That’s Nets rookie Markel Brown up there, both in this post and in the air. That’s a vine of him during the Panini America dunk contest during the NBA Rookie Photo Shoot, throwing down a between-the-legs dunk off the bounce.
Here’s an even better dunk from the same shoot, a picture-perfect 360 after catching a lob from Marcus Smart (Brown’s former teammate at Oklahoma State) off the side of the backboard:
Those are insane dunks, possibly the best anyone’s put down while wearing a Nets uniform with a camera nearby since Gerald Green achieving windmill perfection. Brown turns 23 today, and despite his high-flying exploits, hasn’t carved out much of a role in Lionel Hollins’s Nets rotation. He’s played just 82 mostly garbage-time minutes this season, and was sent down to the D-League in early January with fellow rookie Cory Jefferson. Jefferson has since fallen backwards into a rotation spot after Mirza Teletovic’s season-ending injury, but Brown, a combo guard, hasn’t gotten a similar shot since Deron Williams fractured his rib cartilage.
But should Brown get more playing time? It’s a mixed bag. He hasn’t done much with his garbage-time minutes, but there’s a fair argument to be made — and some in the Nets organization share the sentiment — that Brown could flourish with the right spot in the rotation.
The Nets have floundered in recent weeks. They’re 2-11 since January 4th, and getting sparse production from their guards. Jarrett Jack has played huge minutes in Williams’s stead, and the Nets have suffered with him in the lineup: they’ve been outscored by 102 points with Jack in that span, the fifth-worst pure number in the NBA and second-worst per minute among players who have played at least 400 minutes. Darius Morris, who the Nets signed as a third-string point guard on December 11th shortly after trading Jorge Gutierrez, has struggled with bigger minutes; he’s limited turnovers as a backup point but done little else, shooting 36.3 percent from the field and missing 21 of 27 shots from three-point range.
Could Brown be the next man up? Probably not at point guard. Despite his size, he’s not a pure point by any stretch of the imagination, only averaging 2.9 assists per game in his senior year of college. He’s more accustomed to playing off the ball. It could work if the Nets have other ball-dominant guards in the lineup with him — hello, Joe Johnson — but it’s a shaky fit, and any solution that adds to the 33-year-old Johnson’s workload is shaky at best.
But there are openings off the ball, too. The starting shooting guard spot has been a revolving door for Lionel Hollins, with Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev (younger than Brown by two years), and Alan Anderson all tumbling in and out of the starting lineup. The three are billed as shooters, but have shot a combined 31.1 percent (92-for-296, to be exact) from three-point range, well below the NBA average. Brown isn’t a sharpshooter from three-point range, but he shot 38 percent from the college three his senior season, and his athletic ability puts him at an advantage that the other three don’t have.
It might be worth throwing a few extra minutes to the rookie, partially because his quickness gives him a shot at being an above-average defender with a decent outside shot, and if not, at least so he can jump. I mean, how has the guy that did this not thrown down a single dunk this season?
Without Deron Williams, who would likely make them average at best, the Nets season has tumbled out of control. The few moments of clarity watching this team comes with watching them amaze athletically.
Markel Brown could at least do that, right?