Trending in Brooklyn

Trending in Brooklyn: Mason Plumlee is a Light in This Horrible Darkness

Currently trending in Brooklyn: The Nets stink.

Let’s talk about it.

It Was All Good Just Two Weeks Ago

In this very same column a couple of weeks ago I started off talking about how things were looking up for the Nets, who were fresh off of a huge win in Chicago and on a nice little 5-2 stretch. Brooklyn followed up with a narrow two-point win in Orlando to get the team’s record back up to .500, and everything’s been a horrible dumpster fire since.

The Nets are currently on a seven-game skid, bringing their record in 2015 to 1-7, including home losses to the lowly Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. The lackluster stretch has seen Deron Williams miss time with a broken rib and Kevin Garnett ejected from one game and suspended for another after head-butting the Rockets’ Dwight Howard.

It hasn’t been entirely as bad as it seems for Brooklyn. The Celtics and 76ers losses were bad, but the Nets have played a relatively difficult schedule so far in January that’s included three games against Western Conference playoff teams and road contests at up-and-coming Detroit and the #Hassanity Miami Heat.

Brooklyn’s defense has held true throughout the month, but the team’s offense has trailed off, with the Nets’ offensive rating plummeting to 94.6, a number that would rank 29th in the league over the full season.

Brook Lopez and Deron Williams Really Need to be Good

Just about every rotation-level NBA player has better stats in wins than in losses. It makes sense. When you play well, there’s a greater chance that your team will win, and in Brook Lopez’s case, this is especially true.

Screenshot 2015-01-15 22.32.33

Click to enlarge. Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference

Look at the offensive rating and defensive rating in particular. In wins the Nets score an insane 117 points per 100 possessions with Lopez on the floor, compared to only 92 in losses. For perspective, that’s the difference between having by far the best offense in the league to having the second-worst. Factor in the upgrade in defense, the Nets out-score opponents by about 10 points per 100 possessions with Lopez on the floor in wins, and in losses are out-scored by 13.9 points! That’s massive.

There’s an even larger differential for Deron Williams.

Click to enlarge. Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference

When Williams and Lopez are on their game the Nets can be a scary… err, a decently good team, and they’re going to need to play well if Brooklyn plans on staying in the Eastern Conference playoff picture that they’re quickly sliding out of. That is, assuming Lopez doesn’t get traded by then.

Mason Plumlee Came Here to Make Shots and Chew Bubblegum… and He’s All Out of Bubblegum

Plumlee shot an impressive 66 percent from the field in his rookie season by playing to his strengths (so dunks, basically) and not stepping outside of his comfort zone. His shot selection hasn’t changed too much in his sophomore campaign, but he got off to a really rough start, shooting 39 percent in November. That percentage has slowly been working its way back up since, and he’s exploded as of late.

In the month of January he’s converted his field goal attempts at a 71 percent clip, including a 9-10 shooting effort in Orlando and a 10-11 game against the Houston Rockets. Predictably this has been because of dunks, dunks, dunks… and more dunks. In the Nets’ loss to Memphis Plumlee was 6-6 on dunks and 1-3 on all other shot attempts, and embarrassed Zach Randolph in the process.

Plumlee seems to have regained the form he had during his rookie campaign, and has already worked his shooting percentage on the season back up to 59 percent.