Shane Larkin is no world-beater, and he hasn’t really accomplished anything in the NBA yet. But given what we’ve seen from him this preseason compared to the rest of his Brooklyn Nets’ teammates, he could be one of the bright spots on this squad.
The 5’11” third-year point guard won’t be one of the featured weapons or top producers in the rotation. We know we’re going to get solid, if unspectacular production from key cogs Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Joe Johnson.
But the rest of the Nets? The jury is out on them, especially after going 1-3 so far in a wildly inconsistent preseason. Larkin has a legitimate chance to emerge and be a pleasant surprise. Minor injuries to a slew of players have prevented a true display of the team’s rotation and potential, but Larkin’s play has been promising nonetheless.
Through four preseason games, Larkin has averaged 10.0 points and 3.3 assists in 24.5 minutes per game, including 5-of-10 shooting from three-land. While those aren’t eye-popping numbers, it’s more about his shiftiness off the bounce, quick long-range deliveries and defensive quickness.
Watch him display nice pick-and-pop timing with Lopez and uncork smooth pull-up jumpers from all angles against the Detroit Pistons. He didn’t score efficiently off the dribble last season, but it’s clear that he’s comfortable stopping on a dime with either hand for streamlined mid-to-long range shots:
Larkin wasn’t as stellar during his next couple of exhibitions as he was against Motown (17 points and five assists), but he still remained one of Brooklyn’s best playmakers. Devin Kharpertian of the Brooklyn Game noted that the young floor general was one of the better performers in Wednesday’s clash with the Boston Celtics:
Very few things have gone right for the Nets thus far. Shane Larkin is responsible for a decent portion of those few things.
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) October 15, 2015
It already seems like Larkin has a higher ceiling in the Nets’ pick-and-roll system than he did with the Triangle-oriented New York Knicks. He’s attacking confidently, scoring and dishing the rock to teammates rolling to the hoop or popping for jumpers.
If you don’t remember Larkin’s collegiate exploits, he was an electrifying pick-and-roll prodigy. He propelled the Miami Hurricanes to some of their best campaigns in recent years, and he translated his production into the No. 18 overall draft selection in 2013.
Larkin explained how he’s enjoying getting back to his strong suit in Brooklyn, per Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
(Pick-and-rolls are) not the only reason I got here, but that’s a big part of why I got drafted where I got drafted, and why I’m in the league. Last year, I obviously wasn’t in the best system for my style of game, but this year I’ve been implemented back into a pick-and-roll [offense], so it’s really good.
Although Larkin didn’t shoot well from beyond the arc during his first couple years in the Association, he did hit 40 percent from the college line at Miami. A regular role in Brooklyn may help him achieve efficient conversion moving forward.
Considering how uninspiring the Nets have played overall during preseason play, Larkin is a candidate for big minutes moving forward. And since veteran floor general Jarrett Jack has had a somewhat rocky October, Larkin could challenge for the starting point-guard job in the near future.
Sure, he’s significantly undersized in today’s NBA, but Larkin has plenty going for him on this team.
It’s hard to argue that anyone has better pick-and-roll potential on the Nets, which means he should earn consistent minutes from coach Lionel Hollins. Larkin also shows quick feet on defense, something the Nets noticeably lack in the backcourt, as Bontemps notes:
Speed and athleticism are weapons the Nets haven’t had in the past, and ones they specifically targeted this summer. He was one of their first calls… just after midnight on July 1, and the team is high on his potential to bounce back after an uneven start to his career.
Again, no one’s expecting him to be a top-tier starter and lift Brooklyn into the playoffs. But if Hollins and Co. properly utilize Larkin’s gifts, he’ll be a dynamic backup point at worst, serving as one of the few high notes during the franchise’s transitional phase.