How’d We Get Here: Andrew Nicholson

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

How’d We Get Here: Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson is the YMCA

The biggest Brooklyn Nets move in the 2017 deadline bonanza was the Bojan Bogdanovic trade, but perhaps not for the reason you might think. The Nets’ second-leading scorer was traded to the Washington Wizards, along with Chris McCullough, for their upcoming first rounder, Marcus Thornton, and Andrew Nicholson. Thornton, the formerly beloved Net, was waived by the end of Thursday. While the key acquisition in the trade was the Wizards’ first round pick, obviously, the add-in of Nicholson cannot be overlooked.

In his fifth season in the NBA, the Canada native Nicholson may be in Brooklyn to stay.

After spending his first four years with the Orlando Magic, the 27-year-old Nicholson signed with the Wizards this past summer. He signed a 4-year, $26 million deal, so he will likely be a Net for more than just this season. Nicholson’s half-season in Washington was far from impressive, playing in only 28 games with limited minutes. His shooting numbers plummeted this season, hitting at just 39% overall and 19% — yes, 19%! — from the three-point line. Nicholson was such an afterthought that he played in only 10 minutes total over his final 15 games with Washington.

But Ernie Grunfeld, the Washington general manager, would not have signed him to a contract of that length if they didn’t believe he was going to be an effective player for the future.

They call him…YMCA

In Nicholson’s rookie season, he earned the name YMCA from the then Orlando Magic head coach — and current Nets assistant — Jacque Vaughn. Vaughn said the following on his rookie big man:

“He doesn’t look glamorous. He might not run like Usain Bolt. But he’s efficient. He has left-hand/right-hand [shooting ability]. His game is at a great pace. He doesn’t speed himself up and those are the guys that usually are at the YMCA.”

That name really exemplifies Nicholson’s style of play as a throwback big man, a player that can score down low and in the paint with a soft touch. His moves may not be flashy, but he can create his own offense on the block. Low-post scoring is an aspect of the Nets’ offense that has been underutilized, an area where only Brook Lopez has excelled at for the Nets this season.

While it may be antiquated, the role of a big man that can make shots in the post or draw fouls still has value throughout the league. Nicholson shows just that. He has an array of slick throwback post moves that can fool defenders.

His go-to move in the post is his lefty hook shot, which he can set up with a variety of turnarounds, fakes, and footwork. But Nicholson can shoot the hook with both hands, as seen in the video below.

Last season, he shot 47% on his hook shot — but he can also use his fakes to get past defenders for easy layups at the rim. Nicholson scored 58% in the paint in the 2015-2016 season and although that efficiency did not carry over to Washington, he was relatively consistent in scoring in the paint in his first four seasons.

In his time with the Magic, Nicholson also showed an ability to shoot from distance as well. After not being a three-point threat in his rookie season, Nicholson took and made more deep shots every season, even while improving his efficiency. He shot it most effectively in the left corner, shooting it at 50% from the field. Similarly to what Nets fans have seen with Lopez, Nicholson was originally a mid-range shooter that took a few steps back to become a three-point threat.

Defensively, Nicholson leaves a lot to be desired as a power forward. He’s a decent rebounder, averaging 4 per game last season off of the bench. Unfortunately, Nicholson might not have the lateral speed or quickness to pick up bouncier forwards. He potentially may have a role as a center with the Nets, surrounded by athletic wing players that can hound perimeter players. One area of concern is with his rim protection, as opponents have shot 59.7% within 6 feet with Nicholson on the floor.

Nicholson, essentially then, may be a younger Luis Scola, a creative and efficient back-to-the-basket player that has added a three-point shot. (Scola Island: population just me, currently). Now, comparing Nicholson to Scola may not be embraced because of Luis’ inconsistent play this season. But without Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets will need someone that can “get buckets” when the second unit runs into a drought. Nicholson’s skill in the post, and his potential to be a pick and pop player may be welcomed for Nets’ second units.

(Scola Island: population just me, currently.)

Now, comparing Nicholson to Scola may not be embraced because of Luis’ inconsistent play this season (and the Argentinian’s overall more consistent career efforts), but without Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets will need someone that can get buckets when the second unit runs into their usual drought. Nicholson’s skill in the post, and his potential to be a pick and pop player, may be welcomed for Nets’ second units.

Andrew Nicholson knows Bernoulli’s Equation.

The YMCA nickname might not be the most intriguing part of  Nicholson minutiae. Off the court, Nicholson is one of the NBA’s smartest players. At St. Bonaventure, Nicholson originally majored in chemistry, but eventually graduated with a degree in physics. Introductory level calculus-based physics is hard — but to graduate with a degree in physics while also being a stud basketball player is an even bigger accomplishment. Take a look at the St. Bonaventure Physics major requirements yourself here, yeah, I’ll pass.

In an interview last season, Aaron Gordon called Nicholson “the nicest guy I’ve ever met.” That may be an exaggeration, but again, it shows that the Nets acquired another high character player. Yes, I know — character has never won any games. But in the culture that Sean Marks is trying to build, having intelligent, team-first players are more than welcome.

Spreading love is the Brooklyn way, after all.

It’s unclear of how Kenny Atkinson will decide to use Nicholson going forward with the Nets. He may even sit out a few games just to learn the offense initially and he was a DNP last night against the Denver Nuggets. While seemingly a salary dump, Nicholson could be useful down the road for Brooklyn. With his current contract, it’s unlikely that he gets bought out this or next season — but Nicholson has shown that he can be an effective NBA player in the past.

In Brooklyn, Nicholson and the Nets are hoping to rediscover that it’s fun to stay at the YMCA.