#5-#1: The Cream of the Crap
5. Andray Blatche.
It only seems right that Andray Blatche replace Metta World Peace at the #5 spot. I guess the bottom spot in the top rung is reserved for who’s leading the crazy in each city, and Blatche takes the cake there.
It’s awfully discouraging that Andray Blatche is where he is in these rankings, but there’s really no good argument against it. Despite his woeful inconsistency, he’s been royalty among garbage men to this point in the season. When Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are off the floor, Blatche is the Nets’ only hope to create a shot short of running an offense (but who the hell would do something that stupid?), and in classic Blatche fashion, it works sometimes. Other times it falls apart.
His jumper has looked smooth in some games and ugly in others. Sometimes he makes a few graceful post moves, and sometimes he travels 17 times in a game. This is the Blatche experience, and it’s not going to change. The Nets are fortunate it’s on an upswing right now, but there’s no telling when The Worst of Blatche will rear its ugly head again. -D.S. (Previous: 21)
4. Joe Johnson.
In a season of New York basketball marred by inconsistency, infighting, injuries, mistakes, sadness, and Blatchitude, Joe Johnson has remained Joe Johnson. He is unfazed, Joe Cool, no matter the circumstance. He’s on the floor to score, and that’s what he’s done, shooting a blistering 43 percent from beyond the arc and isolating less than in past years. He’s hit the team’s lone game-winning shot this season, a buzzer-beater that splashed through the net as time expired in overtime against the Phoenix Suns.
Johnson’s role has altered dramatically since leaving the Mike Woodson-led Hawks to join the Nets. He’s developed more into a pure scorer than anything else. He rarely crashes the glass or looks to create for others. He’s usually darting around screens or lurking on the weak side, just waiting for someone to slip up and give him a shot opportunity. He’s not a black hole, but he’s a quiet storm in a way C.J. Watson could never dream of.
The Nets have tried occasionally running the offense through Johnson the way the Knicks run through Anthony, getting him additional looks in the post and letting him create for himself in the hopes of opening a good look. It’s had mixed results so far, and it’s only gotten an extended look because Deron Williams has barely seen the floor, Paul Pierce has barely seen the basket, and Kevin Garnett has barely been seen. Ironically, Johnson’s catapult into the top 5 is partially due to his success, but only possible through the failures of his teammates. -D.K. (Previous: 12)
3-2. Knicks TV, Nets TV.
It doesn’t really matter where you rank the Nets TV crew or Knicks TV crew. They should all be making even more money than they do for having to put up with the D-League basketball plague that has infected New York City. Ian Eagle and Mike Breen are as chipper and insightful as ever, Mike Fratello plays Eagle’s fall guy to a T as Clyde Frazier keeps the beat moving, and Ryan Ruocco is grateful for the occasional respite in Nets action when he gets to call a game on ESPN.
20 years for Ian Eagle, most of them not great. I don’t envy these guys this year, but they remain the one unfailing bright spot in a pit of unfathomable darkness. D.S./D.K. (Previous: 11, 7)
1. Brook Lopez.
I don’t think it’s safe to say that the Nets would be non-garbage if Brook Lopez hadn’t miss as many games as he did with an ankle injury, but if it’s all the same: he makes Brooklyn a whale of a lot better.
Sure, he’s a fantastic offensive player and a budding rim protector, but Lopez’s skills are so important to this Nets team’s success because he’s one of three people that can do with Brooklyn thinks is a good idea to do every time down the floor: post up.
Boy, is Lopez good at that. He’s scoring an excellent 1.141 points per play in post-up situations according to Synergy Sports Technology, and when his touch is at its best, possessions on which Lopez doesn’t make the basket, get fouled, or both are fewer and farther between than honest breakdowns in Jason Kidd’s press conferences.
As is obvious, however, Lopez can’t keep this Nets team afloat. And come to think of it, I can’t really remember him scoring in any non-post-up situation since Deron Williams, the one guy who was adept at finding a cutting Lopez, went down. And it’s resulted in a severe dearth of classic Lopez finger points.
Lopez has been the best player on either of these teams to this point, which makes me really feel for the guy. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of the classic Lopez pout. -D.S. (Previous: 2)