The Brooklyn Nets looked far from a team ready for opening night during Thursday's 127-119 preseason loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Several numbers jump off the page when assessing what went wrong, but none were more glaring than Brooklyn's 27 turnovers.

Yes, you read that correctly, 27.

The Nets are attempting to find an offensive identity with their new-look roster, a tall task with two non-shooters, Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton, in the starting five. Simmons, who accounted for eight of Brooklyn's turnovers, said the team will use the game as a learning experience as they look to gain a rhythm offensively.

Ben Simmons speaks out

Ben Simmons, Nets

“There’s spurts where we look great. There’s spurts where we look like we don’t know each other,” Simmons said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to figure each other out, and I’m trying to figure out how we’re gonna play, where we need to be.”

“Obviously, I've got to take care of the ball, but I’d rather get turnovers out now than later.”

Head coach Jacque Vaughn said his team was far too tentative in the halfcourt against an aggressive Philadelphia team, which was missing James Harden and Joel Embiid.

“When you play teams like that, a physical and aggressive team, you need to be decisive with the basketball, you need to take the opportunities when they come and present themselves. We didn’t do that,” Vaughn said. “When you over-dribble, when you over-penetrate, it leads to sloppiness. Your spacing needs to be more detailed against teams like that.”

Bookmark that last line because you'll be hearing it plenty so long as Brooklyn remains committed to the Simmons-Claxton pairing. Vaughn has repeatedly emphasized the need for the Nets to have “premium spacing” around the pair of near-seven footers. With Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson – the team's top two spot-up shooters – out Thursday, Brooklyn's spacing was anything but “premium” early on.

Nets' spacing concerns

The Nets attempted just 11 threes in the first half while committing 17 turnovers, allowing the 76ers to attempt 20 more shots on their way to a 68-51 lead. Vaughn said there was a direct correlation between his team's reluctance to pull the trigger on spot-up threes and their sloppy play.

“Tonight is a prime example. You have to shoot those catch-and-shoot threes,” the coach said. “The catch-and-shoot without taking the dribble is huge for us because Ben is going to create the closeouts, Ben is going to create the advantages for us. We don’t wanna give that advantage back by over-dribbling and getting back into the paint where they have a chance to make rotations.”

“You saw tonight, if you turn those down, those can turn into turnovers.”

The Nets ramped up their three-point volume in the second half, attempting 20 while cutting their turnovers to 10 and scoring 68 points.

The following play is a great example of what Vaughn is referring to early on in the game. Both Cam Thomas and Spencer Dinwiddie receive the ball with several feet of airspace and defenders in rotation but refuse to shoot, leading to a turnover.

After serving as lead ball handlers for most of their careers, Dinwiddie and Thomas are moving into heavier off-ball roles alongside Simmons. The Nets are relying on both to take catch-and-shoot threes at an expanded rate to make the Simmons-Claxton pairing viable.

Spencer Dinwiddie's impact

Dinwiddie's career numbers indicate he's up to the task. Before re-joining Brooklyn, the 30-year-old shot 40.4 percent from three over 76 appearances alongside Luka Doncic in Dallas. Forty-seven percent of Dinwiddie's threes with the Mavs were catch-and-shoot. He converted on 44 percent of those attempts.

The nine-year veteran has shot 9-of-14 from three (64.3 percent) this preseason, the majority of them coming off the catch. His lone triple Thursday came off a beautiful behind-the-back feed from a cutting Ben Simmons.

After struggling from three during his lone season at LSU and his rookie year with Brooklyn, Thomas made significant strides as a three-point shooter in 2022-23. The 2021 first-round pick shot 38.3 percent from deep. While he converted on 41 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts, the overwhelming majority of his threes came off the dribble (67 percent), something the Nets would like to change in 2023-24.

Thomas has shown promise this preseason, shooting 8-of-13 from three (61.5 percent), with five of his makes coming off the catch. The 22-year-old looked increasingly comfortable spotting up as the game progressed Thursday, converting on three catch-and-shoot triples.

“I’ve encouraged Cam, I think one of these games he was 4-for-7 from three,” Vaughn said postgame. “Those catch-and-shoot threes, we are encouraging them. Spencer is really good at it, Cam is growing in that area.”

Bridges and Johnson will play the most significant role in spacing the floor alongside Simmons and Claxton this season. Dinwiddie and Thomas will also be crucial due to their ability as self-creators late in the shot clock and in transition.

Beyond that, Royce O'Neale or Dorian Finney Smith could enter the mix. O'Neale is coming off the best three-point shooting season of his career in 2022-23, converting at a 39 percent clip on 5.5 attempts per game, both career highs. The six-year veteran was 4-of-8 from deep Thursday, which included a pair of smooth transition dump-offs from Simmons.

Finney-Smith struggled last season after joining Brooklyn, shooting 30.6 percent from three over 26 appearances. Some of those struggles may be attributed to a nagging injury to the pinky finger of his shooting hand, which he underwent surgery on in the offseason.

The seven-year veteran shot 39 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game with Dallas from 2019-2022. Finney-Smith got hot in the third quarter against Philadelphia, draining three threes within five minutes.

While O'Neale and Finney-Smith present adequate floor spacers, they don't command the same respect as Bridges and Johnson from three. Further, their lack of ball handling and finishing ability will hurt in lineups featuring Simmons and Claxton, thus increasing the importance of Thomas and Dinwiddie improving as spot-up threats while providing secondary shot creation.

Vaughn and the Nets will get one final look at their lineup combinations around the Simmons-Claxton paring Wednesday in Miami before tipping off the regular season on Oct. 25 vs. Cleveland.