If you haven’t heard, Brooklyn has a tendency of going hard. At least that’s the goal, right? The Nets have it is their hashtag on Twitter and it’s said very frequently at Barclays Center (they yell it every time the last t-shirt is shot out of the cannon — I’m still waiting to catch one. We’re going on six years).
But sometimes, there are issues. Sometimes, much to our dismay, the Nets don’t always go hard. There are times when Brooklyn, sadly, plays soft.
So what exactly is this? Think of it as a hot-and-cold list, looking at who performed well — and who didn’t — over the last week of Nets games. You can expect this to come out every Monday, as we catch you up on the latest in the Nets world.
Let’s get started.
Last Week’s Scores:
12/3: Cavaliers 99, Nets 97 — L
12/5: Thunder 114, Nets 112 — L
12/7: Nets 106, Raptors 105 — W
12/8: Nets 112, Knicks 114 — W
1. D’Angelo Russell — (Last Week: N/A)
This might be the best stretch of Russell’s Brooklyn career, which is an incredible compliment. He’s been scorching, averaging 21.3 points, 6.5 assists and 4 rebounds over this four-game stretch. He’s been far-and-away the Nets’ most consistent option. His midrange game — which is nearly nonexistent in today’s analytics-driven NBA — has been pure.
Toronto, a great defensive team, tries to push players into that shot by going over screens on the 3-point line and keeping the center back near the rim. Russell took full advantage of this in his 15-point third-quarter outburst.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 8, 2018
More than anything, Russell, through his play and comments, seems to be assuming that leadership role that many hoped he’d step into when he came here in Summer 2017. His comments after the win over Toronto seem to show that.
D'Angelo Russell had some strong comments on YES Network after the Nets beat the Raptors Friday. Brooklyn faces the New York Knicks tonight at MSG looking to win the road portion of a back-to-back for the first time since December 21, 2015. pic.twitter.com/fLgeUJFYsl
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) December 8, 2018
2. Spencer Dinwiddie — (Last Week: N/A)
As of Saturday, Dec. 8, Spencer Dinwiddie became eligible for a four-year, $47.5 million extension. And Dinwiddie made sure to produce in advance of that day.
Dinwiddie averaged 19.3 points and 5 assists, often humming right alongside his backcourt partner-in-crime. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers to start the week, he struggled, capping off a run in which the Nets as a team seemed lost with Dinwiddie in the starting lineup (filling in for the injured Joe Harris) and not leading the second unit.
But when Dinwiddie returned to his role off the bench — or in his eyes, the best player off the bench in the NBA — he shined.
He’s killing big-men on switches and rather than just try and blow by them with straight-line speed, which we saw happen last year, Dinwiddie is showing improved patience. Dinwiddie is using more dribble moves and hesitations to bait defenders out of their normal defensive positioning — then he attacks the rim.
And, boy, does he attack hard.
3. Allen Crabbe — (Last Week: N/A)
Crabbe has struggled for much of this year, that goes without saying. His 9.1 points per game and 6.92 PER leave a lot to be desired — fair or not, it gets even worse when you compare his production to his $18.5 million salary.
But Crabbe has been resurgent over the last week, averaging 13.8 points on four made three-pointers per game, shooting it from deep at a 51.6 percent clip.
The Nets lack pure, consistent three-point shooting wings, with Crabbe and the aforementioned Harris being the only reliable two. And without a true stretch-four, the Nets’ ability to stretch the floor rests a lot on those two.
And Crabbe’s delivered of late.
1. Shabazz Napier — (Last Week: N/A)
Napier has seemingly lost his place in the rotation, out of nowhere. He was a healthy DNP for two games this week, and the other two games he played in he saw a little more than nine minutes per game.
The two best healthy players for the Nets both play the same position as Napier, and the UConn product often isn’t big enough to play up a position. Barring an injury, it’s unclear what his path back to the rotation is for now.
2. DeMarre Carroll — (Last Week: N/A)
Carroll’s production was a pleasant surprise on the court for the Nets, averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from deep and providing solid production. It was all gravy, too, since the main value from that trade was the first round pick that Toronto included to dump Carroll’s contract.
But, still, it hasn’t been the same Carroll this season and the last week has been just rough all-around. Over about 24 minutes, Carroll averaged 7.5 points, but he’s shooting only 28.6 percent from the field and an even-worse 16.7 percent from three-point range on 4.5 attempts per game.
As mentioned, the Nets don’t have a power forward who can stretch the floor. Both Carroll and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have played minutes at the four for the Nets, and it’s clear that RHJ won’t consistently space the floor from deep. Until the Nets find a long-term solution there, they’ve needed Carroll to do that — this season, so far, he’s been unable.
3. Kenny Atkinson — (Last Week: N/A)
The Nets’ head coach is well-regarded for his player development abilities — in fact, it was a huge selling point when the franchise snapped him up a few years ago. Caris LeVert, Dinwiddie, Harris are just three examples of young Nets who took a noticeable leap forward under Atkinson’s watch.
But his in-game management, particularly in 2018-19 to this point, is often-times puzzling. There were the string of double-digit leads that the Nets gracefully blew in the fourth quarter, like Wednesday’s showdown with the Thunder. Then on Friday against the Raptors, Russell — who as mentioned, keyed the Brooklyn offense in the third quarter — rode the bench for six minutes as the Raptors worked their way back into the game, only checking back in when there were two minutes left.
With five seconds left in regulation, the Nets struggled to get the ball inbound and ended up with a Dinwiddie desperation drive against Kawhi Leonard, which went nowhere. In the Nets’ last possession of overtime, Russell dribbled around the court for the duration of the shot clock before losing the ball, with very little movement on the play.
These issues out of timeouts and end-of-game stagnation have been frequent in the Atkinson era, but they didn’t matter as much when Brooklyn was bad. As the team improves, these mistakes will become more and more glaring.
This Week’s Games:
12/12 @ Philadelphia
12/14 vs. Washington
12/16 vs. Atlanta
In another week, we’ll be back with a new set of rankings — who will rise and fall? Can the Nets keep their strong two-game winning streak for another night or two? Did we miss anybody? Let us know on Twitter!