Hi! Welcome to the first edition of a new weekly series here at Nets Republic, in which I look back every Sunday at the previous week of Brooklyn Nets basketball and try to make sense of what’s been happening.
This week, we have just two games to look back at. The Nets dropped their season opener in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-126 and followed that up with a 113-109 win over the Knicks that got significantly closer than it should have down the stretch.
Sometimes I’m surprised how many people in the Nets fandom thought this was the wrong call at the time.
D’Angelo Russell was so important to last year’s success, but teams with championship aspirations have to make changes to better their rosters, which means that any time you can pair Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — even if you can’t really pair them this year with Durant’s Achilles injury — then you say “yeah, okay, we’re doing this” and you accept the fact that you’ve got to trade D’Angelo Russell to make it happen.
I get that Russell is younger. I get that he helped this team get to the playoffs during a year where they were not expected to get to the playoffs. But two games of Kyrie Irving should have been enough to convince you that he was the right call.
Take the season opener. Kyrie scored 50. He was a +18 in a game where the Nets lost in overtime by one. Yes, he lost his dribble on the final possession for Brooklyn, but he was also the main reason the team was where they were even with the rest of the lineup struggling.
Irving’s ceiling is being the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Any time you can add a guy like that, you do it. I’m sure at some point this year I’ll dive more deep into the numbers, but for now let’s leave it at this: Kyrie makes this team better and helps cover up some of the flaws.
Maybe the biggest thing that I thought over and over while watching the Nets last season was “huh, they could really use a solid four.” When the best player at the position was a rookie Rodions Kurucs, you aren’t going to get the consistency out of that spot that you need.
Thankfully, Kurucs is in a bench role this year as the Nets traded for Taurean Prince in the offseason.
Prince didn’t score in the first half of the first game of the year, but then he came out for the second half and immediately did this:
The Nets have Prince set the pick and then roll to the basket, going full speed here and getting the lay up. Then, Prince immediately steals the inbounds pass and puts the ball up, drawing the foul and heading to the line.
On Friday, the Nets didn’t wait at all to get Prince going, with the first points of the game looking like this:
Prince is under the basket on the baseline and his nearest defender isn’t in a good position here, so Prince does that little half-moon swoop thing, going from the baseline to the right wing, where he winds up with a catch-and-shoot three.
The biggest thing I like about Prince is that he’s got the ability to be consistent, which is a thing that the four-spot really lacked last season. Kurucs had his moments, but he was also ineffective for long stretches of the year, which is part of why he was benched at one point.
Through two games — and yes, we’re getting really #SmallSampleSZN here — the Nets are playing much better with Prince on the floor. The team’s three-point field goal percentage is eight percent higher with Prince on the floor. The true shooting percentage is higher.
78.26% of Prince’s attempts so far have come at the rim or from three. Last year with Atlanta, that number was at 73.06%. If he continues to focus on these two areas of the court, he’ll be able to pretty seemlessly be what the Nets need him to be. Rodions Kurucs, for instance, had over 80% of his shots last year come in these two zones; if Prince can give you a more efficient version of that, it’ll be huge.
Alright, look. I am a Jarrett Allen defender, mostly because Jarrett Allen is a solid defender, a guy who is capable of blocking any shot at any moment.
But Allen is averaging five points per game so far on the season and is shooting 41.7% from the field after shooting 59% last year. He’s been hesitant near the basket and isn’t tracking down lobs well, and he’s 2-for-8 on all shots that aren’t dunks, including a 1-for-5 mark on lay ups.
Opposing defenses aren’t letting Allen get clean looks at the bucket, and he’s been just completely incapable of finishing the looks that he’s getting.
DeAndre Jordan is looming behind Allen. If Allen’s offensive game continues to be this limited, can he hold off Jordan for minutes? Jordan can at least jump really high and finish lobs, and so far Allen is not really looking like a guy who can do that.
Maybe this is an overreaction. Maybe Allen will get more aggressive offensively and this won’t be a problem. I mean, he shot well inside over his first two seasons, so he should bounce back, right?