anyone on the team not named Kilpatrick, and his shooting ability is a great complement to the Lin-Lopez pick-and-roll. His shot chart shows his willingness to shoot from all areas of the floor and convert from most places at a decent rate:

Moving Bogdanovic to the bench was somewhat surprising since he had been the only season-long constant in the Brooklyn lineup, but makes sense in a vacuum. The early results certainly seemed promising, as Bojan poured in 26 points in 27 minutes against the Hornets. Bogdanovic has a decent midrange game and uses an unorthodox repertoire of floaters and in-between shots to get himself to the line — he averages 3.1 free throw attempts for every 10 field goal tries, and he makes 84.7% of his shots from the stripe. He may be able to unleash his scoring game more effectively against bench players, and will certainly struggle less on the defensive end when guarding those bench players.  The move to the Nets for Bojan might be to add some scoring punch to a moribund Nets bench. Bogdanovic is not a solid defender, as Synergy Sports rated him in the 23rd percentile on defense prior to their game against the Hornets. Harris at least has more foot speed and a better chance to keep up with forwards on that end. Bogdanovic's move to the bench will hopefully give the Nets a scoring boost that Kilpatrick can fill in the starting lineup.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started the first 14 games for Brooklyn before missing three games with an ankle injury. He has yet to start since his return which is hopefully more due to the Nets being careful with his injury instead of him losing a spot in the rotation. Rondae has struggled on the offensive end shooting-wise, with a True Shooting Percentage of 48.5% and a 39.1%  mark on field goals.

The main argument for Hollis-Jefferson to get more playing time is his play on the defensive end of the floor. Rondae rates as an above-average defender per Synergy Sports — he is in the 55th percentile defensively, around the same range as Joe Harris. However, Hollis-Jefferson has an inch of height and eight inches of wingspan on Harris (RHJ has a 7'2" wingspan by DraftExpress, who lists Harris as having a 6'6" wingspan), and he has the potential to be an elite defender. While Harris has been much better than expected on defense, Hollis-Jefferson is almost certainly the better defender going forward. He did get to the line for 10 attempts in his 26 minutes, and if he can continue to attack the rim he may continue to get more minutes than Harris even if Rondae doesn't return to the starting lineup. 

Kenny Atkinson switched up the starting lineup after a bad run of recent games, and their first game was a welcome positive sign after an embarrassing loss to the Cavaliers. Jeremy Lin's injury in the third quarter may mean that the Nets are heading for another shake-up in the starting lineup. Moving Bojan Bogdanovic to the bench may help the Nets regardless of Lin's health, but the lineup shift helps balance the defensive issues that Brooklyn has dealt with so far this season and may lead to some more wins as the season goes on. 


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