The Brooklyn Nets enter the 2023-24 season searching for a new offensive identity. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out the door, the days of historic isolation scoring are in the rearview mirror, leaving the team with several question marks.
Mikal Bridges will shoulder a large portion of the scoring burden after breaking out with the Nets late last season. However, Ben Simmons could play an equally important role after head coach Jacque Vaughn confirmed the three-time All-Star will be Brooklyn's starting point guard. Simmons outlined his vision for Brooklyn's new-look offense Wednesday following the team's second practice.
“Run. Gun. Get to the rim. Get to the free-throw line. Corner threes. You saw me when I was healthy, playing, moving the ball (last year). That’s basketball at the end of the day,” Simmons said. “You’ve got five players who want to move the ball and get the best option every time down the floor.”
Ben Simmons on his vision for Brooklyn's offense:
"Run. Gun. Get to the rim. Get to the free-throw line. Corner 3s. You saw me when I was healthy, playing, moving the ball. That’s basketball at the end of the day. You’ve got five players who want to move the ball and get the… pic.twitter.com/9opLvilkne
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) October 4, 2023
Ben Simmons and his newfound health have been the talk of training camp after the 27-year-old voiced his desire to lead Brooklyn's offense at several points this summer. The former No. 1 pick will take the floor alongside Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton.
Simmons and Claxton's offensive fit as non-shooters in the starting five was a cause for concern last season. It took Jacque Vaughn two games to move away from the duo after taking over as head coach. However, Vaughn said he is committed to the pairing entering 2023-24.
“I gotta have the right combination around them,” Vaughn said Wednesday. “Those other three guys have to be the right three guys. And then the spacing around them has to be pretty premium and pretty detailed.
“We gotta take advantage of their strengths, for sure. And that’s going to be the number one thing. I’m not going to look at the weaknesses around our team offensively. I’ll look at the strengths and try to maximize those strengths with both of those dudes.”
Bridges and Johnson's high-level spot-up shooting will go a long way alongside Simmons and Claxton. And while Dinwiddie has shot just 33.3 percent from three for his career, he's been far better historically off the catch, converting at a 40 percent clip in two seasons playing an off-ball role with Luka Doncic in Dallas. Royce O'Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith will also come off the bench as veteran three-and-D options.
Spacing is one priority to make the Simmons-Claxton pairing viable. Pace is another.
“Rebound and go, push the ball,” Simmons replied when asked how he and Claxton can co-exist. “Nic's got great hands, he’s got great touch. We’re gonna figure it out. I think a little bit of time together on the floor where we’re able to just compete and get to know each other on the floor, it’s gonna help.”
Brooklyn will lean on Bridges as the team's lead scorer after he averaged 27.7 points on 47/38/89 shooting splits with Brooklyn in 2022-23. However, Simmons attacking defenses and facilitating at the level of his Philadelphia days will be the main barometer of the Nets' ability to improve a unit that ranked 23rd after trading Durant and Irving last season.