Opponent: Washington Wizards
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WCBS 880 AM
This could be a big day for Brooklyn Nets fans — and, perhaps surprisingly, it has nothing to do with wins or losses tonight. Later on, of course, the Nets will find out if the Houston Rockets will match the offer sheet to Donatas Motiejunas — could he be the newest Net? Would he instantly become the franchise’s best power forward? Does it allow the Nets more security to potentially move Brook Lopez should Motiejunas prove his healthiness? These are questions that could be answered sooner rather than later should the Nets not get spurned by a third RFA in this calendar year.
But, before we can get to all that, there’s a basketball to played in Brooklyn against the struggling Washington Wizards and, in a breath of fresh air, the Nets’ glimmering hope may finally make his professional debut. Rookie first-round pick Caris LeVert will be available to play and with the lingering injury to Jeremy Lin, it may be fair to suspect that the former Wolverine will snag some time immediately.
Elsewhere, Brooklyn shot just 37% from the field in their last game against the Milwaukee Bucks, including a lowly 26.8% from beyond the arc. Starters Brook Lopez and Sean Kilpatrick combined to shoot 6-30 in the game, which didn’t leave much room for error for the remainder of the roster. Undoubtedly, it’ll be hard for the Nets to win many games when their two best scorers shoot at a low percentage, but, hopefully, will be rejuvenated by LeVert’s debut. The Nets were also outscored in the paint, 62-44, but should face a different kind of offense in the Wizards.
The Wizards, who are only 1.5 games ahead of the Nets in the standings, are 13th in the league in points in the paint, but receive strong backcourt play from John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall is having a career-year, putting up 22.3 points per game and 9.7 assists — while Beal is right behind him averaging 21.7 a game. Fourth-year man Otto Porter Jr. is emerging as a potential star as well, averaging career-highs across the board in minutes, points, rebounds, steals, and field goal percentage.
With that being said, however, the Wizards are also on a two-game skid. One team will snap their losing streak and the other will find themselves on the wrong side of a three-game streak. Which will it be?
1. Will Caris LeVert get any action?
The 6’7 wingman has been practicing for a couple of weeks, but hasn’t been active or available for any games yet. LeVert hasn’t played in a game since December 30th of 2015, when he went down with a foot injury that kept him sidelined for the rest of his collegiate career at the University of Michigan. When healthy, LeVert could potentially be a key rotational player as he is a very versatile and possesses quality playmaking skills and shooting ability.
Presumably, he’ll provide some flexibility for Kenny Atkinson at the 1, 2, or 3 in future lineups.
2. Will Brook Lopez find his touch?
In Lopez’s last ten games, the center is shooting just 41% from the field, including 24% in his last two games (7-29). In Nets losses, Lopez shoots 41%, but in wins, the big man shoots 53%. See where this trend is going? The Nets need Lopez to shoot a high percentage to win games — it truly is that simple.
3. Can the Nets hit their three-pointers at an efficient rate?
As a team, the Nets have shot just 32.6% from three-point land this season. In Saturday’s game against the Bucks, they converted at a miserable 26%, and they made just 30% of them way back on Thursday. The three-point shot has been what their offense leans on this season, but the Nets must be able to hit their shots instead of just callously firing away.
*Editor’s Note: Bonus: We’re so excited that, after tonight, we’ll have actual photos of LeVert playing basketball in a Nets jersey! Goodbye that blinding Michigan yellow!*