Three Man Weave: Week 17 Edition
Despite the lack of any actual All-Stars selected to the 2015 team, the Brooklyn Nets certainly welcomed the arrival of the All-Star break and the nine days of rest between games that came with it. The team suffered through injury issues in their first 52 games of the season - losing Deron Williams and Brook Lopez for weeks-long stretches - but had recently returned Deron from his rib cartilage tear and featured a complete rotation for the first time in months. The upside to not sending any veteran players to the All-Star Game is that it allows more time for rest and recuperation; especially important for a team that relies so heavily on its veterans as the Nets and head coach Lionel Hollins.
While the vets retreated to their vacation plans or their beach houses, far away from the record-low temperatures and crazy snowstorms in the Northeast, Mason Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic represented the team in Friday’s BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at the Barclays Center. Both players scored in double digits for their respective teams, but Bogie’s 16-point performance for the World team came in a victory while Plumlee led the losing United States team in rebounding with his 13 points and 9 boards. There was hardly any defense to be played, as per usual, but Bojan managed 10 shot attempts (including 3-7 from three) in his 17:29 and Plum feasted on his customary rim-runs and made 5-7 attempts (3-4 free throws) while hanging around the rim.
Mason Plumlee reappeared in Saturday’s Slam Dunk Contest and faced an uphill battle as the only big man in a field with guards (Victor Oladipo, Zach LaVine) and a 6’11” wing (Giannis Antetokounmpo). Plum couldn’t escape the first round after some incredible performances from LaVine and Oladipo but certainly deserved better than a 36 for jumping over his brother, Miles, on his second attempt. Our own editor, David Vertsberger, sat baseline for both of Plumlee’s dunks and spoke to the man himself after the event, and sadly, this might have been the last appearance for Mason Plumlee in the Dunk Contest.
When the Brooklyn Nets return to the court Friday night at the Staples Center and against the (13-40) Los Angeles Lakers, they’ll be three games deep into their season-high, eight-game road trip. A matchup against the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers will be a nice transition into the post-All-Star stretch of the season, with the Nets having lost the first three games to begin the trip, as will their next game Monday night in Denver against the struggling (20-33) Nuggets. From there the Nets will finish out their road slate against the Pelicans, Rockets, and Mavericks, and then come home to play the Golden State Warriors March 2nd.
The Nets team that will take the floor Friday in LA could be a different team than the one that entered the All-Star break, given Thursday’s NBA trade deadline and the preponderance of rumors that have plagued the team all season long. Beginning with the team’s first losing streak of the season (an 0-3 trip to Phoenix, Golden State, and Portland that ran to five games after home losses against the Heat and Bucks), trade rumors soon followed consecutive losses, and so far we’ve read of near-trades of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, or Brook Lopez to the Hornets or Thunder or Nuggets or Kings… After a while, even to a blogger, the rumors became annoying and self-serving, and a stretch of stability could be good for team chemistry over the last 30 games of the season.
In Week 17’s Three Man Weave, our experts look back on All-Star weekend to grade the performance of a couple of Nets “Rising Stars” from Friday’s game, and identify potential Nets players who could appear in 2016’s All-Star Game. Finally they’ll provide a prediction for the stretch run of the season, with the trade deadline days away and the (21-31) Brooklyn Nets just a game in the loss column behind Miami for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Friday @ Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 pm
1.) We often use the grading system in our game recaps here at the Brooklyn’s Finest, so how would you grade Bojan Bogdanovic and Mason Plumlee’s performances in Friday night’s Rising Stars Game?
John Mazlish: I think the Nets learned some valuable lessons from Bojan and Mason’s game Friday night. You might be surprised to know this, but when all Mason does is finish wide-open dunks and all Bojan does shoot wide-open threes, they’re both pretty good. If the Nets can just convince other teams to treat every game like the World-USA game I think the Nets could really turn things around. In all seriousness, it’s hard to grade anyone’s performance in a game like that (other than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was just awful). Mason showed off his always surprisingly strong handle for a big on the break a couple of times, and Bojan did a good job knocking down shots. Still, neither of them were ever under any pressure, and they didn’t make any defensive plays themselves. They both had solid, B-level exhibition game performances, didn’t embarrass themselves, but nothing too special either.
Nick Huth: Mason Plumlee: As one of just three legitimate big men playing for the U.S. team, Plumlee led the the team in rebounds, but also racked up 4 personal fouls in an exhibition. He showcased his athleticism on a few occasions, but the game wasn’t meant for his type of skill-set. He did what most big men do in these kind of games, finishing fancy plays from the young guards around him. C+
Bojan Bogdanovic: Although he played the fourth-fewest minutes for the World squad, Bogdanovic had the most points off the bench with 16 on 60 percent shooting. He took part in some flashy plays and his scoring probably satisfied the Brooklyn fans in attendance. B+
Jonah Jordan: Bojan gets an A from me. Mason gets a B. Both were impressive in the Rising Stars Game. It was nice to see Bojan play well in a game that involves ample amounts of athleticism. Mason was more interested in dunking and showing off. It was a fun game.
2.) Which Net (if any) has the best chance to play in the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto?
Mazlish: This is a really hard question; the Nets weren’t really close to having any All-Stars this year, and their best players are all on the downswing of their careers. Also, the Nets don’t really have the financial flexibility to trade for or sign an All-Star-level guy anytime between now and next season. The Nets probably won’t have an All-Star, but if they do Brook Lopez is most likely. Brook has played at an All-Star-level before in his career, and if he manages to get healthy and return to his old form he could garner a spot with the weak Eastern Conference front court.
Huth: If the Nets have an All-Star in 2016, it will be someone not on the current roster. Perhaps Lance Stephenson will earn a selection to Toronto as the star player for Brooklyn next season? Probably not, but it would be an interesting story.
Jordan: Considering the state of the center position in the Eastern Conference I’d say Brook Lopez. If he’s still around he could be an All-Star next season. If he’s not I don’t think the Nets have an All-Star for a long time.
3.) Give me a prediction for the Brooklyn Nets in the second “half”/last 30 games of the season. Do they make the playoffs or make a major trade?
Mazlish: Brooklyn is in a six-man race for the 7/8 spots in the East, and I think they have roughly as good a chance as everyone else in that tier of ending up in the playoffs. Unfortunately, that means I put their playoff odds at around 2/6, suggesting they probably will not make the playoffs. I do think the Nets will end up making a semi-major trade this next week, but if they do I’m not sure it will be to help a playoff push. It’s more likely to me that the Nets will give up a good player in exchange for some future flexibility, but hurt their odds at the playoffs this year. The Nets should try and help their future in some way, because even a playoff appearance won’t make this season a success.
Huth: A small part of me thinks that the Nets will make a steady run to end the regular season and challenge for the eighth seed. However, the much more likely option is that a big trade will take place that will help the team become more flexible in the future. Lance Stephenson continues to be in the news about arriving in Brooklyn, and the current nucleus does not seem as likely to make a run as last year’s team. Lopez is the most likely to be moved, but I could see the Nets taking a less-popular deal for flexibility.
Jordan: I think they make a trade, but even if they don’t they’re missing the playoffs. The whole roster is banged up and Joe Johnson isn’t playing consistent basketball. I think they make a play for Isaiah Thomas in some way, but that’s a long shot. I think they make a trade, but I doubt it’s a major one. It will most likely be to dump Kevin Garnett or see what they can get for Brook Lopez.