New Jersey Nets: What We've Learned so Far About D-Will and Co.
The New Jersey Nets have won just four times in their first 15 games. This is not exactly what Deron Williams was looking forward to but when your top scorer, Brook Lopez, breaks his foot during pre-season, the slow start can be a bit more understandable.
Anything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. Not only did Lopez go down, but so did Damion James. James, the starting small forward, provided the defense and energy needed in the beginning of games. James has been out eight games so far and is expected to miss the next two with a sore foot.
James' and Lopez's absences have been noticeably missed as the Nets have only outscored teams twice in the first quarter, while falling behind by double digits in seven of those games.
Then there was Anthony Morrow's shooting slump that happened in the first few games. Also free agent acquisition Shawne Williams, who was signed for his three-point shooting, seemed to forget how to shoot. Williams has only made seven out of his 33 attempts so far and has missed the last three games with a stress fracture in his foot.
DeShawn Stevenson showed up to camp out of shape. Mehmet Okur, who was brought in through trade as a stopgap for Lopez, came late and had to learn the playbook on the fly.
All of this, combined with Deron Williams' subpar play and a schedule that featured 15 games in 23 days—10 of them on the road—led to just four victories.
Through all of this misery that these 15 games have brought, there have been some bright spots and here they are.
Rookie MarShon Brooks is not the lone bright spot for the New Jersey Nets this season, but he is the brightest.
Brooks, a late first round pick, is playing like he was chosen in the lottery. He is averaging 15.1 points per game, which ranks second among rookies behind only Kyrie Irving—the No. 1 overall pick.
He is a flat-out scorer who can create his own shot, something the Nets desperately need.
Brooks can hit the three, shoot the mid-range jumper or take it to the rim with a plethora of moves. His offensive game is fluid. He is not blessed with speed or doesn't seem like he can play above the rim, but he has the creativity and confidence to get his shot off when guarded by almost anyone.
Brooks has secured a starting spot early in the season and has been averaging 29 minutes per game. With each game, he seems to improve on a different facet of his game.
He is turning into more of a willing passer in the last few games, instead of forcing something like he would do earlier in the season.
Brooks has also proven to be a better rebounder then expected, pulling down 4.4 per game. He had eight rebounds in each of his last two games.
His best performance was against the Golden State Warriors, his last game, when he had a line of 22 point, eight rebounds, six assists and only one turnover.
A lot of New Jersey Nets fans were screaming for the team to sign Nene Hilario or Tyson Chandler in the offseason. Instead, general manager Billy King took a different route.
Rather than giving $58 million to Chandler over four years or $67 million to Nene over five years, the Nets settled on giving Humphries $8 million for just one year in order to keep salary cap flexibility.
Amidst boos, from I guess anyone who actually likes the Kardashians, Humphries has played well, proving last season's breakout wasn't just a fluke.
Humphries is averaging a double-double this season with 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
In comparison, Nene is averaging 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while Tyson Chandler is averaging 10 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
With Brook Lopez out, Humphries has picked up his scoring also, surpassing 20 points in two games already.
Like MarShon Brooks, Humphries' last game was his best. Against Golden State, he scored 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, had four blocks and two steals.
Shelden Williams, who signed for just the vet's minimum, has come off the bench and filled in admirably when Mehmet Okur or Kris Humphries get their rest.
Williams is averaging 4.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and .9 blocks per game in limited minutes.
He plays his role perfectly, he doesn't shoot or try to do anything he can't do. He just goes right to the basket and rebounds, boxes out or blocks shots. On the offensive end, he never calls for the ball as he relies on scoring on putbacks.
Williams has had a 13-rebound game as well as a 10-point scoring game already this season. These should not be eye-popping numbers, but they really are for Shelden.
Jordan Farmar was out of Avery Johnson's rotation at the start of the season, but playing in spot duty, he has forced his way back in quickly.
Farmar has been an offensive spark off the bench. He's shooting a career high 44.6 percent from the three-point line while scoring 8.1 points and dishing out three assists per game.
In the January 11th game against the Denver Nuggets in Denver, Farmar came in when the Nuggets lead looked insurmountable and almost brought the team all the way back by himself.
Farmar finished the game with 26 points and 6/8 from three-point land.
If Farmar is not part of the future, he is still playing well enough to be showcased for a trade.
The New Jersey Nets actually lead the league in something—and it's not just losses. They have a league high of 145 made threes.
The stat is a bit skewed since the Nets have 49 more three-point attempts than any other team. With that being said, the Nets three-point percentage is still a very respectable 36.7 percent.
And that's with Anthony Morrow's small shooting slump at the beginning of the season in addition to Shawne Williams' horrendous 7/33 stat from behind the line.
This team is absolutely filled with shooters who can hit the open three and will improve when they play with a center who demands a double team. That center could be Brook Lopez or, for dreamers, Dwight Howard.
Things Are Looking Up
In the last five games, the New Jersey Nets are 2-3. In that stretch, Deron Williams has looked better, averaging 20.8 points and 9.6 assists while recording three double-doubles.
Brook Lopez and Damion James will be back soon while Mehmet Okur will continue to get more comfortable.
The rook, MarShon Brooks, looks like he will only get better as he is building more of a chemistry with D-Will in the backcourt.
And hopefully, Avery Johnson will have his rotation figured out soon. So far this season, he has had nine different starting lineups. Some changes were because of injury while others to see which players fit best with each other.
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