The rookies came up huge in Brooklyn’s 131-129 overtime win over the Raptors
The Brooklyn Nets are shorthanded. That’s the understatement of the week as the team is currently missing seven players who are out due to Health and Safety Protocols. There was even some concern that the Nets wouldn’t have enough players to field a team in their Tuesday night matchup with the Toronto Raptors.
But thankfully, Kevin Durant was healthy enough to play through an ankle injury, giving the Nets the requisite eight players they needed to play.
Even with a full squad of rotation players out due to COVID, the Nets still had Durant. In other words, they still had a chance to win. He dropped a 34-point triple-double in ho-hum fashion.
But if the Nets were going to have a chance against the Raptors, but they needed contributions from other guys in the lineup.
All eight players played a part in Brooklyn’s 131-129 overtime win against Toronto. Blake Griffin and Patty Mills exuded veteran confidence. Nic Claxton played his typical game by converting easy buckets on offense and guarding anyone who is unlucky to cross his path on the other end.
However, it was the rookies who turned heads with their performances on Tuesday night.
Rookies Step Up
Durant and Mills carried the scoring load by combining for 64 of Brooklyn’s 131 points, but the rookie foursome played its part as well.
In his first meaningful minutes of the season, Sharpe was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field en route to seven points and seven boards. Although he looked out of sync for moments in this game, he brought a physicality to the paint that the Nets don’t really have elsewhere.
Kessler Edwards might be the exact prototype for a successful NBA 3-and-D player. The Pepperdine product is long enough to cover multiple positions and he connected on three of his six tries from deep. He was one of two Nets rookies to finish with a double-double.
The other was David Duke Jr. The guard from Providence struggled to knock down shots consistently, but he was crucial in creating opportunities for others with his six offensive rebounds. We could argue that he was the catalyst in three of the biggest plays of the game for Brooklyn.
David Duke Jr. was relentless on the offensive glass. These were three of the biggest plays of the game. Nets don't win without him pic.twitter.com/AVtPwJt4tG
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) December 15, 2021
Cam Thomas Quiet
Surprisingly, the rookie who struggled the most was Cam Thomas. The first-round pick has been seeing consistent minutes even when the Nets are healthy. The fact that he was quiet and Brooklyn still won is further proof that the rest of his rookie class stepped up.
Thomas is as confident as any rookie out there and it’s clear that the rest of these Nets rookies share that trait. Despite a tough shooting night (2-for-10 FG, 0-for-4 3PT), he has already proven himself as a role player on this roster.
More Minutes Coming?
Are there more minutes coming for these Nets rookies?
The answer in the short term is definitely yes. It’s unclear when the players out for Health and Safety Protocols will return to the team.
But what’s in store for the rookies in the long term?
Sharpe is likely going to remain in his role as that “break glass in case of emergency” big man for Steve Nash. He still needs seasoning and the G League is the perfect place for that.
As for Edwards and Duke, they have an opportunity to force their way into the regular rotation. Outside of James Harden, Durant, Mills, and eventually Joe Harris — oh, and maybe Kyrie Irving — there are opportunities in the backcourt and on the wing.
The Nets have three more games this week, which means that Edwards and Duke will have a chance to build on this success. There is no guarantee that they can maintain this level of play, but we are going to find out one way or another.