When things go wrong, the mob tends to choose a scapegoat. And at times this season, Nets Twitter fixed its pitchforks right at Alan Anderson.
At first glance, the mob’s scorn seems warranted. His mistakes are easy to point out: pedestrian statistics; a streaky jump shot exacerbated by an occasionally shakier shot selection; and aggressive close-outs that lead to bail out free throws.
But dig a little deeper and Anderson shows he’s skilled at the role of wing defender. He makes quick decisions: faking a hard close-out on a stronger shooter to get the ball in the hands of a lesser shooter, sniffing out cuts and denying the ball to the league’s best scorers. His offense is lacking, but he’s generally content to space the floor and focus on the end of the court where he’s most needed.
Despite being tasked with the toughest defensive assignments ranging from point guard to small forward, with Anderson on the court, the defense performs well. With Anderson on the court, the Nets allow just 100.8 points per 100 possessions – best among the team’s wing players, and a rating that would rank in the league’s top 10 defenses. When Anderson is off the court, the team has a 108.2 defensive rating — worse than the Nets’ borough rivals, the New York Knicks. (In fairness, the team’s offense plummets with him on the court, but it’s not so hot with him off the court either.)
He’s not an All-Star by any stretch of the imagination, but in a trying season, he’s one of the few players consistently playing his role. So Nets fans: maybe aim the pitchforks elsewhere? -Ryan Carbain
The Nets brought in Bogdanovic as their summer jewel, selling him as a talented European scorer that would translate to the NBA and could start immediately. Lionel Hollins tempered expectations, and Bogdanovic admitted that there was a steep learning curve to everything from the longer NBA 3-point line to the feel of the ball, but the idea was that Bogdanovic would at least craft a few solid games.
And he has. Bogdanovic has turned in a couple of 20-point performances, mostly getting easy buckets when the defense left him in the corner or turned away as he cut to the basket.
But that’s largely it. He’s a scorer, full stop. He’s struggled to keep up with opposing NBA guards, and doesn’t do much on the offensive end except lurk and look for quick buckets. Statistically, little has separated Bogdanovic from the much younger Karasev other than the pure number of minutes played. Both are shooters who haven’t clicked in and get a fair number of points by cutting to the basket. Karasev is a more willing passer, and Bogdanovic is better at creating shots for himself, but other than that you’re talking two players with near-identical impact.
Still, there’s upside with Bogdanovic. He’s spent the better part of his early NBA career just trying to prove he can fit in and score at an NBA level, and his off-the-ball cutting game has built a nice little relationship with Kevin Garnett in the high post.
It’s possible the Nets won’t look anything like they do now the next time they take the floor. If there’s less talent around him, there will be more pressure on Bogdanovic to perform. Either way, they need something stronger out of their shooting guard spot if they hope to even compete in the Eastern Conference for the last playoff spot.
If you go to Markel Brown’s profile on NBA.com, you’re met with highlights from Summer League; if you wondered how much of an impact Brown has had on an NBA roster this season, that about sums it up.
Brown has only appeared in 17 games this year for Brooklyn, at a 5.6 minutes-per-game clip. For comparison’s sake, Cory Jefferson, the 60th pick in the draft, has registered an average of 10.3 minutes in 29 games, even in the crowded frontcourt.
In fact, Brown seems to have taken full control of the fan favorite #free(insert player’s name here) hashtag. Whether it’s a blowout in favor or against the Nets, you’ll find fans clamoring to see the second-round draft pick.
And halfway through his first NBA season, that’s where we’re at: we haven’t seen quite enough of Brown to judge him definitively.
It may just be part of Hollins’ near impossible-to-crack rotation for young players and/or players who don’t play defense, so it’s tough to gauge Brown’s abilities thus far. We know that he can jump out of the building and that might be good enough for twelve points a game in college, but he’s found out that it’s a little harder in the pros.
All in all, he’s a raw, young prospect on a favorable contract. It’s not fair to hold Brown accountable for not playing consistent minutes for a franchise desperately clinging to relevancy.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride in Brooklyn so far for Karasev, the 21-year-old Russian SG who came over last summer as something between an afterthought and a blue-chip prospect in the Jarrett Jack trade.
To start out the season, Karasev stayed glued to the bench. After all, last season the Cavaliers had sent Karasev down to their D-League affiliate Canton Charge 10 times.
But, owing to Lionel Hollins’ desire to shake things up during a losing streak in mid-December, Karasev morphed from end-of-the-bench garbage time specialist to a sudden starter.
He didn’t disappoint. Karasev’s stint with the starting unit coincided with — and contributed to — some of the Nets’ most successful basketball of the season. With Karasev starting and producing almost 9 PPG in nearly 30 mins, the team posted six wins in seven games in a stretch spanning late December and early January.
Karasev added a fresh spark to the starting lineup. He utilized his intelligence to keep the floor spaced and back-cut into the lane for easy baskets. He broke down defenders with the dribble, sending the defense scrambling and creating shots for the resulting open man. He took care of the ball. And he generally exhibited court awareness and savvy that far transcend what you’d expect from a 21-year old.
And then, as if it had all been a dream, Karasev woke up back at the end of the bench. Part of that was bad luck, part of it stemmed from Bojan Bogdanovic’s resurgence, and part of it resulted from Hollins’ sometimes-impetuous playing time allocations. And Karasev’s defense & outside shooting touch remain a work in progress.
All Karasev can do now is keep preparing, to ensure he’s ready the next time his number is called. That’s likely just a matter of time, given that Karasev can shoot, handle the ball, and move without it.
In the meantime, Karasev appears to be learning how to have fun not just on the court, but off it as well. -Judd Olanoff
After Brooklyn’s second-round loss to the Miami Heat last spring — including an 0-for-9 game that drew Kobe Bryant’s attention — the chatter surrounding Deron Williams’ rapid decline grew larger and louder than even before. Was Williams washed up? Could he ever find his elite abilities again?
Then the news broke that Williams would need surgery done on both of his ankles in May, but, after recovery, it could return the point guard to his quicker, sprier version of yesteryear.
As of February 14th, 2015, it’s safe to say that Brooklyn is still looking for that Deron Williams.
Williams fractured his rib on January 4th against the Heat and missed thirteen games. Brooklyn just managed to win two of those games. It’s evident that the Nets need any version of Deron Williams to be competitive, even this diminished version.
They don’t need an elite point guard anymore; they just need Williams at all.
In a way, this entire team should get an incomplete grade without Deron Williams in the lineup. But for a team with so many lofty expectations and risky trades over the last three seasons, there aren’t any excuses left to give.
If Deron Williams isn’t traded before the deadline, he would be wise to consider the rest of this season as a tryout. A healthy, average Deron Williams might be enough to sneak Brooklyn into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, momentarily dodging unmitigated disaster and scrutiny.
But, if Williams gets re-injured or the Nets fall otherwise short, what remaining supporters of the guard will shrink even smaller. Perhaps, soon, the Deron Williams era in Brooklyn will be over.
Until then, it’s time for him to prove his worth to himself, and to a basketball city that desperately needs saving. -Benjamin Nadeau
A preface: it’s hard to accurately grade Jarrett Jack unless you acknowledge that he’s had two wildly different stretches in this season, which makes a single letter grade an impossible judgment.
Jack was, to be frank, awful in the first two months, putting up the league’s worst plus-minus for a long stretch, missing nearly all of his three-pointers and struggling to mesh with Deron Williams when the two shared the floor. There were a couple of good nights, like when Jack inexplicably went a perfect 10-for-10 against his former Golden State Warriors, but those were few and far between.
But Jack has undergone a resurgence in the last month, developing a nice chemistry with Mason Plumlee, hitting one game-winning shot against the Los Angeles Clippers and another game-sealing three-pointer against the New York Knicks just a couple days after, and putting up 35-8-7 in a grueling overtime game that saw Jack sit just 47 seconds. His uptick coincided with Williams’s rib injury, providing more fuel to the argument that the two are at their best when they stagger each other’s minutes.
On a team often devoid of excitement and hope, Jack has provided a spark since his rough start, giving Barclays Center a reason to tune in after the third quarter that they didn’t have in the first two months (again, partially because of Jack’s failings at that time).
Jack also turned political: With LeBron James & his Cleveland Cavaliers looking to land shirts that said “I Can’t Breathe” to honor Eric Garner, an NYC citizen killed in an altercation with police, it was Jack that sequestered the shirts for James & Kyrie Irving to wear in perhaps the most high-profile regular season game in Nets history (along with the Cavaliers, the Duke & Dutchess of York also attended the game, and Garner-related protests went on outside. Also, the roof leaked!).
So when looking at the larger picture, Jack deserves both a D and an A for his efforts this season. But with the A’s — and the moments — harder to come by in a season like this, we’ll lean slightly up. -Devin Kharpertian
Morris, who took over the 3rd-string point guard spot after Jorge Gutierrez was traded to Philadelphia, hasn’t made much of a dent in Brooklyn’s rotation –even with Deron Williams’s significant injuries.
Morris only averages a paltry 8.8 minutes per game. He’s only 24 years old, but has already played for five — count ‘em, five — basketball teams since he was drafted in 2011. Do you see where this is going yet?
In Brooklyn’s overtime loss to Toronto a few weeks ago, Jarrett Jack played all but 47 seconds of that game. Afterwards, Lionel Hollins simply said: “What are you gonna do? It is what it is.”
Meanwhile, Darius Morris, Brooklyn’s theoretical back-up point guard when Williams is hurt, tallied just 4 minutes of playing time.
In the end, Morris gets a C for remaining on Brooklyn’s roster in any capacity. There’s still plenty of time left in the 2014-2015 season, but for Morris to have not been cut, dumped or traded yet is remarkable enough itself. For a guy who has bounced around plenty already in his young career, he has proved himself valuable enough to keep despite his inconsequential amount of minutes. That alone is with celebrating. -Benjamin Nadeau