Nov 29, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) reacts with teammates during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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The season may not be turning out how the Brooklyn Nets would’ve hoped, but who deserves to be recognized as their most valuable player thus far?
While the Nets’ 8-27 record is certainly nothing to be proud of, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the players are working hard to be competitive day-in and day-out.
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No, the Nets aren’t recognized in the power rankings. Nor are they recognized by fans and teams throughout the NBA. Quite frankly, it seems that any sort of recognition is hard to come by for any Nets players at all.
But there comes a point where recognition is deserved, regardless of the record the team boasts.
The Nets have had their ups, and they’ve surely had their downs. But through it all, they’ve battled ferociously and have never given in, regardless of the scenario.
Obviously, this wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the players. Again, I’m sure this wasn’t a season that the players were looking for, but it doesn’t mean we haven’t seen good basketball from some of the guys.
With that being said, as we near the midseason mark, it’s appropriate to recognize the most important piece of this year’s team. Or in other words – the most valuable player.
So without further ado… who has been the MVP for the Nets this season?
Dec 5, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard sean Kilpatrick (6) dribbles the ball while being defended by Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) during the second half at Barclays Center. The Wizards won 118-113. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Kilpatrick immediately made his presence felt, adding a newfound energy off of the bench game after game.
Fast forward to now, and not only has Kilpatrick established himself a starting role, but his play has certainly exceeded expectations. According to hoopsstats.com, Kilpatrick is the 15th best shooting guard in the NBA in terms of difference efficiency. That’s a higher rank than Devin Booker, Rodney Hood, J.J. Redick, and Jordan Clarkson. Not too shabby for a guy who started his season on the bench.
The defining moment of Kilpatrick’s breakout came against the Los Angeles Clippers on November 29th. Kilpatrick dropped a career-high 38 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Nets to an OT victory over one of the then-best teams in the NBA. That game was arguably the best moment the Nets have experienced this season, and it wouldn’t have happened without him.
Kilpatrick’s emergence on the Nets has not only created a solid replacement for Lin (for now), but he’s given fans something to be excited about. All of a sudden, Sean Kilpatrick has become a household name in the Nets community, and he’s simultaneously become a celebrity.
Don’t get me wrong – Kilpatrick has been extremely valuable to the Nets this season, and he is certainly the second most valuable player on the team so far. However, there’s still one player that can’t be ignored when addressing value.
Dec 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The MVP: Brook Lopez
While he’s not the sexiest of picks, without Brook Lopez, the Nets are not the Nets.
Lopez has defined valuable since his rookie year, and this season has been no different. Lopez’s 19.9 points per game lead the team, which is five points higher than the next best. Simultaneously, he has led the team in blocks with 1.7 per game.
Lopez may be one of the older guys on the Nets roster, but that’s not stopping him from handling the team’s biggest workload. So far, he’s averaging a team-high 29.1 minutes per game.
Most importantly, Lopez has been playing efficiently – something that is not necessarily common on this Nets team. Despite playing the most minutes, Lopez leads the team in player efficiency rating with a score of 21.3. The next best score is 20, followed by 16.4, so Lopez is the team’s most efficient player by a pretty solid margin.
If those numbers still don’t convince you, check out this tweet posted three days ago by @NBA_Math.
Brooklyn Nets TPA breakdown, in which Brook Lopez has almost twice as high a TPA score as the team's No. 2 player (Trevor Booker): pic.twitter.com/3hz6wpXGZ2
Unlike the Nets themselves – when Lopez takes the court, you know what you’re getting from him. He hasn’t ever been, nor will he ever be, a dazzling superstar. But that’s simply not his role. It’s not his game. And more importantly, it doesn’t mean he’s not their most valuable player.
Without Lopez, we may not know what the Nets record would be. But we do know that they would be a much different team, for the worse.