We took to NBA Twitter to talk about the road ahead for the Brooklyn Nets down the stretch of the 2020 season and beyond.
Brooklyn Nets Twitter is a happier place these days. Caris LeVert is back, Kyrie Irving is back, Kevin Durant’s rehab is progressing nicely, the Nets have won back-to-back contests after several consecutive defeats and they’re looking like a daunting seventh seed matchup come April. I mean, let’s not necessarily get ahead of ourselves, but life is good. Let’s enjoy these moments.
However, there is still work to be done. When you look at the current construction of this roster, there are still some unanswered questions.
Does Jarrett Allen have what it takes to be a starter for a championship team? How should the Nets address Joe Harris’ contract situation, should re-signing him be their top priority this summer? Should Taurean Prince be relegated to the bench? Who should take his place if that’s the case? Should we still be fully confident in Kenny Atkinson? And, for fanfare sake, is Spencer Dinwiddie still an NBA All-Star?
Q: Should Taurean Prince be relegated to the bench? Who should start if that’s the case?
When they brought him in during the summer—getting off the Allen Crabbe contract—it seemed the Nets had found something of a DeMarre Carroll replacement in Taurean Prince.
An equally long-braided, three-and-D wing who was efficient beyond the arc and could range up to defend the four if in a pinch. Things haven’t worked exactly to plan. He’s playing power forward full-time and shooting below his career average from three at 35 percent (career 37 percent).
It’s been particularly grizzly of late. Prince is connecting on just 28 percent on nine three-pointers per game over the last eight.
Dude hit the mini-miracle-floater in the lane on Friday night to put the Nets up three late against Miami, but the rest of the game was an ordeal. He took bad shots (1-10 from three), got worked on defense, and put the ball on the deck when Jimmy Butler had him fronted. Nothing was/is going right for Prince.
That being said, the question of whether he should retain the starting role is a bit more nuanced. The Nets were thin at the four to open the season and not much has changed. There is a case to keep Rodions Kurucs there for the time being when Garrett Temple returns OR when/if Caris LeVert moves into the starting lineup, shifting Prince back to the bench. But, that doesn’t feel amazing.
Certain numbers still lend credence to Taurean sticking with the A-team. With Prince on the court this season, the Nets have a 109.2 offensive rating. With him off the court, that dips down to 96.5. Though the numbers work the opposite on the defensive end when opponents are at 108.5 with him on and 103.3 off, it’s still good for the second-best differential (7.6) on the team.
And in terms of shooting, the biggest issue is from the left side of the court. Last season, he shot 42 percent in three-point looks above the break, and 42 percent from the left corner. That’s dipped to 32 percent and 25 percent respectively this season.
There was reason to expect some decrease in efficiency with an uptick in volume, but these numbers are bordering on scary. Scary, but correctable. Shooters tend to regress to their career numbers and from that respect, I suspect there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Taurean. Yanking him out of the lineup doesn’t seem the answer and I think if those from-three numbers are anywhere close to career averages we aren’t even having the discussion.
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Q: Should re-signing Joe Harris be Sean Marks’s top priority this summer?
Joe Harris should be the Nets’ top priority this off-season for many reasons.
Firstly, the Nets are capped out for years and you aren’t going to let someone that is an important piece to this offseason walk for free. He is one of the foundation pieces that helped build this culture we now see.
Secondly, you need catch and shoot threats from the perimeter around Kyrie Irving & Kevin Durant. Joe Harris is one of the best shooters in the NBA and can be that Steve Kerr or Kyle Korver type player.
And lastly, it shows that ownership is willing to put their money where their mouth is to win a championship. We have seen ownership groups in the past that wouldn’t dip into the luxury tax, because they were, no real need subtlety, cheap. This offseason will tell us a lot about Joe Tsai.
Q: Has Spencer Dinwiddie’s recent skid removed him from the All-Star conversation?
Since mid-November, Spencer Dinwiddie has personified Brooklyn’s ‘next man up’ mantra to a tee. Perhaps, even to a fault.
What makes an All-Star? An elite assemblage of largely offensively-minded, ‘face of the franchise’ type players who capture the league’s attention thanks to their on-court skills and off-court personality.
If we look at the numbers, Dinwiddie had a vote-worthy December, averaging seventh in the league in scoring with 27.0 points. For context, only two Eastern Conference guards scored more in December: Trae Young (28.6) and Bradley Beal (27.2). He scored more than Doncic, Leonard, Lavine, Booker, and James. That’s obviously some very strong company.
The timing was perfect to get the media salivating over his numbers ahead of All-Star voting opening on Christmas Day.
Trouble is, voting is open until January 20 and Spencer hasn’t been able to keep delivering the same performances night in and night out.
Since the infamous ‘too much eggnog’ game, the Nets embarked on a seven-game slide where they went to the Dinwiddie well too many times. A man who was supposed to be the Nets’ spark off the bench needed to be the first – and only – option for scoring. Couple that with injuries elsewhere on the team and the struggles of his supporting cast, the career numbers he’d been putting up couldn’t paper over the cracks anymore.
Aside from putting the ball in the basket, what often determines an All-Star selection is narrative. As much as Spencer is loved in Brooklyn and his performances caught the eye of the media, for a while at least, the buzz around Kyrie Irving and when he’ll be back from his impingement have pulled a lot of focus. Now Dinwiddie isn’t playing at the level he was and there’s news on Irving’s return, the NBA media machine keeps going.
It’s for those reasons, I believe, we won’t see Spencer Dinwiddie return to Chicago – the city that cut him, twice – to suit up in the All-Star game.
Q: Are you still confident that Jarrett Allen can be a starter on a championship roster?
‘FRO’ Sure (pun intended)!
Gone are the days of the prioritizing back-to-the-basket bigs in the Draft. It’s highly unlikely we would see the Sam Bowie’s or Greg Oden’s of the world drafted over Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant. Instead, we see bigs practice more guard-dominant moves at an early age to meet this new standard.
But one thing that never gets phased out of basketball—no matter the era—is the athletic, rim-running big that switch on the perimeter, attack the offensive and defensive glass and protect the paint. In a much faster era of basketball, such a skillset is a luxury to have at the center position.
Allen’s improved in those facets of the game; he’s still only 21-year-old and his ceiling is yet to be determined.
To aid in his development, he has not only a rugged vet but also a rather pricey mentor, to help alleviate pressure against more physical matchups—like Embiid, Jokic, Gobert, etc. If the Nets wish to contend, he will have to gain the respect of opposing defenses, so lethal perimeter players like Prince or Harris can get prime looks.
All the ingredients are there for Allen’s game to continue to blossom and help man the middle for this (or any) contending team.
Q: Kenny Atkinson has faced his fair share of criticisms this year. Are they warranted?
I think that Kenny’s in a really unique situation when it comes to coaching the Nets.
Most of the time coaches are designated as developmental coaches or win-now coaches, but Kenny’s in this weird gap year where he has to develop the young guys but keep a respectable record as well.
Throughout his head coaching career with the Nets, winning has evaded him. But that probably could be accounted for by the lack of talent we’ve had.
On the bright side, he runs a super modern offense based on analytics and shot value. In a rapidly changing game, with the right players, I think that our offense will thrive. But it really can’t be ignored that Kenny sometimes makes some questionable decisions throughout the game.
He preaches riding the hot hand but rarely follows through. We saw this with D’Angelo Russell last year. His defensive schemes are also at times questionable, often leaving wide-open mid-range jump shots to players capable of connecting on them. Even though we want opponents to take those shots, we can’t leave them with multiple feet of space.
But going back to Kenny, I think overall he’s a good coach with some flaws. His criticism is definitely warranted, but he’s done some fantastic things in his years here. We should definitely ride out the season with him without question and make a decision next year based on how far we get this year.