Stats: 42 G, 24 GS, 3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, .5 apg, .1 bpg, 40 FG%, 81 FT%, 4.18 PER
Preseason expectations: “Graham was a late addition to the Nets roster. I thought very little of the signing when it was announced, but he apparently has played himself into Avery Johnson’s rotation, or at least ahead of the younger Damion James. As I alluded to earlier, Graham could be useful in the Trenton Hassell role, though if he ends up getting major minutes this season, there are bigger problems with the health of the roster.”
The Good: Well, Graham was a live body who was able to step into a larger role after Anthony Morrow and Damion James were shelved with injuries. His highlight of the season was a surprisingly efficient performance against the Atlanta Hawks on December 18, when he scored 10 points, grabbed 7 boards and lived up to his “defensive stopper” moniker, holding Joe Johnson to 4-14 shooting. A few nights later, he had another solid game in a road victory against Memphis, scoring 9 points on 4-7 shooting and as Devin noted in his recap “his hustle on defense was huge.” And for those who care about preseason performance, he drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer against the 76ers to win a game.
The Bad: Well, there’s a lot of bad unfortunately, so I might have to keep this general, though there’s one Graham moment specifically that will live in infamy for the season. During the second OT of a December 1 game against the OKC Thunder, the Nets were up three with 5 seconds to play and Graham fouled Jeff Green on a three-point attempt, allowing the Thunder to tie the game and eventually win in triple OT. Graham was subbed in solely for defense by Avery Johnson and failed so miserably, that I don’t think a lot of Nets fans were able to forgive him. Overall, its inexplicable for a guy with a PER less than 5.0 to be getting more than 20 starts in a season and Graham has also not lived up to his “defensive stopper” title over the long-haul of the season. He’s one of those magical players were the both the offense and defensive are more efficient when he’s off the court.
The Extra: Graham was one of the additional live bodies rumored to be going to Denver in the now-defunct Nuggets-Pistons-Nets three-way that would have landed Carmelo Anthony in Newark. Rumor has it that the Nuggets did not specifically request Graham. However, since Anthony Morrow regained his starting spot in early February, Graham’s playing time has thankfully evaporated. Since February 1, he’s only appeared in 4 of the team’s 8 games, and hasn’t logged more than 8 minutes in any of those contests.
Final Grade: We’ve come a long way from Graham’s clutch preseason shooting. It seems that Avery Johnson is finally seeing the light on one of his “gamers” and with Damion James expected to be back after All-Star break, I’m going to guess we see even less of Stephen Graham in the final two months of the season. Grade: D