LAS VEGAS — Since the end of last season, general manager Sean Marks has excited Nets fans with trades for potential star shooting guard D’Angelo Russell, veteran center Timofey Mozgov and veteran small forward DeMarre Carroll. But when the new season starts, the loss of all-time franchise scoring leader Brook Lopez is bound to hit home.
Lopez and his 20.5 scoring average and 34.6 percent three-point shooting figures were sent to the Lakers as part of the deal for Russell and Mozgov. Now the Nets don’t have an obvious go-to guy under the basket. The majority of their scoring options are on the perimeter, and as their summer league performance has underlined, they are a weak three-point shooting team.
In their first two summer league games, the Nets were a miserable 12-for-49 from three-point range (24.5 percent). Their three-point shooting should benefit from the additions of Carroll (.361 career percentage) and Russell (.351), but how do they replace Lopez?
Coach Kenny Atkinson said it was a sign of the times that there was only one post-up play in the Nets’ summer league opener against the Hawks, but he still wants a diverse offense.
“I think Timofey Mozgov is a big guy who can sit down there and you can throw it to him, probably not as skilled on the block [as Lopez], but he will power you and he will run to the rim,” Atkinson said recently. “It’s just not as big a part of the game as it used to be . . . I want more variety. That’s what I liked about Brook. We could throw it to him in the post. So I’m not saying that I don’t want that. We need to find a balance.”
The Carroll deal, which has been confirmed to Newsday by an NBA source, won’t become official until Tuesday or Wednesday. Once it does, the Nets will have approximately $17 million to add more shooting.
Atkinson said the Nets can’t focus on a particular position, such as a power forward with three-point range, but he added: “Sean and I were just talking about how important shooting is in this league. We haven’t shown it in these [summer league] games. Hopefully that changes.”
Point guard Jeremy Lin, who arrived here Sunday to support his teammates, said the Nets must make up for the loss of Lopez’s scoring “by committee,” and he said Russell and Carroll certainly will help take up the slack.
“If you spread it out and play quick, I think we’ll see a lot of easy shots, dunks, open threes, things like that,” Lin said. “We’re going to have D’Angelo and Caris [LeVert], who are hopefully going to take big steps in their games. Hopefully I can stay healthy and play more minutes.
“When you look at the end-of-the-season points per game, I don’t envision a huge drop-off, although we’re definitely going to miss Brook’s scoring ability.”
LeVert ended his rookie season by starting at small forward in the final 25 games, but the acquisition of Carroll might push him to the bench.
“We’re still in the process of going through free agency,” Atkinson said. “There could be other things happening, so we’ve got to wait before we can define any roles.”
LeVert and Russell represent the heart of the Nets’ youthful core. Pressed about the importance of them playing alongside each other, Atkinson said: “Yeah, no doubt about it. You could see them playing together a lot. As far as who’s starting and who’s coming off the bench, I haven’t even thought about that yet, but I think they’ll play a ton together.”