It is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, and the NBA statistically just passed its midpoint. Trends have been set with habits already established. There are countless storylines, with too many to mention. One such storyline is the revival presently taking place in New York. This article takes a glance and summary in what’s called the Brooklyn Nets mid-season report.
Brooklyn Nets Mid-Season Report
A Glance of the Nets’ Season
Through 47 games, the Nets hold a winning record for the first time since the 2012-13 season. With a record of 24-23, the Nets currently occupy 6th place in the Eastern Conference. This a far cry from that fateful night in Minnesota when budding star Caris LeVert went down with a gruesome looking injury. Thankfully, LeVert is back training with the expectation to begin 5-on-5 drills in the upcoming future.
This season began with the Nets losing to the Detroit Pistons, but immediately rallying to defeat the hated rival New York Knicks. Keep in mind the Knicks went undefeated versus the Nets in the previous season. Thus far, the Nets notched impressive wins against the Philadephia 76ers (twice), the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Los Angeles Lakers, at the Denver Nuggets, and at the Houston Rockets.
By comparison, the Nets won a total of 28 games last season. The Nets won their 24th game last season ironically against the Orlando Magic (same as this season) on March 28th. That’s two full months and at least 20 more games than this season.
Injuries have taken a major toll on the Nets. However, with established players going down there came an opportunity for other players to emerge. Established players like the aforementioned LeVert, Allen Crabbe, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have all missed extensive time. That being said, the Nets embraced the ‘next man up’ philosophy to great effect with simply amazing results.
D’Angelo Emerges as Team Leader
The welcomed and expected emergence of point guard D’Angelo Russell continues to shock the NBA. Somewhat maligned at times, Russell has weathered the storm and shows why he was worthy of being the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Nets fans all over continue to say ‘thank you’ to the Lakers’ brain trust (namely Magic Johnson) for losing faith in Russell.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 19, 2019
More than just a player, Russell appears to embrace the role of leader. As a point guard, Russell is expected to lead by default. However, there were questions concerning his maturity in the past. Those questions seemed to be answered now. Russell has been coached tough throughout his short tenure in Brooklyn. At times Russell has been unused by the team in crunch time. Through it all, Russell manfully stuck to his task and when called upon, he has delivered often in style.
This season Russell currently averages 19 points, 6.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Russell boasts a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 18.4 and win share (WS) of 2.3. Those numbers are almost identical to Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo and very close to Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. Both Beal and Oladipo are presumed to be All-Stars this season. There is a case to make for Russell deserving a place on the Eastern Conference roster.
Spencer, the part-time pleaser
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 19, 2019
Guard Spencer Dinwiddie continues to deliver at an amazing clip. Dinwiddie is currently tied for first in the NBA as a clutch time player according to NBA.com/stats. With the injury to LeVert, many pontificated that Dinwiddie should start alongside Russell, however that was not the case and Dinwiddie continues to feed on opponents’ second unit at an amazing clip. Also, Dinwiddie continues to userp the legendary Jerry West as ‘Mr. Clutch’.
For the current season, Dinwiddie is averaging 17.1 points, 5.0 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. This while playing 28.8 minutes per contest. A deeper look shows Dinwiddie’s PER is 17.7 and WS is 3.7. The 3.7 win share is far superior to Russell because Dinwiddie has been the Nets go to player in the clutch. Peering a little further through the numbers, Dinwiddie has a True Shooting Percentage of 59.9 percent, Offensive Box Plus/Minus of 3.1 and 3.1 Offensive Win Shares. These numbers are superior to both Beal’s and Oladipo’s.
As a ‘reserve’, or sixth man, there’s no one better. Dinwiddie is comfortably ahead of all in terms of performance. That said, Dinwiddie is also ahead of All-Stars in a few key categories as well. Being the defending NBA Skills Challange champion, Dinwiddie will be in Charlotte for All-Star Weekend. However, by the numbers, Dinwiddie is deserving of a place in the 24 men playing the game on All-Star Sunday as well.
Da Fro dominates the paint
Jarrett Allen isn't afraid of the Greek Freak 😤 pic.twitter.com/fRQwUNAZRl
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 29, 2018
Center Jarrett Allen affectionately known as “Da ‘fro” emerged as a stop sign to many this season. Truthfully, Allen dominates inside with a fearless spirit that reminds all of the defensive stalwarts Bill Russell, Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon. Currently, Allen is in the NBA’s top ten in Offensive rating (127.4), and Field Goal percentage (61.4 percent). On defense, Allen ranks 9th in Block percentage (4.7) ahead of fellow stalwarts Joel Embiid, and Clint Capela. There is a ‘No-Fly’ Zone when Allen anchors the Nets’ defense. Currently, Allen averages 1.6 blocks per contest. Notable names that found out the hard way not to test Allen at the rim include Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis.
While Allen most likely won’t win Defensive Player of the Year, he certainly has done enough to garner votes on the All-Defensive Team ballot.
A Sniper Named Lumber Joe
Sharpshooting guard Joe Harris has blossomed into much more than just a shooter. Harris looks like the quintessential hipster from Williamsberg, thus his new moniker of ‘Lumber Joe’. Behind that grizzled appearance lurks the NBA’s third ranked three-point shooter with an 47 percent accuracy. Such marksmanship propelled Harris to 7th in both True Shooting Percentage (TP%) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) at 64.1 percent and 62 percent respectively.
On defense, Harris is pesky and physical. What he lacks in athleticism and quickness, Harris makes up with effort, moxey, and grit. Brooklyn Grit. A free agent this past offseason, Harris chose to re-sign with Brooklyn amid reports that he received better offers elsewhere. This decision has since paid dividends for both player and team as both flourished with each other, playing winning basketball.
The Front Office and Coaching
Once upon a time, before a crucial game 6 in a playoff series Michael Jordan sought counsel from his father James. The elder Jordan said to his son, “You take the lead. If they don’t follow, then they don’t follow. But you must take the lead.” That advice worked for Jordan back then, and it has worked for Nets general manager Sean Marks today. Everyone knows the dumpster fire Marks inherited upon his arrival in Brooklyn. However, undeterred Marks and his front office team worked fastidiously to place the Nets on the course to recovery.
This season, that hardwork is showing signs of bearing fruits. Marks’ key ally in this endeavor is head coach Kenny Atkinson. The stategy is simply, Marks and company scouts, finds and selects the talent, while Atkinson and his staff coaches them up and unleash them upon the NBA. Early results show that Marks should be considered for Executive of the Year and surely Atkinson has to receive votes for Coach of the Year.
While this maybe an over-simplification of the magnificent work done by the Nets’ brain trust, the results echo across the league. The acquissitions of Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier and Jared Dudley from this passed off-season paid huge dividends. Remember the DeMarre Carroll trade from the 2017, off-season? Well, Carroll has been a key cog in the Nets revival and culture. On the court, Carroll has been decent though unspectacular.
Remember those draft picks the Nets got from the Raptors? Those picks are now Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. While Musa has not been a fixture in the Nets line-up just yet (currently injured), Kurucs is blooming into a rotation piece. Currently, Kurucs averages 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Kurucs has appeared in 30 games, playing an average of 20.5 minutes per. Though Kurucs has a ways to grow and develop, Nets fans are very excited by what they’ve seen from him thus far. Kurucs most likely will be a participant in the Rising Stars Challenge alongside Allen at All-Star weekend.
Second Half Expectations
What are the expectations for the Brooklyn Nets for the second half of the season? The answer may sound cliche but more of the same. What does that mean? The Nets will continue its upward trajectory and development. With the departure of Kenneth Faried, expect Marks to find another diamond in the rough to develop. Atkinson and company will help transition them into the Nets’ way, with Carroll and the team leaders showing him what is Nets Culture.
Marks is an amazing chess player so, his plans are moves ahead. Will Crabbe be traded when healthy? No one can answer that question. How soon before LeVert wears the black and white again? That doesn’t seem too far away. Will the Nets make the playoffs? There’s no way to answer that definitively, however, rest assured the Brooklyn Nets will continue to compete with the fervor, tenacity and vigor that has gotten them success in the first half of the season. How does it translate into results ultimately? Time will tell, stay tuned.
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