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2014-15 in Review: Jerome Jordan

After bouncing around the basketball globe playing in Serbia, Slovenia, Erie, Reno, the Philippines and Italy, this season was the first in which Jerome Jordan actually looked like he possessed the tools to be an NBA player. Jordan was originally drafted by the New York Knicks as a second-rounder in 2010, but couldn’t make the team until the season after and even then failed to crack the rotation. His upside began and ended with “he’s 7’1″ with a 7’5″ wingspan.” Coordination? Nope. NBA-level skillset? Nada. Jordan fell right back off the map.

Fast forward to 2014-15, and Jordan’s back in the league as a Brooklyn Net, new and improved. It wasn’t a ginormous sample – rightfully so given Brooklyn’s depth at the five and Jordan still not quite a second-string player – but he impressed in limited minutes this season, teasing that he could be on a tangible rise. Jordan appeared in 44 games, playing 8.7 minutes a night, giving us little to work with.

Let’s start with his per-36 minute numbers, which aren’t too shabby: 13 points and 9.9 rebounds on 53.2% shooting from the field. A downside was his 1.4 blocks, a low number for such a lengthy center who should be imposing around the rim. These stats don’t offer much though, so let’s dig deeper.

Jordan was a +/- nightmare for the Nets, but his meager playing time and awkward fit in Brooklyn’s system had a lot to do with this. That awkward fit is major in trying to determine just how useful Jordan is, especially on the offensive end. His offensive game revolves around pick-and-roll crashes to the rim, probing lob finishes and offensive boards. Think DeAndre Jordan, minus the inhumane athleticism. To best excel as this type of offensive center, you need a spaced out lineup with lots of pick-and-roll action, things the Nets relied on only after the All-Star break. It almost makes it unfair then to bemoan Jordan’s low-impact offense, considering he only played in eight games following the festivities compared to 36 prior. Throw this guy in a spread pick-and-roll system and let’s see what he can do.

On the defensive end is where the biggest concerns lie. Although Jordan understood what rotations to make and when, he was often slow-footed at executing and couldn’t do much when he got there. Jordan allowed opponents to shoot 50.4% at the rim, not a bad number, but not nearly good enough for a player his size who doesn’t send away many shots. His rebounding as a whole isn’t much different. Although he was pesky on the offensive boards to the tune of collecting 15.3% of available O rebounds, Jordan managed to rein in only 52.5% of rebounds per chance according to the SportVU’s public data.

For those eager to see how Jordan develops as a third-string center on this Nets club may be shifting in their seats, as Brooklyn did not extend a qualifying offer to him. Worry not, though, for this is likely just salary cap mumbo jumbo:

The non-tender is as much bookkeeping than anything. Jordan played the season on a non-guaranteed contract (until early January, when all contracts become guaranteed), and a qualifying offer is a guaranteed offer with a cap hold of slightly over $1.1 million. The Nets could still elect to bring back Jordan following their other major free agent decisions on a minimum contract. – The Brooklyn Game

Here’s hoping the Nets keep Jordan around for what he could become, as they can use all the surprise value from cheap contracts they can get.

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2014-15 in Review: Alan Anderson

Alan Anderson only played the seventh-most minutes per game for Brooklyn in 2014-15, but he was generally effective in those minutes and found his nightly niche as a “3-and-D” swingman. Perhaps the most inconsistent aspect of his game has been his nicknames. That’s mostly been on us, the loyal viewers, but it’s bordering on ridiculous at this point: Double, A Squared, Double A Battery… We’re going to have to settle this before he either leaves the Nets or retires, one would think.

But back to Anderson’s basketball. Although he’s no more than a slightly above average player, Anderson’s steady hand was reassuring in a season of major ups and downs (mostly downs) for the Nets. Take a look at his three-point shooting, by month:

November: 37.5%

December: 38.6%

January: 27.3%

February: 38.5%

March: 36.6%

Outside of his rough January (a month in which Brooklyn as a team fell off a cliff) Anderson stroked it from deep at a decent rate year-round. He mostly thrived on catch-and-shoots and the corner three:

Shotchart_1432008102417

The three wasn’t his only offensive weapon. As made obvious by the shot chart, Anderson had a knack for getting to the rim. He put up .84 points per play in isolations, a modest number but one that may surprise folks. He has a little jab step in his repertoire that he uses to break into a strong drive straight to the cup, and he was willing to pass the rock when the offense around him was as well.

On the defensive end, it could be argued that Anderson was the Nets’ best perimeter defender, short of maybe Markel Brown. That sentence should tell you all you need to know about how poor Brooklyn’s defense was, but Anderson presence was definitely a plus. During the regular season, the Nets gave up 6.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Anderson in the contest. He’s no home run defender, with very few steals and blocks, but he understands the system and has the athleticism to be an annoyance in one-on-one situations.

These are all reasons why some believed that Anderson should have held a permanent starting spot on the squad. Anderson did start 19 games, including a 15-game stretch spanning the month of February, and his stats actually took a bump. His true-shooting clip increased from 54.8% to 59.2%, though with the same usage rate.

Speaking of stat bumps, his Playoffs performance was… unexpected, to say the least. Anderson came off the bench to hit 10 of his 16 three-point attempts (62.5%) and do a solid job chasing Kyle Korver around the court against the No. 1 seed Hawks. It seemed every shot Anderson put up was going through the rim, and he was major in Brooklyn securing two wins in what looked like a hopeless series.

As for Anderson’s future with the Nets, it seems unclear. He has a player option to remain in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season worth $1.3 million. There’s no telling which way he’s leaning, with the chance at securing bigger deal this summer or waiting until the cap explodes in the summer of 2016 to shoot for an even greater payout. Anderson’s definitely a player Brooklyn wants to try and keep, for no matter how rocky the path ahead is, Anderson is able to steady the ship in his limited role.

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2014-15 in Review: Earl Clark

The key to the Brooklyn Nets’ playoff push to end their 2014-15 season was clearly Earl Clark all along. Since signing a ten-day contract on March 27th – two days after Thaddeus Young hyper-extended his left knee against the Charlotte Hornets - the Nets won eight of their remaining 12 games and prolonged their season another couple of weeks by claiming the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. Clark appeared in just 93 minutes across 10 regular season games, but the Brooklyn offense jumped to the seventh-best in the league once he joined the team. Since correlation obviously indicates causation, we have no choice but to attribute the offensive boost soley to Clark’s presence.

Earl Clark’s impact was less tangible on the court, at least from his traditional statistics and on-/off-court numbers. Hampered by the limited playing time, he averaged 2.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game on 43.8/28.6/25 triple-slash shooting percentages (on two-point field goals, threes, and free throws), which look a little better translated per 36 minutes, with 10.5 points, 8.9 boards, 1.5 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game. In his 106 minutes on the court (including the regular season and playoffs), the Nets were outscored 193-231, and the team shot 6.5 percentage points better overall with Earl Clark off the court but over six points better from three with him on the floor, per NBA Wowy.

Earl Clark's 2014-15 shot cart, courtesy of NBA.com

Earl Clark’s 2014-15 shot cart, courtesy of NBA.com/stats

Clark wouldn’t exactly get his opportunity to showcase his skills in the playoffs. His most substantial showing was his 1/6 shooting performance over eight minutes in Game 1 in Atlanta, where he made a three-pointer, collected a rebound and a steal, and finished with a single-game plus-minus of -10 in a 92-99 loss. Clark would play again in the closing minutes of a deciding Game 6, bringing his postseason totals to 13 minutes, six points (on 2/10 field goals and 2/3 from three), two rebounds, and a steal.

Given Earl Clark’s pedigree and positional versatility, and the Nets’ needs in the frontcourt after the Young injury, his signing to a ten-day contract was a nice buy-low audition. Young’s knee injury resulted in a minor absence from the starting lineup, which head coach Lionel Hollins countered by promoting Mason Plumlee to the starting power forward position alongside Brook Lopez. Hollins experimented with some small-ball lineups all season but lacked a true backup power forward once Mirza Teletovic was ruled inactive in January, while Clark put up big numbers with stops in the NBA Developmental League and in China. Of Clark’s 106 minutes with Brooklyn, 94% came at (backup) power forward, by Basketball-Reference’s numbers, with the other 6% at center.

Earl Clark’s ability to play either big man position results in plenty of open jumpers and gives the offense a spacing and pick-and-pop option. Not a natural three-point shooter early in his career, Clark increased his output in his last two seasons, taking 46.7% of his nearly 300 shot attempts from beyond the arc. He connected on 33.6% of his 122 three-point shots last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks and 4/14 (28.6%) with the Nets, and is much more comfortable spotting up than slashing to the basket or playing in the post (just 38 free throw attempts over the last two seasons).

It’s tough to draw too much significance into Clark’s 2014-15 stats, considering the extremely small sample size. Perhaps his upward trend in defensive rebounding rate (to 26.5% of rebounding opportunities last season) is sustainable, as he ages and adds muscle to his 6’10” frame. He’ll need to continue to work on his jumper at the NBA level after suffering a 4-point drop in true shooting percentage in each of the last three seasons, and he’ll enter his age-28 season on a partially-guaranteed contract.

According to Basketball Insider’s Eric Pincus, the second year of Earl Clark’s contract includes a guarantee of $200,000 if he remains on the roster past October 26th, and a $1.185 million salary if he lasts the season. The fact that Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King included a non-guaranteed second year on the deal could represent an interest in developing the New Jersey native over an offseason at the cost of the NBA minimum, or he could see Clark as a potential trade attachment in a larger deal and to a team that needs to trim cap space. More likely is that Clark ends up waived or traded (and then waived) before he even sees that $200k check.

The Nets could upgrade the backup power forward position through free agency or with some in-house, younger options. Clark’s signing to his first ten day was a necessity with the Nets down to just one healthy power forward at the time (rookie Cory Jefferson), and gave Lionel Hollins a more experienced option who could help on the glass and stretch the floor a bit. The flip side is that it gave Hollins a more experienced option, who helped to steal playing time away from fan favorites Jerome “Preseason Kareem” Jordan and plus-minus prodigy Cory Jefferson.

That’s not to say that the inexperienced Jefferson could have raised the Nets’ playoff ceiling, either, but his particular brand of bouncy, kinetic energy and desire to dunk all over his opponents were qualities that Earl Clark couldn’t replicate. Though he’s a solid mid-range shooter thus far into his career (51.9% from 10-16 feet), Jefferson is unable to open up the court all the way to the three-point line like Clark can (2/15 from three in his rookie season) and would have probably driven his head coach crazy with his defensive lapses over extended minutes.

Once Clark joined the team on March 27th, Cory Jefferson played 8.1 minutes per game in six games down the stretch, which was down about three minutes a game from before the signing. He’ll have every opportunity to prove himself in training camp as he works to gain Lionel Hollins’s trust and minutes in the big man rotation, and to possibly make Earl Clark expendable.

Whether it’s with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015-16 or for another NBA organization, Clark will have to continue fighting for opportunities, minutes, and another guaranteed contract. His catch-and-shoot skills could make him an effective role player in today’s NBA, given a more consistent three-point stroke, and particularly if his rebounding continues to improve. It’ll be a summer (and training camp) spent sweating out his contract status with the Brooklyn Nets, but Earl Clark has been no stranger to the transitory nature of professional basketball in playing for six NBA teams in six seasons, and should have no problem fielding job offers both domestic and internationally, if not with the Nets, next season.

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2014-15 In Review: Mason Plumlee

It was a bizarre season for the former Duke Blue Devil.  After a rookie year where he outperformed expectations and played a big part in the Nets’ emergence as a legitimate playoff team, the hopes were high for an even better sophomore campaign. He miraculously survived the wrath of Demarcus Cousins during the FIBA World Cup and seemed primed for a breakout season after winning a gold medal with that talented squad.

plum gold medal

 

While he showed sporadic flashes of brilliance this season, Plumlee failed to make a steady impact. His season was mired with inconsistency; benched for Jerome Jordan one game, ready to be the successor to Brook Lopez the next.

His athletic ability continued to be tantalizing. With his 36 inch vertical and impressive foot speed, there are few shots that he can’t contest and fewer lob passes that he can’t reign in. Right now, though, Plumlee is the owner of a Bugatti Super Sport, but has never driven a car.

On offense he would often make a spectacular pirouetting move towards the basket, only to end his heroic effort with a turnover or a poor shot. On the few occasions where his athleticism blended seamlessly with his skill, Plumlee was able to make plays that few bigs in the NBA can make; such as this Horford-esque pass-on-the-move and this spin-move into a dunk that would have Tommy Heinsohn paralleling him with Dwight Howard.

Mason’s shot is an even larger area of concern within his offensive game. He shot below 50 percent from the free throw line, making him a prime candidate for “Hack-a” – if it isn’t abolished in the offseason. He also has zero confidence in a mid-range jumper, as he attempted just 2 percent of his shots outside of 10 feet, connecting on only 16% of them.

On defense Plumlee’s largest issue seemed to be with his positioning. Often times he would find himself a few steps from where he should be, which led to him committing 4.3 fouls per 36 minutes during the regular season and over 7 fouls per 36 minutes in the playoffs. Mason lacks the elite wingspan of the NBA’s premier rim protectors but is still able to make spectacular plays on the ball thanks to the springs in his feet. Gaining an eye for noticing popular NBA sets and having a better understanding for defensive schemes will hopefully allow plays like this one to become more commonplace.

 

The Good?

-14.6 points, 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes

-12 double-doubles

-Top-20 in offensive rebound percentage (11.3%) and just outside the top-20 in total rebound percentage (16.5%)

-Chosen to participate in the All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest and Rising Stars Challenge

The Bad?

 -Large drop-off in true shooting percentage from his rookie to sophomore season (.670 to .570)

-High foul rate (4.3/36 mins.)

-Free throw percentage of just 49.5% (Ewwwwww)

-98% of shots came from within 10 feet

-Struggled to play alongside Brook Lopez, as the team had a net rating of -13.7 when the two shared the court

The Verdict?

Mason has boatloads of talent. He can compete athletically with almost any big-man in the league. But he also has a ton of room for improvement. Adding strength, developing a go-to post move, mastering defensive schemes and improving his shooting mechanics are all areas for Plumlee to focus on before next season.

The Nets have a big decision to make this offseason. If Brook Lopez declines his player option, will the Nets keep their starting center around? If not, do they pursue another starter, or will they roll with an in-house option in Plumlee? If Mason dedicates himself to his craft and spends hours in the film room, he can make the decision easier for the Nets. His cap hit is significantly less than Lopez’s would be and he has proven his durability, playing in all 82 games this past season. A giant third-year leap should be an aspiration for the gangly, energetic Plumlee; can he do what it takes to make it a reality?

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2014-15 in Review: Bojan Bogdanovic

Like most rookies, Bojan Bogdanovic had an extremely up-and-down first season in the NBA. Things started off promising as he was named the Nets starter to begin the year. After starting the first 19 games of the season and playing 30 minutes a game Bojan was demoted to the bench. He spent the next 16 games coming off the pine and only playing 11.5 minutes a game, a low point in the season for the neophyte. His rotation spot solidified after that, his minutes increasing to 20-25 a game, though mostly coming off the bench unless injuries gave him a rare start.

Bogdanovic ended the season on a high note, coming through as the Nets made their playoff push. In 28 MPG over nine regular season games in April, he averaged 14.4 PPG, his best monthly rate by a wide margin of 25.6 points per 100 possessions. Bojan shot a staggering 48.8% from three over this stretch, indicating he may have been more lucky than good.

Bojan had some interesting statistical splits on the season. Most noticeably, he shot way better at home than on the road. He shot better from the field, 48.3% vs. 41.2%, better from the free throw line, 86.3% vs. 78.2% and from 3-point range, 38.3% vs. 31.4%. It’s often easy, and many times wise to brush game splits off as more chance than anything, but in this case it seems like the difference might not just be variance. Bojan’s number of attempts was almost exactly equal in all three areas, but his effectiveness was drastically different. As a rookie adjusting to the NBA, Bogdanovic probably felt more comfortable at home, making his future slightly brighter considering he should, in theory, be able to improve in opposing arenas.

In the playoffs Bojan’s role shifted; after game 1 he was inserted into the starting lineup for the remainder of the series. He played great in the Nets two wins, shooting 46% from three and scoring 19 and 15 points in those games. Things were not so rosy the rest of the series. In losses Bojan shot 25% from three, and was worse in almost every single statistical category. Bojan’s playoff performance was still a positive on the whole. He started in a series against a good Hawks team and held his own on the court, earning the minutes he got.

Looking back on Bojan’s season we see an interesting player. His role on the team was essentially that of a spot-up shooter, and he wasn’t asked to create for himself. These 3-and-D players can be very valuable in today’s NBA, but Bojan struggled to be consistently impactful as one in his first season.

Any single one number metric obviously has its flaws, but if all available metrics paint the same picture it’s likely to be close to the truth. In Bojan’s case he was below-average to very bad in just about every all encompassing metric. Bojan was bad in terms of RPM, PER, WS/48, and BPM. Bojan was a rookie so expecting him to have been a very positive player would’ve been unrealistic, but it still would be nice to see him perform better. One cause for optimism is that his play did tick up towards the end of the season. He was more confident taking and making shots from both inside and outside the arc.

Offense:

Bojan isn’t and was not a bad offensive player, he just isn’t a good one either. Yet. Bojan doesn’t have the athleticism or ball-handling to really be a creator for himself or others, but at times he can make things happen. The biggest and most obvious thing for Bojan is his shooting. On the year he shot a solid 35.5% from three, but if he wants to really draw defensive attention to himself he’s going to need to improve to a 38-40% clip. Bojan has a high and quick release that is hard to stop when he shoots it with confidence, and going forward he shouldn’t be afraid to shoot the ball whenever he has the opportunity.

The other area in which Bojan is already very successful is as a cutter. Bojan has great timing and instincts as a cutter and was first among all non-front court Nets in points off cuts according to synergy. Even without strong creation skills the combination of good shooting and almost elite cutting can make for a very useful offensive player. Bojan isn’t great at it yet, but as he continues to improve attacking closeouts he will only become more effective. Becoming a more consistent and efficient shooter will be important for his career, but the real questions lie on the defensive end.

Defense:

By all accounts Bojan was a poor defensive player this year. Despite his great instincts cutting on offense he was really poor for most of the year at keeping track of players off the ball. In isolation situations Bojan often played on his heels, and against high-level wing scorers he was torn apart. Bojan was also poor closing out on shooters as he doesn’t have great length to contest shots and also possesses poor quickness recovering. Across the board Bojan lacks positives on the defensive end. He does a decent job navigating on-ball screens, but he’s subpar to bad in almost every other area.

The numbers back this up. According to synergy, Bojan gave up the second-most points of any Nets player in isolation, ranking in the 27th percentile on a per possession basis. Bojan’s defensive rating of 107.9 was the worst of any Nets rotation player. There is a lot of noise to DRTG, but Bojan being worst among the Nets is a pretty obvious sign he was hurting the Nets on the defensive end. Bojan can improve on the defensive end. He’s got a big frame that if he adds strength to will help him even more in screen-and-roll situations and help him in isolation. He also will just naturally get better with time. Picking up the speed and rotations of NBA basketball isn’t easy, and though Bojan might never be even average on the defensive end, he will almost certainly improve.

Next Year:

Bojan is one of the few young Nets, meaning he is likely to be a part of the team’s future. As he gets more comfortable at the NBA level he will inevitably improve on both ends of the court. If he can become a more consistent threat from 3-point range and bump up his defense he can be a valuable rotation piece for Brooklyn. It was fun watching him gain confidence over the course of the year, and he might be able to add to the little bit of off-the-bounce creation he flashed towards the end of the season.  Until next year, Prince William Bogdanovic.

PicMonkey Collage-2

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2014-2015 In Review: Sergey Karasev

Sergey Karasev. Former teenage Russian sensation. First round pick. Womanizer?

There was a clear hype that surrounded the young southpaw when he was drafted 19th overall by the Cavs in 2013. As a Northeast Ohioan I can attest to this. The Karasev jerseys outnumbered the Bennett ones on the streets of Cleveland, despite Big Daddy Canada being the #1 overall pick. Sergey’s European descent and left-handed craftiness were enough for fans to envision him as the Manu Ginobili to Kyrie Irving’s Tony Parker.

But all the hype quickly faded. After a season in Cleveland where he looked more like the next Yaroslav Korolev than the next Ginobili, Sergey was shipped to Brooklyn as the Cavs cleared cap space for the return of the King. The 30 point EuroBasket outbursts and Ginobili comparisons seemed like a distant memory.

The move to Brooklyn offered the opportunity at a clean slate. Sergey could be a breath of young, fresh air on a team that had quite possibly lead the league in cortisone shots and MRI’s. However, in a twisted turn of events, Karasev would be the one needing an MRI, ultimately seeing his season end after just 33 appearances due to a dislocated kneecap and torn MCL.

What most stood out about Sergey’s first season in Brooklyn?

His stretch of 16 starts from early December through the beginning of January comes to mind. During that period he averaged about 10 points. per 36 minutes with a true shooting percentage of 51. While these aren’t exactly Ginobilian numbers, Karasev showed that he’s an NBA-worthy player.

His play during that stretch led me to compare him to Mike Miller. While this comparison may be a bit of a stretch, the young Russian demonstrated many of the tools that have allowed Miller to last 14 seasons in the league; shooting, instincts and secondary playmaking ability.

Sergey has a pure shooting stroke, a southpaw hoist so buttery that it makes me regret ever learning to shoot right-handed. He shot below 30 percent on 3-pointers for the season, but his shooting mechanics are flawless and he will only improve as he builds strength, confidence, and an acclimation to the NBA’s further-out arc.

He also has proven to have a legitimate basketball intellect. Karasev lacks the type of quickness and fast-twitch ability that characterizes elite NBA wings, but he uses smarts, timing and length to make up for it. This materializes on offense often in his ability to sink off-ball to open spots on the court. This can create spacing and/or a passing lane that his teams’ primary ball-handlers can capitalize on. Additionally he has shown a propensity for making backdoor cuts, becoming a needed outlet on offense when sets become stagnant. Along with his off-ball prowess, Sergey possesses a bit of European playmaking flair. He doesn’t have the quickest first step or the tightest handle, but his vision and creativity allow him to occasionally set his teammates up for a score.

While Sergey was mostly ordinary on the court, he was Chamberlain-esque off the court. Before an early season matchup with the Heat, New York Post’s “Page Six” reported that Sergey was spotted returning to his hotel at 5 a.m. accompanied by a trio of “hot, busty, strippers”. That’s a direct quote. He may as well borrow the words of fellow countryman Mikhail Prokhorov: “Frankly speaking, I like women”.

SergeyWomanizer

SergeyWilt

 

All jokes aside, Karasev is still just 21 years old. He has demonstrated traits that are sought after in today’s NBA and he is under team control for 3 more seasons at an affordable rate. Assuming he fully heals from his injuries, the Nets need to continue to let him develop in hope that he can become a significant part of their future.

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2014-2015 In Review: Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson was considered a star just three seasons ago when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets from the Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately for the Nets and Johnson, the seven time all-star has faded into a $23 million dollar role player.

Johnson had a solid year, but once again did not live up to his contract. The slip has been quick from star to role player and a little painful to watch. His usage percentage dipped to 20.3 percent this season, which was his lowest since 2004-2005. The former number one scoring option only averaged 14.4 points in the 2014-2015 season, his lowest mark since the 2002-2003 season. The Johnson that could command a double team and change a game with his scoring is fleeting.

He saw the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows throughout the season. The highs being the occasional 20 point scoring outburst and helping win the Nets a few games in a row. The lows were scoring in the single digits 21 times in 80 games and disappearing from the picture for stretches.

The usual sharpshooting Johnson struggled from behind the arc this season as his percentage slipped from 40 percent to 36 percent. The Nets could have used a more consistent shooting Johnson after the decline of Deron Williams and injury of Mirza Teletovic. Nets like Brook Lopez could have used the additional spacing.

Johnson did find success inside the arc with his 44 percent shooting, though. His post game was lethal when used against smaller guards and he found success around the rim against less athletic bigs. Lionel Hollins had success playing Johnson at the four at times. Johnson’s post savvy and quick moves around the basket were able to bolster the Nets offense when it bogged down.

The Nets’ team defense was up and down all season and Johnson was not a bright spot on that end of the floor. His 110 defensive rating was the second worst of any Net in Hollins’ inconsistent rotation. He frequently found himself out of position or killed by a quicker player.

Johnson’s playoff performance wasn’t much more consistent in the postseason. The Nets surprised many people by pushing the number one seeded Hawks to 6 games. Johnson wasn’t an efficient impact guy though, averaging 16.5 points per game on 36 percent shooting and 29 percent from 3 point range.

Johnson even saw his name in trade rumors during the regular season. The Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets were the teams rumored to be vying for Johnson’s services.

“It’s true. My name is out there,” Johnson said in February.

The Nets ultimately decided to keep Johnson, but it is unclear if he will be around after the 2014-2015 season. Johnson has potential to be a nice addition for a contending team that needs an aging perimeter player if the Nets do in fact move away from him.

It was a long season for Joe Johnson as he fell under the weight of his big contract and expectations. If he had another contract Johnson’s season would be looked at much differently.

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2014-15 in Review: Jarrett Jack

It was a dark and stormy night – not too much different than tonight – that my whole world changed… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was once the hottest detective in this town. You had a problem: missing money, cheating dame, whatever, you came to me and I found your answers. Then came the case I couldn’t solve, the one that wasn’t even mine… I just got caught in the middle. Wrong place at the wrong time is how the phrase goes.

It starts as all my stories do these days, with me walking out of one of my favorite watering holes deep in that part of the city where people go when they don’t want to be found. I turned down an alley and saw the body. It was the Brooklyn Nets 2014-15 season… dead. The thing I remember most about that moment was how peaceful it looked lying there. Despite being broken and battered, it looked like it was almost glad that it was just over.

For days I tried to forget about that dead season, but it just kept popping up. I knew then that I couldn’t rest until I solved it… who killed the Brooklyn Nets 2014-15 season?

I started digging into the usual suspects, the overpaid superstars, the disruptive locker room whiner, but they just didn’t feel right. That’s when I got the call. I still don’t know who it was, all I know was that it was a whispered voice in the night from something called a “blog.” I pressed my ear to the receiver… ”Jarrett Jack” breathed the voice, “look at Jarrett Jack.”

I started digging through any records of this Jack that I could find. Turns out this guy was a major player, in fact he played the second most minutes on the Nets this season. He also seemed to be a likely suspect since he averaged the most turnovers per-36 minutes (3.1) among regular players and had the worst plus/minus (-5.1). There are two sides to every story though, I just needed to find the other side of Jarrett Jack’s.

Once you start poking around town, asking questions like the ones I’m asking, you get a little attention. A few days after I started looking at Jack, I got a visit someone who was eager to defend him. Said he was a steady hand who shot 43.9% from the field, scored 15.4 points, and averaged six assists per-36. This tall, gruff figure also told me that Jack’s numbers got better in the fourth quarter, going up to 48.9% shooting and averaging 17.7 points per-36 fourth quarter minutes. I never did get the fellow’s real name, but he let me call him by his alias: Hionel Lollins… guy was adamant that Jack was one of the good ones.

Sure those numbers are fine, but Jarrett Jack still shoots an upsetting 26.7% from 3-point territory. I also later found out that those fourth quarter numbers were offset a bit by Jack’s lower assist numbers in the fourth. Let’s just say I wasn’t convinced of his innocence in this crime, so I started looking elsewhere for clues. They say you can get the measure of a man by how well he plays with others, so I went looking for some others.

What I found was an expert, a man who knew the environment where Jack worked. He told me that net rating is a way to measure how many points a fella or group of fellas scores versus the amount they’re giving up. What he shared with me was that, of all the two-man combinations with the worst net rating (that played 500 minutes or more together), the worst four, and six of the worst seven all had Jarrett Jack in them.

The stinker of the lot was when Jack and Deron Williams teamed up together, where they managed to give up 107.6 points per 100 possessions while only scoring 97.3. In fact, if Jack played with Deron, Mason Plumlee, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, or Alan Anderson they didn’t hit 100.

This expert also told me about usage, the percentage of a team’s plays used by a player, where Jarrett Jack and his meager output had the second highest usage of the regulars (22.5%), behind only Brook Lopez (26.2%). That was it, this expert convinced me… Jarrett Jack killed the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets.

And this is where the story turns on its head, and mine. I took my findings to the police, but the sergeant threatened to arrest me! He said I was just stirring up trouble and the Brooklyn Nets season was just fine. I did manage to grift a little something from his pocket though as he tossed my unceremoniously from the building… a Russian ruble… odd thing for a policeman to have.

I tried to reach back out to my expert, but he was gone, as was my office. Gone. Just like that. It was all taken away on the back of a jet ski and all that was left was a note reading “you’re done detecting in this town, don’t let the screen door hit you where the good lord split you.”

Me? I’m still here, just a little drunker and a little more bitter. I’m starting to get over seeing the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets just laying there, but I’ll never forget.

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2014-15 in Review: Markel Brown

Markel Brown was one of my favorite Nets players to watch this season. Yes, really. I know there were better players who had better moments and better games, but I stand by my statement. I enjoyed watching Brown every time he played, mostly because of what his presence represented.

Brooklyn has some legitimately top NBA talent, and that is undeniable. The reasons why that talent hasn’t melded into a top NBA team is debatable, but the talent’s there. What doesn’t really exist is talent for the future. The short reason is because their stars are aging and they have no draft picks, but that’s a topic for another post… this is about Markel Brown.

Markel, along with fellow rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, represents the bridge that can span from this disappointing team across the river of sadness and onto the other side. What is on the other side of the stream that is littered with bad contracts? I don’t know, but we’ve got to get there one way or another. As we cross the bridge, times will get tough as we ride out the massive monetary missives sent to Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and Markel Brown is one of the players we can look for to pull us across.

So this leads to some very important questions: is Markel Brown good? Not quite. Will he be good? I think so, but I’m honestly not sure. Let’s look at some numbers and try to flesh this out a bit.

The rookie only appeared in 47 games, although 25 of them were in March and April, so coach Lionel Hollins seemed to gain trust in him as the season went along.  Another indicator of that increased trust is that Brown only averaged 5.6 minutes per game before the All Star break, but 22.9 minutes after it. The result of this faith were some pretty solid numbers (cough, for a rookie, cough). When calculated on a per-36 minute basis, Markel averaged 10 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals.

Sure, he shot a meagre 36.2% from the field and an almost embarrassing 26.6% from 3-point range, but shooting isn’t important for a guard and… oh, I can’t keep that up. Yes, Brown needs to get those percentages up, especially from behind the 3-point line, but his form looks malleable, so it’s possible. The fact that he also shot better this year while being closely guarded (with a 47.3 eFG% — up from 40.2% overall), opens up the possibility that he may just simply overthink the easy ones. Brown would hardly be the first rookie to experience that.

While Markel Brown’s offensive numbers are generally quantifiable, his defensive output is harder to pinpoint. To my viewing eye, Brown is active, aware, and athletic. He fights well through screens, commits hard on help defense, and rotates smartly. However, that doesn’t translate into the team defensive numbers, which are all pretty similar whether he’s on or off the court. In fact, players he’s guarding tend to shoot a better percentage when Markel is playing them than they normally would.

My instinct is to abandon the numbers, call everyone a stat geek, and claim that the “eye test” is the be-all-end-all. As much as I’d love to do that, what I think actually happened is that the overall defensive rotation of the Nets ranges from pathetic to mediocre. I think that Markel spends so much time chasing down blown rotations and recovering from missed switches that he’s rarely playing on-ball defense. That may just be me projecting my wishes on the situation, but I’ve thought Brown has been an average-to-plus defender this season. As he adjusts to the speed and athleticism of the game, he should be consistently above-average.

So where does that leave us on the bridge to the future? Unless some magic can be worked out, the Nets are unlikely to be much better within the next two years and the lack of draft picks means they have to dip into the free agent market once their salary cap does finally clear. Markel Brown is one of the few players that can be developed so he’s ready for those free agents to come in.

What Markel’s ceiling is can be a tricky question. My guess is that his best-case scenario is that he turns into a decent point guard. In fact, his rookie per-36 numbers are almost identical to Detroit’s Reggie Jackson (although Reggie, believe it or not, was a worse shooter), which is an apt comparison to Brown. There is also a chance, if Markel’s shot and defense both improve a little, that he can be a 3-and-D player that is desired by every team that doesn’t have one.

I know that much of this is speculative, but speculation guards us from the reality that is a rushing river containing 20+ million dollar contracts for underperforming players and draft picks that are continuously being fished out by competitors. Our only hope is that the land on the other side of the river contains some smart personnel decisions and some good young players. If it’s done correctly, one of those players will be Markel Brown.

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2014-15 in Review: Deron Williams

Coming off career lows in playoff shooting percentage, minutes played and assists, Deron Williams finished the 2015 campaign on a low. The lackluster ending to his worst season as a professional was made even worse when his head coach publicly admitted that Williams is not the player he once was.

“He’s not a franchise player anymore,” Lionel Hollins told ESPN a day after the Nets were eliminated. “He’s a good player, he’s a solid player, but I don’t think he’s a franchise player anymore. That’s just my opinion. He’s a good player. I’m proud of the way he’s bounced back and played, and there’s so much pressure on him to be a franchise player, and everybody talks about a franchise player, but we need to have a franchise team.”

Hollins has usually defended the point guard since he arrived in Brooklyn, but the same could not be said of his former teammate, Paul Pierce. The Washington forward told ESPN that Williams hasn’t handled the national spotlight well and stopped looking like the point guard that dominated in Utah.

“Before I got there I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate. But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that,” Pierce said in April.

The strong words from a former teammate and current head coach confirms what the stats have been showing since Williams was traded to Brooklyn in 2011. While his production declines, the payment on his contract only increases, despite the fact that he’s already the 10th highest paid player in the league.

Shotchart_1431118453796

Williams’ shot chart from the regular season

Despite a regular season where he recorded the worst field goal percentage of his career, Williams made $19.7 million this year and that’s slated to increase to around $21 million in 2015-16. The good news for the Nets is that he becomes increasingly trade-able when his contract reaches its final year.

Defensively, Williams has shown signs of aging when closing out on shooters. Opponents are shooting 45 percent from the field on baskets guarded by Williams, which is a slight decline from last season.

The silver linings are there for Williams, who will soon turn 31. He has shown that he isn’t the 20-point scorer from earlier in his career. However, there’s a possibility that his game can stabilize next year.

His assist-to-turnover ratio during the regular season was the highest that it’s been since 2010, the same year that he was voted as the best point guard in the league by GM’s. Yet his offensive success may be rediscovered by being in fewer ball handling situations or better embracing his role as a passer.

In a season that saw his usage go up from 2013, Williams made the lowest percentage of the team’s field goals in his career. Fortunately, he also attempted the lowest percentage of the team’s attempts in his career, meaning that efficiency is possible if Williams changes where and when he gets his shots.

If the Nets were able to add another pass-heavy ball handler in the offseason, Williams can buck the trend of pullup jump shots that marred his percentages in Brooklyn. Last season, he had the second-highest amount of unassisted field goals of his career. In his impressive 2010 season, Williams made just 53 percent of his field goals in the same situation compared to 62 percent this season.

Like most aging players, increasing the spot-up situations for Williams could prove beneficial for his scoring. But having another player to run the offense at times would help Williams to define his role easier while on the court.

While handling the ball, Williams decreased his turnover rate this season, but began to struggle when pick-and-rolls ended in unassisted jump shots. His highest frequency of shot type this season was pull-up jumpers, and he boasted just a 36 eFG% on those shots. On the other hand, he shot his highest effective field goal percentage (61.8%) in catch and shoot situations.

It’s hard to look at William’s production during his time with the Nets and think that brighter days are ahead for the aging point guard. Yet if the Nets, and Williams, can accept his status as a “solid player” instead of a franchise cornerstone he can find a more beneficial role. Who the front office decides to bring in to bolster the backcourt this offseason could decide whether his production continues to decline or if he can redefine his playstyle on his way to a bounce back year.