• Joe Makar

These Brooklyn Nets May Have Played Their Way Into a 2020-21 Roster Spot

Ever since the stars aligned on the evening of June 30, 2019, the Brooklyn Nets organization and its fans were clamoring for the next iteration of Nets basketball. They were not necessarily looking at the 2019-20 season, but rather, the 2020-21 season -- when NBA superstar Kevin Durant will make his debut for the black and white. After a bizarre year characterized by injuries, tragedy, and a global pandemic, the Nets season concluded with a first-round playoff exit, and many were satisfied with how the team performed given their situation.

Now, all eyes are on the 2020-21 season. We know who the focal points of next year’s team will be. It’s safe to assume that Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan will all be on the roster come opening night. Players such as Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris are also expected to be major contributors on the roster next season, but first must survive the offseason without being traded.

The vast majority of the Nets who played down in Orlando during the restart were auditioning for a back-end roster spot on next season’s roster, when the Nets will become instant title contenders. Here are some players that have improved their staying power through impressive bubble-bound play.

Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

No Net has been a bigger surprise during the restart than Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot. While the French forward initially struggled during the scrimmages, he quickly found his rhythm and shot the ball efficiently. TLC signed with the Nets on October 23, 2019 on a two-way contract and after impressing in limited minutes, he was later converted to a standard multi-year deal. Unlike the other two names that will be mentioned below, Luwawu-Cabarrot is already under contract next year and at a very team friendly value of $1.8 million.

His impressive play will lead Nets management to ponder whether they should keep him around in an already deep rotation next season or sell his stock while the value is high. Luwawu-Cabarrot flourished despite being given the difficult task of playing out of position in a stretch four role. In his short time with Brooklyn, he has proven to be yet another Sean Marks’ success story.

Tyler Johnson

Tyler Johnson was signed by the Nets on June 23rd after the team cut fan-favorite Theo Pinson in late June. Having struggled in Phoenix, Johnson was seeking redemption with the team that threw him his hefty 4-year $50 million contract offer in free agency of 2016. Johnson provided a much-needed scoring punch for the Nets offense whether he was starting or coming off the bench.

In the eight seeding games, he averaged 12 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three. In the Nets brief four game playoff stint, he raised his scoring average to 13.8 points per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three, both of which are incredibly efficient rates for a guard. Johnson made the most of his opportunity and should receive serious consideration to be on next year’s roster.

Jamal Crawford

This choice might confuse some at first, and for others, it seems like a no-brainer. Let’s dive deeper into why Crawford is a perfect fit for next season’s roster. While he only made one appearance for the Nets and played only five minutes in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks, he looked sharp and energized in his limited play. Crawford finished with five points and three assists before exiting the game with a hamstring injury. As he said himself in an interview regarding his age: “I didn’t turn 40, I turned 20 twice.”

Young players on this Nets team, such as Caris LeVert, have spoken about how Crawford also played the role of a coach during games, providing his leadership and insight to a rather young and inexperienced squad. Crawford is the oldest active player in the NBA and has played with and against many great players in his time. He is one of the most respected players in the league and his veteran leadership and close bond with Durant and Irving make him the perfect fit for a spot on a championship caliber team next season.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference