Nets look for semblance of hope against the lowly Denver Nuggets

Will Barton -- Unrestricted Free Agent
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Will Barton A former five-star high school recruit thought to have loads of untapped potential, Barton was mostly ineffective in limited minutes for Portland, but flourished in Denver following a midseason trade to the Nuggets. Barton excels at running in transition, and at 6’6", he has the size to defend three positions. But he’s not much of a shooter, hitting just 28% of his three-pointers in Denver, and he’s not quite good enough on defense to compensate.  Barton is reportedly a favorite of Nuggets GM Tim Connelly, but the Nets may be able to lure him away if the Nuggets want to keep a clean cap sheet.

Nets look for semblance of hope against the lowly Denver Nuggets

The Brooklyn Nets fell to 5-15 on the season after faltering late against the Washington Wizards on Monday, despite a good effort from Brook Lopez, Trevor Booker, and Bojan Bogdanovic. Of course, the defeat meant their third-straight loss in a row and that they’re are winners of just 1 of their last 11 — but can they reverse the tide against the Denver Nuggets? Following a home-and-away sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks over the weekend, the Nets are suddenly searching for more answers. Brooklyn is reeling not only from the skid, but also from the fact that the Houston Rockets recently matched their offer sheet for restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas as well.

Sadly, that makes the Nets 0-3 in their last 3 games and 0-3 with signing restricted free agents in the Sean Marks era.

The Nuggets come into Brooklyn as the tenth-best team in the Western Conference, buoyed by the coaching prowess of head coach Mike Malone. Despite their budding young roster, the Nuggets are just 8-13 and are unlikely to hang with the heavyweights that have long ruled the west. However, with young guns like Jusuf Nurkic, Jamal Murray, and Emmanuel Mudiay establishing themselves as professionals alongside veterans like Danillo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, they’ll probably improve on a miserable 2015-2016 season. The Nuggets’ spry, athletic depth could cause problems for Brooklyn, but, for all intents and purposes, this is a winnable game — and for the Nets, they must take advantage of those moving forward.

1. Diamond in the rough

It’s been a tough season this far for Brooklyn, no doubt about that, but there are certainly signs of encouragement, most notably the play of Sean Kilpatrick. The former D-League star has impressed lately, following up his heroic 38-point effort against the Los Angeles Clippers by scoring 21, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the losing effort versus the Wizards. If the sharpshooter continues on this tear, Kilpatrick  could be setting himself up for an established future in this league.

(16.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.7 APG)

2. Watch out for Willy

Will Barton has broken out over the past two seasons and is enjoying another great year under Malone. Currently, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists over a career-high 30 minutes per game. In fact, after returning from a short, three-game absence, the high-flier has chipped in with efforts of 17, 20, and 22 points in consecutive contests. The Nets can try to contain him with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but the explosive Barton could have a huge night against this porous defense.

3. Light Nets schedule

Many teams around the league will be dealing with a heavy schedule load this week, but could that play into the Nets’ hands tonight. From Brooklyn, the Nuggets will travel to the Wizards for the second night of the back-to-back, whereas the Nets have just one other game this week. With plenty of rest for Lopez and company after tonight, there’s no excuse for a shortened rotation or anything but 48 competitive minutes.