Jan 8, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert (22) puts up a shot against Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric (9) in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Sixers win 105-95. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
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The Brooklyn Nets have not won a game in two weeks. The only positive thing is that it is no one’s fault. With a hole to climb out of that reaches the earth’s core, the Nets have to remember a phrase 76ers fans have embraced: trust the process.
The Brooklyn Nets bested themselves in week 11. After going 0-3 in week 10, the Nets outdid themselves with a 0-4 record this week. Three of those four losses were by double digits. Look at the bright side, the Cleveland Cavaliers only beat them by eight! Did someone say championship?
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All joking aside, this is who the Nets are. Unfortunately, it has become glaringly obvious that one of the key objectives for the Nets’ season will go unmet. The goal of avoiding a bottom-five record is all but gone. However, some of the other goals are still in play. The Nets are continuing to develop young prospects. Brook Lopez is having an extremely consistent year. And the D-League is still in play.
However, none of the items above will result in more wins. Fortunately, they do result in two stars, and two slackers for the week.
Jan 8, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) drives to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Sixers win 105-95. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the 0-4 output in week 11, Nets fans have much to celebrate. The LeVert pick is panning out nicely. As LeVert continues to earn minutes and increase his basketball conditioning, his production has increased on both sides of the ball. LeVert enjoyed his best outing of the season against the defending-champion Cavaliers. With 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds, LeVert contributed in every facet of the game. He also did this efficiently on just 12 shots.
In the first three games of the week, LeVert was a plus-four, plus 10, and plus nine, respectively. Each time he touches the floor, he adds value. His contributions make us remember why the Nets passed up more prolific prospects such as Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson, Dejounte Murray, and Timothe Luwawu in the 2016 draft. Hopefully, LeVert continues to assert himself as a greater contributor than those Marks passed on.
Lopez once again receives star honors. This time, simply for his consistency. The minutes restrictions and resting habits for Lopez are seemingly a thing of the past. In week 11, Lopez played in all four games while leading the Nets in minutes played. That makes 10 games in a row for Lopez without a DNP designation for rest. Furthermore, in that time, Lopez continues to establish himself as one of the better natural scoring big men in the league. In week 11, he averaged a strong 19 points per game.
Furthermore, Lopez is continuing to showcase his ability to stretch the floor as he knocked down 35 percent of his shots from deep. In today’s NBA with three-point shooting at a premium, this new found skill-set certainly increases Lopez’s trade value.
The glaring weakness, however, is Lopez’s continued struggles as a rebounder. Through four games this week, he averaged just three rebounds per game. That is unacceptable. However, considering his durability, his offensive output, and his three-point efficiency, Lopez is continuing to increase his value.
Dec 20, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets forward Anthony Bennett (13) reacts during their game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Nets 116-104. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
I wish I could say that I did not see this coming. However, that would be a lie. In four years since being drafted number one overall, Bennett has played for four teams. The Nets could very well be his last. In 23 games with Brooklyn, Bennett averaged five points, three rebounds, and half an assist per game.
The blame should not all be placed on Bennett. The only reason he receives this attention is because of his draft position. However, Bennett should not have gone number one overall. In fact, most analysts did not have him in the top five. When Cleveland selected him, the basketball world was shocked. Many did not even know who he was. If Bennett was selected number seven or nine like Ben McLemore and Trey Burke, no one would give Bennet’s ineptitude as a player a second thought.
Unfortunately, the Cavs placed the spotlight directly above his head. Now, in week 11 of the 2017 NBA season, we can officially put Bennett’s NBA career to rest. Hopefully, he can find success overseas in the same way Jimmer Fredette and Stephon Marbury have.
We can’t fairly assess Atkinson’s proficiency as a coach until he gets more talent on this roster. However, his lineup choices and minutes distribution raise eyebrows. After establishing himself as the second-best player on the Nets, Sean Kilpatrick earned his way into the starting lineup. Recently, Kilpatrick was moved back to a bench role and has received inconsistent minutes ranging from 19 minutes to 25 minutes.
Similarly, the roller coaster ride continues at point guard as Spencer Dinwiddie received the start against the Cavs over Isaiah Whitehead amidst his struggles. After an ineffective game, he was relegated back to the bench. While these are not glaring issues in a coach, they do impact a young team’s ability to grow.
When nothing was going right for Brooklyn, Kilpatrick gave fans a reason to cheer. Because of this and the lack of talent on the roster, Kilpatrick should be starting for the rest of the year unless he is injured. Furthermore, if a coach decides to bench a player, the replacement should receive more than one game to prove himself. Musical chair lineups destroy consistency and impair growth. Hopefully, as the season moves on, Atkinson addresses these issues.