Basketball is back in full swing. It’s early, yet teams are already showing signs of what they truly are. Well potentially at least. The Brooklyn Nets are one of many teams expected to showcase marked improvement this season. Thus far the season has been littered with good and bad. This article looks at the Nets’ early-season ups and downs.
Noticeable Early Improvements In The Brooklyn Nets 2018-19 Season
A Burgeoning Baller in Brooklyn
Throughout the off-season and training camp, Nets players cited the massive improvement of swingman Caris LeVert. LeVert, now in his third year, always showed flashes of brilliance only to be stymied by either injury or inconsistency. This season, however, it appears LeVert has taken that magic step forward. Thus far, LeVert is averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest while playing 32 minutes. In addition to the raw statistics, LeVert is also a team leader, stepping up to take and make big shots. This is clearly the player general manager Sean Marks envisioned when he traded Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers for the rights to the 20th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
LeVert is already considered by many as a favorite to win the Most Improved Player award, however, Nets fans remember the stellar season by another Net last year who was snubbed for Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo.
The Man in the Middle
Brooklyn has a keeper at the center. Jarrett Allen continues to develop and improve, just ask Detroit Pistons star, Blake Griffin. Allen, another of Marks’ great selections (22nd Overall pick 2017 Draft), was a revelation as a rookie last season. That selection was the last of that ill-fated deal with the Boston Celtics, a pick swap. This year, Allen has shown the fearlessness and aggression needed to be the man in the middle. The rangy second-year big is currently averaging 11.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2 Blocks per game.
This off-season, the Nets training staff had Allen work on his three-point shot as well. Through eight games, Allen has attempted 6 threes while making 2 of them. To the skeptics, those numbers appear modest but consider that Allen also provides vertical spacing with his athleticism at the rim. Working on his shooting range provides a bit of horizontal spacing also.
Solid Play From The Point Guard Position
The Nets have a one-two punch at point guard. D’Angelo Russell is the starter, while Spencer Dinwiddie is the team’s sixth man. Last season, Dinwiddie emerged as a contender for the Most Improved Player. This was due in large part to Russell and now departed Jeremy Lin injuries. Remember Dinwiddie was a castoff and journeyman. Russell was the prized acquisition from the LA Lakers.
Russell, in particular, has been solid in his play most of the time. His shooting has noticeably improved as well as averaging a career high in assists. The bad with Russell is turnovers. Russell is currently averaging 3 turnovers per game. That’s too many. Further to that, many of these turnovers come at crucial moments. Take the Pelicans game for example.
Dinwiddie, on the other hand, has been huge in the clutch. Throughout last season, and now into this one, Dinwiddie has made his case to be called “Mr. Clutch”. Unfortunately for Dinwiddie, that moniker belongs to Hall of Famer Jerry West, the player whose silhouette is the NBA logo. Recently versus the Pistons, Dinwiddie’s accuracy from beyond the arc first sent the game into overtime and then to victory at the end of overtime. After going scoreless in the first half, Dinwiddie rebounded to score 25 in the second thus leading the Nets to victory. Dinwiddie is currently 43.5 percent accurate from the three-point arc.
Joe Harris chose to re-sign with the Nets, citing the culture and great job the coaching staff did develop his play. During his time with the Nets, Harris has grown from strength to strength. Upon his arrival in Brooklyn, he improved steadily and consistently over the next two seasons, becoming an integral member of the rebuilding process. Last season per Basketball-Reference.com, Harris had an impressive Estimated Field Goal percentage (eFG) of 61.2 percent. So far this season, Harris is shooting even more accurately, 67.3 eFG.
Fellow sharpshooter Allen Crabbe is off to a slow start. Since returning from his preseason ankle injury, Crabbe has struggled to find his shot. This setback has not deterred Crabbe from shooting, however. His numbers are not impressive but as the season continues, one reasonably expects his accuracy to improve. Much is demanded of Crabbe as he’s the team highest paid player.
Marks and the front office remains focused
In a recent appearance on the Woj Podcast, Marks made zero excuses and has no time for “moral victories”. Marks said, “We don’t want an excuse driven culture.” This is following that ill-fated loss in New Orleans and a hard-fought effort against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. He spoke and reiterated his vision of culture building. Marks also praised the creativity of the entire organization, all who worked tirelessly to navigate some dark years. Coach Atkinson was also credited for his (and his staff’s) enthusiasm. Marks used the term “sweat equity” to describe the investment made by all involved.
Though Marks appears happy with the progress made, he is by no means satisfied. This is a team effort with all members highly motivated to stay creative and keep improving. “We have a long, long way to go,” Marks said.
Finally, Peers Are Taking Notice
In closing, while the record may not be flattering currently, the Nets are doing something correctly. After the Warriors game superstar, Kevin Durant said, “They play so hard, so physical. In the fourth quarter, they made shots. I thought we had control of the game they started knocking down the three and the crowd got into it.” Days before Warriors coach Steve Kerr voiced his impression of the Nets. “I love the way Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks have dealt with the aftermath of the Boston trade [involving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce], not having any picks but they’ve built something that is tangibly resilient and tough,” Kerr said.
It’s early in the season yet, but all signs point to an entertaining, improved season from the Brooklyn Nets.