Brooklyn Nets vs. Charlotte Hornets 11-04-16 Notes & Observations

When the Charlotte Hornets came to town for Friday’s matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, people were expecting the Nets to get blown out in similar fashion to when Chicago came to town. Instead of getting run out of the gym, Brooklyn managed to lead most of the game before Charlotte eventually climbed back into it and eventually won the game 99-95.

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Short handed without the likes of Jeremy Lin, Greivis Vasquez, and Randy Foye; the Nets relied on strong performances from Sean Kilpatrick, Trevor Booker, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to keep them in the game against the 4-1 Hornets. Thanks to 30 points from Kemba Walker and another consistent performance from Nicholas Batum, Charlotte has gotten off to one of it’s best starts in recent memory despite losing Lin, Al Harrington, and Courtney Lee in free agency.

Much like all of Brooklyn’s losses this season, the Nets showed tons of heart and grit going up against a team that was much more talented than they are, and there were a lot of positives to take away in the loss. Many fans are frustrated with the losing, but this is to be expected. Losing by four to the second best team in the East, if the season ended today, is a welcomed sight following an offseason filled with predictions of woe.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, welcome to the party!

Finally, things have started to click for Hollis-Jefferson. The second year player out of Arizona struggled immensely to start the season, but against the Hornets he looked like a completely different player. Finishing with 11 points on four of five shooting from the floor (and a perfect two of two from deep), eight rebounds, six assists, and four steals; he showed what he can do in Atkinson’s system.

Following his zero of four from the floor performance last game, I was all aboard the Kilpatrick-for-starter train. In addition to being atrocious on offense, Hollis-Jefferson was struggling to make an impact in anyway. He is known as a lockdown defender and someone that could make an impact in transition, but after spending the offseason re-working his shot mechanics it is clear that he is trying to add another wrinkle to his game. He is still a gigantic work in progress on offense, but this game should serve as a measuring stick for what he can be as a player and where this team can go with that type of production.

This team is a completely different unit when they have someone that can hit a three pointer, run the floor in transition, rebound, and defend multiple positions. They need a utility guy, like Hollis-Jefferson, that can do a little bit of everything well. This could be an overreaction but maybe the success of this team, in the short term, will be dependent on if Hollis-Jefferson can develop a consistent jumper. When he is on like this, the Nets can be very dangerous and hang with the best of them in the East, despite being down three key players.

This team needs a true backup point guard in the worst way

Before his injury, Lin was well in the conversation for best point guard in New York. His impact on the Nets was apparent through the first five games, but now that he is out for then next two weeks the offense looks lost. For the second time this season, the Nets failed to reach 100 points. Atkinson’s motion offense doesn’t look effective without someone like Lin who is going to run the offense and keep the ball moving.

The Nets have Greivis Vasquez on the roster, but he has yet to see the floor due to injury. He will take over the backup role once he is healthy, but with Lin and Vasquez out, this leaves inexperienced Isaiah Whitehead as the team’s only option as a true point guard. While Whitehead is a rookie and will develop, he is too raw to run the show right now. It has left guys like Kilpatrick to pick up the slack and step outside of his comfort zone.

Vasquez coming back healthy is going to be imperative to the short term success of this team. He is a reliable player and could even give Lin a run for his money as a starter, but there are concerns about how he will look following a bad ankle injury that kept him sidelined for a good chunk of last season. If he doesn’t come back healthy or the player he should be, it might be hit the panic button time on the backup guard spot. If I were the Nets, I’d constantly have my eyes to the D-League looking for a good pass first, good defending point guard.

Kilpatrick is proving he belongs in the NBA with every game he plays

With each passing game, Sean Marks has got to be smiling every time Kilpatrick takes the court; because Kilpatrick is looking like one of the best value signings of the offseason. Plucked from the D-League, Kilpatrick has blossomed into the player he is today thanks to hard work and dedication. He has been one of the only consistent parts of the offense, scoring 13 or more points in each contest so far. In addition to that, he has really stepped up in Lin’s absence as the backup point guard.

Against Charlotte, he had himself another good game. He ended with 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists in 32 minutes off the bench. Without Kilpatrick on this team, I am not sure Brooklyn has even one victory, let alone two and been competitive in all but one of the losses. He has quickly become a fan favorite thanks to his gritty style of play and has shown promise in developing a more well rounded game.

Booker=Point Forward?

Trevor Booker has been an unsung hero for the Nets in the early part of the season. He quietly flirts with a double-double almost every game, but recently he has become known for being more than just a rebounder. The past two or three games, Booker has done an excellent job running the floor and creating offense for others.

He is excellent at securing the rebound then starting the break on his own. He moves well with the ball in his hands and he usually makes the right decision. In addition to what he does in the open floor, he is always active and looking to make the right play. During last game, there was a moment that was peak-Booker. He hustled for a rebound, got it to Joe Harris on the perimeter, who then passed it to Lopez for a high percentage look from deep. It didn’t go in, but it perfectly illustrates what Booker is about and what he brings to the team.