Welcome to Week 3 of ESNY’s Brooklyn Nets roundtable, this time taking to Twitter via the second half of the season.
This past week has been, let’s say, eventful for the Brooklyn Nets. That seems like a good safe word. Kyrie Irving has made headlines with several verbal promos that WWE superstars could only dream of giving. We’ve gotten updates on Durant’s rehab. Teams reportedly have interest in Spencer Dinwiddie. And it’s becoming more and more likely a significant move(s) is made this upcoming summer.
It’s crazy, it’s lunacy, but what else is new? Fans of the franchise are comfortable in the chaos, hell, you could argue they thrive in it! That’s why we took to Nets Twitter to try and make sense of everything because I’m but one man.
Q: Were Kyrie Irving’s comments warranted? Why or why not?
Kyrie Irving may, in fact, be right. The Nets roster, as currently constituted, might not be good enough to hoist the O’Brien when Kevin Durant returns. But here’s the thing: how can we possibly know with such a small sample size?
There’s a good chance Kyrie meant no harm with his postgame comments and simply neglected to mention all twelve on the roster. Fine. But why say anything at all? Given his reputation with the media, why put anything out there to be dissected? Winning cures all. The Nets schedule lightens up in a few weeks and this will blow over. But the lesson here for Kyrie should be simple: don’t say anything!
So, back to the question at hand; were his comments warranted? The answer is, maybe. Probably. But he’d be better suited not saying a word considering he’s got another half a season to go with this current group and we haven’t seen the team at full strength for an extended period.
Q: If there is a third “untouchable” player on this roster, who is it? Or should everyone besides Irving and KD be made available?
The short answer is no, there isn’t a third ‘untouchable’ player on this roster(unless you want to consider FOK DeAndre Jordan untouchable for all intents and purposes).
Given the realities of roster construction in the modern NBA, however, and also the distribution of skillsets and talent on the current roster, there are certain players that are going to be more expendable than others. I don’t envision the Nets making any large-scale changes at the deadline this year while there are league restrictions on trading their mid-tier pieces (ie. Caris LeVert & Taurean Prince), and also because they will want to evaluate who will fit long term.
Focusing on the off-season, there are two factors that the Nets will need to consider most heavily when evaluating players: 1) Ability to complement the backbone of this team, KD/Kyrie, stylistically and culturally; and 2) Do they have a championship level mentality/BBIQ and work ethic?
When talking about who will complement KD/Kyrie, there is no one single archetype of a player that I think they have to target. That said, you are going to be looking for players who are efficient catch and shoot players who can spread the floor and who do not need the ball to be effective on the offensive side.
On defense, they will need at least one better than average perimeter defender to complement Kyrie and players who are smart with a motor to maximize the effectiveness of coverages and to force turnovers (something they have struggled with over the last several years). When I refer to a “championship level mentality,” I am talking about players with high BBIQ, who play both sides of the ball effectively, who understand and embrace their role and whose play does not suffer when an opposing team ramps up their intensity (ie. at the end of quarters, games and in the playoffs).
Too frequently over the last several years, we have seen this team suffer in fourth quarters and basically any time the opponent applied additional defensive pressure, or when the stakes were higher. This team needs players who can stick to their game or even elevate it in these circumstances if they are a true contender THEY should be the ones applying the pressure and taking teams out of their rhythm.
Turning to the players on the roster now… there is no one that I see that currently checks all these boxes to the degree that they can not be moved for the right piece. The closest for me is probably Joe Harris, whose efficiency from the perimeter and solid smart play will definitely be an effective weapon along with two high usage stars.
I believe that Dinwiddie brings that championship level mentality and a high basketball I.Q., but I don’t know that there is necessarily a specific role that makes the most sense for him. We have seen the frustrating inconsistency of LeVert and Prince and Allen’s play, and I am not convinced that any of them has the smarts and mental toughness to weather a true championship run. Not to say that they are not a fit, but I do not believe that they have proven themselves to be an indispensable piece.
Q: What will you be paying attention to the most during the second half of the season?
“The Fro” has been relatively solid this year, but he needs to be more impactful. It seems far too easy to take him out of the game if you remove the threat of a lob. Just one time I would love to see him get angry and demand the ball in the post when he’s being guarded by smaller players. Don’t allow other teams to continue to disrespect you in such a manner. Make. Them. Pay!
Musa’s sophomore campaign has been better than his rookie one. That is not saying much as both have been extremely subpar. Time to give the Nets that scoring boost that was so highly sought after. Prove that Marks was correct to select you in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Q: Who would be your ideal matchup in the first round of the playoffs if the Nets secure the 7th seed?
Personally, I feel like this team—at full health—would be able to beat anyone in the eastern conference outside the Milwaukee Bucks.
A Nets/Celtics series would have the most buzz, of course, with the whole Kyrie Irving factor. A Nets/76ers series would continue a good rivalry from last year. And I do think they could beat the Raptors but their bigs concern me.
Ultimately, I’ll go with the Heat because due to matchup reasons. Likewise, it’d be the most entertaining series of those ones mentioned.
Q: Would you like to see alterations made to the starting five? What would you change?
I’m going to cheat a bit on this question. There is a rotational change I would like to see from the Brooklyn Nets, and while it could involve the starting lineup, it doesn’t have to.
Rodions Kurucs should be inserted into the starting lineup, namely for Taurean Prince. It’s well known and documented that Kurcus started out the season horrendously. In the season opener, he registered plus/minus -16 against the Timberwolves, and averaged an inefficient two points per game with a -2.3 plus/minus in the first seven games.
He was extremely hesitant on catch and shoot opportunities from the perimeter, taking just three attempts in the first seven games. His lack of effective saw a departure from the lineup after the New Orleans game and was not reinserted until David Nwaba went down with a gruesome Achilles injury.
Most attribute this early season slump to a mental issue for Kurucs, as he was dealing with legal issues concerning his ex-girlfriend, and it was more than plausible after Kurucs’ surprise rookie season where he proved — to me at least — his mental state could affect his on-court play.
Kurucs spent time with the Long Island Nets in the G-League to find his rookie season magic, and by his own admission, to get some shots up with the little league squad. After a brief stint in Long Island that saw his confidence rise, Kurucs came back after the Nwaba injury ready to roll. Since then he’s been shooting 54 percent from the field and an astounding 48 percent behind the three-point arc. Obviously, it’s a small sample size, but it’s clear to me last year’s Kurcus that we fell in love with is back.
Prince, on the other hand, has not exactly had a similar story arc. After a pre-season where he shot 69 percent (nice) from the field, he received a very lucrative two-year, $29 million contract.
He has come short of the expectations placed on him based on that contract. Prince was acquired to be an effective three-and-D type, that can create using his live dribble when necessary. None of that has truly come to fruition. He’s recorded his worst PPG, 3P%, and eFG% since his rookie season with Atlanta. Some advanced stats? How about his worst Box plus/minus, FG%, ORT, and win-shares of his career. All while recording the second-highest usage rate of his career.
As of late, namely since the Atlanta Hawks game (when Kurucs was given his rotational spot back), the Baylor product has been even worse: A poultry 30 percent from three-point land, and 11 points per game on 36 percent field goal shooting.
When looking at game film, trends start to develop. On defense, Prince regularly loses his man not only in transition but after a made basket and a half-court set. His ball-watching habits have been to the detriment to his team, but his on-ball defense, when he’s fully concentrated, has been adequate.
Despite this, Prince is on this Brooklyn squad for his offensive capabilities. Sold to the fans as a 40 percent three-point shooter last season, he hasn’t quite hit that mark. It seems whenever he catches the ball, he hesitates, no matter what. This allows the defense to set up, or figure itself out on a swing action — or allows his defender to close out. Lots of times, this will ruin ball movement and he will shoot a bad, contested shot. And then, in situations where it takes Prince two full seconds to make a decision, he tends to put the ball down to drive, resulting in a turnover or missed layup.
With the evidence presented, how exactly would Rodions Kurucs enter the starting lineup, potentially replacing Taurean Prince? The Nets have had a plethora of injuries recently, but the most consistent starting unit has been Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen.
Eventually, the Nets should transition Dinwiddie back into his normal bench role (unless Kyrie Irving’s surprise hamstring injury keeps him out another two months) and he could be replaced by either Caris Levert or Garrett Temple (who has also had his fair share of nagging injuries recently) at the shooting guard position.
But if for some reason, Kenny Atkinson and the coaching staff still wants to keep Prince as a starter, Joe Harris could be pushed down to his former position: shooting guard. Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince are both multi-positional forwards, and could still start together at the forward positions. Or, the Nets could trot out Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie/Caris Levert/Garrett Temple, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, and Jarrett Allen. In this scenario, Rodions straight-up takes Prince’s spot.