Game Recaps

Recap: Nets 89, Pistons 103 - Bojan and Beyond the Disappointment

The Brooklyn Nets by now are quite familiar with the concept of disappointment. At 10-27 on the season, and having lost its last four games following Saturday’s 89-103 loss to the Detroit Pistons, the playoffs might already be an impossibility in the suddenly competitive Eastern Conference. The offense, while never a strong suit at any point this season, is somehow even more inept without Jarrett Jack, and the defense remains in the league’s bottom-ten by defensive rating. But perhaps the most frustrating and disappointing subplot to the 2015-16 season has been the lack of development among the Nets’ young players, and their inability to seize key roles amid the injuries.

Of the Nets’ stable of young talent, second-year wing Bojan Bogdanovic was expected to take the biggest step forward, and figure prominently into the team’s future. Bogdanovic began his rookie season in the starting lineup and averaged nine points and just under three rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game, shooting 53.1-percent on two-point field goals, 35.5-percent on threes, and 82.1-percent from the free throw line. His traditional stats are up slightly so far this season - due to an increase in playing time by over four additional minutes per game - but his efficiency numbers and shooting percentages have all declined, and it’d be tough to argue that his play has improved over the offseason.

The same issues and flaws to Bogdanovic’s game as a rookie are still apparent a year later, namely an inconsistent three-point stroke, a shaky handle and passing ability, and a complete lack of defensive awareness. In his albeit-limited sample at the NBA level, Bogie’s three-point shooting improved in the second half of his debut season after suffering through an ice-cold January, but the Nets would settle for any spacing consistency this year as Joe Johnson posts career-lows in his own shooting stats.

Bogdanovic has started almost by default since rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fell to injury, and his 17-game starting streak would be snapped Saturday night in Detroit, as he came off the bench for just under 24 minutes and went scoreless with three assists, two rebounds, and a negative-18 while on the court. Over his last two games Bogdanovic has missed his last 11 shots, and scored just two points off of free throws in the Orlando game, dropping his field goal and three-point percentages to 42.3 and 32.6 on the season, respectively.

Bogdanovic’s ball handling wouldn’t be considered a strength (more solid-average, if anything), and his turnover percentage has increased this season as his usage has declined a bit. The Nets run him in pick-and-roll sets as the primary ball-handler in just under ten-percent of his possessions, to which he scores 0.87 points per possession and makes 46.9-percent of his field goals. He’s rarely put in position to make a decision with the ball beyond his own offense, however, and is on pace to finish the season with more turnovers than assists for the second-straight year. When Bogie moves the ball, it’s usually to his guards over his shot-making bigs, which is perfectly acceptable for a wing scorer who make his jumpers, or plays defense.

The whole shooting-aspect of basketball may come and go with Bojan Bogdanovic, but on the defensive end he remains a consistent non-threat. Not a great athlete, Bogie also lacks the true instincts and patience to stick with his man in isolations or even off-ball, and often finds himself “jumpy” and over-active in his footwork. Dwyane Wade has taken expert advantage of this on separate occasions already this season with his veteran array of tricks, and teams can easily occupy Brook Lopez on the weak-side and work Bojan one-on-one in space. To his credit, Bogie’s not a lazy or apathetic defender, as he often tries to anticipate his man’s first step to make up for his own meager burst, but gets himself into trouble just as easily by over-helping or crossing himself up.

Not only does the eye test back it up, but the metrics do as well. Bogdanovic’s individual defensive rating was 110 (points allowed per 100 possessions) following Friday’s loss against the Magic, compared to just a 100 offensive rating in over 1,000 minutes on the court. ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus formula isn’t exactly a fan either, ranking Bogie 84th among only shooting guards, with the likes of Lou Williams and Arron Afflalo (and Andrew Wiggins?!). In lineups alongside Joe Johnson, who simply can’t keep up with premier wing-scorers physically any more, it’s much tougher to hide Bogdanovic in a team defensive scheme without opponents targeting and isolating a favorable matchup. With Bojan a borderline-liability on defense some nights (ahem, Miami), it makes his off-shooting nights all the more frustrating, and the Nets don’t have the depth to wait for his jumper to come around.

For the player who replaced Bogdanovic in the starting lineup Saturday, fellow second-year guard Markel Brown, his development path and playing time has been even more tumultuous than Bojan’s. Selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft, Brown started three games for the Nets as a rookie and seemed like a favorite of his head coach, due to his aggressive style of defense and flashes of crazy athleticism. Through his sophomore campaign, though, he’s submitted one of the strangest game logs in the league, appearing in clusters of games and then disappearing for a week or two at a time. Brown has definite limitations to counter his skills, but his occasions on the court have seemed more random than that of a rotation member. The worry is that with restricted free agency approaching this summer, Brown might not be a long-term fit with the club, which could explain his inconsistent presence on the floor this season.

The only other under-25 player on the roster who was also with the team last season was Sergey Karasev, the third-year wing acquired in the Jarrett Jack/Marcus Thornton trade from the summer of 2015 (which helped facilitate the whole LeBron James homecoming). Karasev and his about 25 minutes of court time since December 1st probably has no sympathy for Markel and his playing time plights, as last preseason we were trying to talk ourselves into the lefty Russian as a buy-low, former-first round pick. For Brooklyn this summer, filling the roster will be all about cap space and clearing salary slots for max offers, and the Nets’ bench could be turned over for the 2016-17 season.

Clearly, the Nets’ new core of young talent will look different as well, with 2015 draftees Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough replacing the previous crop (including Mason Plumlee, who’s started every game for a fun Portland Trail Blazers team this season). Whether those assumed changes this offseason include a head coach or general manager switch, the Brooklyn Nets need to invest in maximizing whatever young talent they can bring in, especially given the tremendous draft pick deficit the team faces going forward. If Bojan Bogdanovic’s stagnation this season is any indication, change might be necessary for the Brooklyn Nets to avoid another disappointing season in 2016-17.



There haven’t been many highlights of late from the Nets’ point guards, outside of Wednesday’s review and loss to the Toronto Raptorsbut Donald Sloan threw down maybe the Nets’ dunk of the season, along with a candidate for top crossover too. Sloan starts warming up as he isolates near halfcourt, crossing back and forth casually as he waits for the game clock to wind down. He drops the stop-and-go hesitation on Brandon Jennings to keep him from reaching in, and keeps him off balance so his big man can initiate the high screen. From there, Sloan throws Andre Drummond a sharp show-me dribble to fake the drive to the middle, only to switch back to his left for a clear path to the basket. He then winds up and showcases the deceptive elevation, on the hammer dunk for our Dunk of the Night winner. (Honorable mention goes to Thomas Robinson’s activity on the offensive boards, which certainly caught Ryan Ruocco by surprise.)