Brooklyn Nets: Week Four Stars and Slackers

Nov 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) loses the ball while guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For the Brooklyn Nets, the slide to the bottom of the NBA continues. After extending their losing streak to four games, the Nets have no answers and no hope. On the surface, losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers are expected. However, in actuality, these were winnable games.

After a strong start, the Blazers and the Thunder are both falling fast. The Thunder started their season with a 6-1 record. Since then, they have gone 2-6. Similarly, the Blazers started their season off at 7-4. Since then, they have managed just one win in their last four games. For both teams, the Brooklyn Nets acted as a bandage to stop the theoretical bleeding, even if only temporarily.

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While Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard are premier players in the NBA, their teams are clearly searching for answers. The Brooklyn Nets missed a great opportunity to pick up wins against two struggling teams. Victories against Portland and OKC would have been great for morale and the fans, considering the pedigree on paper.

Instead, the Nets continue to be who we thought they were. In week five, the Nets will face off against two more struggling teams in the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings. Hopefully, outside of a few bright spots, the past behavior of week four does not indicate the future results of week five.

Nov 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) drives to the basket agaist Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Stars

Brook Lopez

I am already dreaming about the trade deadline.  Brook Lopez is performing in such a way that there will certainly be suitors.  We know Lopez will never be a great defender and rebounder.  However, his season average of 21 points per game and five rebounds per game are easy to sell.  Although the Nets continue their slide back to the bottom of the NBA, Lopez’s play has not followed the trend.

In the fourth week of the season, Lopez produced against some solid competition.  Squaring off against an extremely strong defender in Steven Adams, Lopez dropped 22 points and four rebounds.  Furthermore, he did so on only 16 shots.  He followed this up with a strong performance against the young and athletic frontcourt of the Portland Trail Blazers.

With Jeremy Lin sidelined with an injury, Lopez has stepped in as the primary bright spot for the Brooklyn Nets.  After losing four straight games, and five of the last six, Lopez producing is the only hope for Brooklyn this season.  Hopefully, the Nets can turn the production of Brook Lopez into more victories.

Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett, is that you playa?! Yes it is!  Early on this season, I roasted Bennett for his inability to earn playing time on a team with a subpar roster.  Bennett finally earned himself some minutes and he did not disappoint.  In 21 minutes against the Thunder, Bennett logged 12 points on eight shots to go with three rebounds and no turnovers.  In a follow-up performance, Bennett only logged six minutes.  However, in just six minutes, Bennett was able to drop five points and four rebounds while being a plus three on the court.

This is not the beginning of a Hall-of-Fame career.  However, this could be the beginning of an actual career.  Although our hopes should be minimal, it is refreshing to see Bennett play and produce.  While we do not want to get ahead of ourselves, if Bennett can continue playing efficiently, we can hope that he can develop into a solid producer at the end of the Nets’ bench.

In looking at most teams in the NBA, there are typically eight to ten solid rotation players.  The great teams will have spot contributors from 10 to 13.  If Bennett can turn into a spot contributor, everyone wins.  This last week was a glimmer of hope for an otherwise underwhelming career.

Nov 14, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Chris McCullough (1) saves the ball from going out of bounds against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Slackers

Chris McCullough‘s Upside

Prior to the season, Chris McCullough was an intriguing prospect.  At just 21 years old, McCullough was one of the Nets’ young developmental projects.  After showing glimpses of talent his rookie year, many fans expected McCullough to develop into a rotation player and battle for the starting power forward spot.  That has not happened.  Many are asking why McCullough is not seeing more playing time.  Considering the Nets’ record and alternate options, the answer is elusive.

McCullough is an outstanding and smooth athlete with a great wingspan who has the ability to run the floor. Furthermore, coming into the NBA, McCullough had the offensive tools to develop into a consistent contributor.  His solid shooting mechanics, reliable hands, and polished footwork gave reasons for hope in his potential.

Instead, after playing four minutes against the Thunder and a coaches DNP against the Blazers, McCullough finds himself ready to hit the D-League.  In fact, there will be days when McCullough will play in the D-League and NBA on the same day.  It is safe to assume that if McCullough cannot crack the lineup when fresh, he will not crack the lineup on a same-day back-to-back.

Randy Foye‘s Veteran Presence

One of the bright spots for the Nets’ offseason was their addition of veteran talent.  With the acquisition of Greivis Vasquez and Randy Foye, Jeremy Lin was supposed to have a solid backup for spot minutes.  However, a solid backup should also have the capability to step in, in case of injury.

Foye has carved himself out a nice career.  The 10-year veteran is on his seventh team, therefore it is unfair to expect much.  However, it is fair to expect Foye to contribute more than he has.

In spot minutes with the Thunder last season, Foye demonstrated that he still had some game left in the tank.  The hope is that given his experience and talent, Foye would show up every three games to contribute in an above average fashion.  Foye has yet to do so.  While a veteran presence in the locker room is important, a veteran presence on the court, especially when injuries occur is critical.  Unfortunately, Foye has proven that he is nothing more than a player to round out the roster.

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