On the season, the Brooklyn Nets have 13 players averaging double-digit minutes per game. While it’s next to impossible for that to happen at once or for any team to have a legitimate thirteen-man rotation, it is an important stat to highlight the fluctuating nature of the Nets roster once you get beyond star Kevin Durant.
“It’s a little bit of a Rubix’s cube, I would say,” admitted head coach Jacque Vaughn before Sunday’s game against the Celtics. “Just working through who’s going to be available and give us something that night.”
The ever-evolving nature of the rotation began in part out of necessity as the Nets have been battling through the off-court drama of guard Kyrie Irving and injuries to multiple rotation players.
“During that stretch where Seth [Curry] wasn’t playing the back-to-back’s, we were filling that through. There was a stretch where Joe wasn’t making shots, and so one game he played 12 minutes.”
However, no matter how it began, the reality is that Vaughn has continued to modify his rotation on a nightly basis. Durant and Irving are the only two players on the Nets who average over 28 minutes per game with Durant seeing 36.8 minutes per game and Irving playing 36.7 minutes per game, when he’s available for the team.
Beyond that, it’s just a nightly chess match.
“That’s really what we’re trying to build as a team,” continued Vaughn. “[Kevin Durant] is probably the only one who’s locked into his rotation and the amount of minutes he’s gonna play. Everybody else, let’s be ready to hoop when your number’s called.”
So far this season, that has meant dialing back minutes for Joe Harris when he struggled and allowing for more playing time for guard Cam Thomas, who played 20 minutes in seven straight games during the beginning of November.
Before bumping Harris’ minutes back up, Vaughn also relied on others to help carry the load. Curry played 28 minutes against the Pacers or Edmond Sumner 21 minutes against the Raptors and 15 minutes against the Wizards. Markieff Morris had 20 minutes in a loss to the Lakers.
“We threw Ed in there and he gave us some life the other night,” Vaughn added. “We’ve shown that we’ll make some adjustments throughout the course of the game, and we’ll try to get advantage as soon and as often as we can.”
Those adjustments sometimes also come in the middle of a game. “Like I said with Cam the other night where he doesn’t play the first half and then he plays 19 of 24 minutes in the second half.”
With T.J. Warren working his way back from injury, the Nets Rubix’s cube of a rotation will likely continue with each player preparing every night as if it will be his chance. While this strategy will undoubtedly benefit the Nets through the grind of the middle of the season, eventually Vaughn will have to shorten the bench. He’ll have to identify the eight or nine players who give him the best chance to win night-in-and-night-out, especially as the postseason nears.
The Rubix’s cube will eventually need to be solved, and when it is, it’s anybody’s guess who’s going to be locked into place and who’s going to be locked out.