It feels like just yesterday that the Brooklyn Nets were being heralded as title contenders. Boy, times can really change.
An avalanche of injuries has buried the Nets underneath a blanket of losses, and rookie coach Jason Kidd is going through growing pains as he learns to navigate the sidelines.
Things are beginning to turn around in Brooklyn after a 5-14 start, but as of Jan. 5, the team was a 1.5 games out of last place in the Atlantic division.
So as the Nets inch closer to the halfway point of the 2013-14 season, it’s time to rank those underachieving guys in black and white. Grading is based on statistics, overall contribution to the team and the respective player’s role with BKN going forward.
Hop aboard and hold tight, because breaking this team down is going to be a bumpy ride.
All stats are accurate as of Jan. 5, courtesy of Basketball Reference.
A healthy Brook Lopez tops this list with ease.
Sadly for the Nets, though, the centerpiece of their offense will be out for the rest of the year with a broken foot after playing just 17 games.
ESPNNewYork's Mike Mazzeo reported on Jan. 4 that Lopez underwent successful surgery to repair “the fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot.”
Mazzeo also noted that it was the same procedure that saved the career of former Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Before going down, Lopez led the team in scoring with nearly 21 points a night, adding six boards per game, as well.
14. Tornike Shengelia
If you're not a diehard Nets fan, you probably have no idea who Tornike Shengelia is. In his second year on the Brooklyn bench, the native Georgian (the Eurasian country, not the state), has totaled just 21 points in the 15 games in which he's played. In all likelihood, he'll be a complete non-factor the rest of the way.
13. Reggie Evans
Other than starting six games this season, Reggie Evans really hasn't made much of an impact in 2013-14. Evans is averaging a measly 2.7 points per game, and his 5.4 boards have been his only notable contribution to the Nets. He could see increased time with injuries in the froncourt...but not too much.
12. Tyshawn Taylor
In his second professional season, Tyshawn Taylor's number got called earlier and more often than expected after Deron Williams aggravated his recurring ankle injury. But since D-Will returned to the lineup, the former Kansas Jayhawk has yet to play more than seven minutes, accumulating a mere two points in that playing time. With a healthy roster, Taylor won't be a huge factor. But in the event of a backcourt injury, Taylor will be ready if called upon—again.
11. Andrei Kirilenko
By the end of the season, Andrei Kirilenko should be much higher up on this list. A bad back kept AK47 from pulling Brooklyn out of the mud early on, but he's played decent since returning to the team on Dec. 31. On the season, Kirilenko is putting up over six points a night, and should see an increase in minutes as the season wears on.
The Jet has had some trouble launching this season.
After battling a knee injury for much of the season, Terry has put forth a career-worst offensive effort of 4.9 points a game. He’s failed to get in the scoring column five times this season and has had just one field goal in four other games.
Terry’s electric energy can’t cover up the fact that he’s nearly 37 years old and playing in his 15th NBA season. Like Pierce and KG, his age seems to be taking a serious toll on his performance.
The emergence of Mirza Teletovic at the three-point line makes Terry expendable, but a struggling team like the Nets can never have too many long-range shooters.
If Terry can find his stroke and comfortably establish himself as a reliable part of the offense, then he’ll give Brooklyn a spark off the bench when needed. But until then, Kidd is likely to relegate the Jet to the pine.
Quick! Name the last big man from Duke that’s become an effective NBA player.
When Brooklyn drafted the former Blue Devil standout, it was unclear how much playing he would be in line for with Lopez, Garnett, Andray Blatche and Evans in front of him.
But the rookie has made the most of his minutes this season, averaging over six points and three rebounds a game. Per 36 minutes, though, his numbers climb to over 13 points and seven boards.
Plumlee is shooting over 62 percent from the field and has had a few extremely impressive games this season.
On Dec. 31, the 6’10” rook hit the formidable frontline of the San Antonio Spurs for 15 points on 6-of-11 from the floor and 13 rebounds in over 38 minutes of action.
Lopez’s injury has opened up an opportunity for more minutes, and Plumlee has earned more playing time in the second half of the year.
Alan Anderson was never a part of the immense amount of offseason hype surrounding the Nets. I can all but guarantee that you never heard a Brooklyn fan excitedly over the summer say, “Dude, we signed Anderson!”
But while he was never a part of that whole “super team” nonsense, Anderson has played a big part in the real Nets—the ones that aren’t all that great.
A four-year veteran with overseas experience, Anderson is averaging over eight points in about 25 minutes a game this season.
When D-Will was on the sidelines with an ankle injury, the former Toronto Raptor stepped in alongside Shaun Livingston to shoulder some of the backcourt scoring duties.
The lanky Anderson has hit over 41 percent of his field goal attempts on the season and has played solid D all year. When the Nets reached a deal with him over the summer, B/R’s Grant Hughes pointed to Anderson’s defensive prowess as a key factor in the signing:
One area in which Anderson will definitely help Brooklyn is on the defensive end. He held opposing shooting guards to a PER of just 11.6 last year, and was even tougher on small forwards, limiting them to a figure of only 10.6 (per 82games.com).
With Terry and Kirilenko working their way back into the lineup, Anderson’s minute total could tail off. But if needed, the 31-year-old has proven that he’ll be ready when called upon.
Many years, a gruesome injury and several trades later, the former lottery pick seems to have found a nice home in Brooklyn.
On the season, Livingston is putting up nearly seven points and just over three dimes a game, and he stepped up in the absence of D-Will early on in the year.
Kidd opted to insert Livingston into the starting lineup against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 2, a move that Rod Boone of Newsday sees as one of the best available lineups with Lopez out for the season.
Livingston’s versatility will prove to be crucial as the Nets set to embark on the second half of the year, especially with the number of injuries that the team has been hit with thus far.
And with elder statesmen like Garnett, Pierce and Terry getting nicked up here and there, Livingston will see more minutes as the season unwinds.
Despite a rough December, Andray Blatche will serve a crucial role in determining how far Brooklyn will ultimately go this season.
Blatche, an eight-year veteran, is averaging the third-best offensive numbers of his career. He’s giving BKN 11.6 points and 5.9 boards a game while shooting 45.6 percent from the field.
The former Washington Wizard has seen more minutes in the frontcourt with Lopez out, and he has even gotten the nod to start five games.
His bruising 6’11”, 235-pound frame allows him to hang with opposing big men down low, but he’s athletic enough to get up and down the floor in transition.
Blatche has had 20-plus points in six games this year and is in line for more over the rest of the season.
That’s usually the sound that resonates whenever Mirza Teletovic spots up for an open three-pointer.
The second-year forward from Yugoslavia has emerged as Brooklyn’s top perimeter shooter, as the team approaches the midway point of the season.
Teletovic is averaging close to eight points a night while hitting 41.8 percent of his attempts from downtown.
Lopez’s injury has forced Kidd to begin implementing a small-ball lineup, giving Teletovic an opportunity for more playing time. And when the sharpshooting European has been on the floor for over 25 minutes, he’s torched opponents for 14 points a night.
Teletovic’s role with the Nets has grown with each game, and he’ll continue to serve as a key offensive piece as the year unfolds.
Father time 1, Kevin Garnett 0.
KG was never supposed to be a star in Brooklyn. When he came over in the trade that included Jason Terry and Paul Pierce, the idea was that they’d serve as super-role players, complementing Lopez and D-Will.
But it seems that age has finally caught up to Garnett, who has been in the NBA for longer than I’ve been on this Earth. Having never dipped below double-digit scoring in his previous 18 seasons, the 15-time All-Star is giving the Nets just over six points a night in 2014.
His tenacious competitive spirit is as alive as it’s ever been, but Garnett has struggled to make significant contributions on a consistent basis this season.
Perhaps less playing time will help conserve him until the postseason rolls around—assuming Brooklyn makes it that far.
But right now, KG looks like a mere shell of his former self.
Father Time 2, Paul Pierce 0.
Like his old pal KG, Pierce’s age seems to have caught up to him. As the halfway mark of the season approaches, Pierce has given the Nets close to 13 points a night.
Pierce is a tad younger than Garnett, and has a little bit more pep in his step than his longtime Boston Celtics teammate.
There are nights that Pierce truly looks like The Truth, drilling three-pointers and igniting the offense. But other times, Nets fans wish the box score was lying.
Pierce has been held under 10 points six times this season (including a goose egg against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 23) after just four single-digit outings in 2012-13.
The 15-year veteran hasn’t been spectacular, but he wasn’t brought to Brooklyn to be a star. If he can stay healthy until the playoffs, Pierce can really help the Nets win some games.
Reliability has been Joe Johnson’s calling card for much of his career, and this season has been no different.
The 12-year veteran has missed just one game for Brooklyn and leads the Nets in scoring at nearly 15 points a night. Johnson is shooting over 43 percent from the field while also adding about three boards a night.
Oh, and don’t forget that the blood running through Johnson’s veins is colder than ice. Take the video above, for example.
Johnson has emerged as one of the NBA’s most clutch players, hitting big shot time after time for Brooklyn. Per Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, the numbers don’t lie.
“Johnson is now shooting 12-for-14 over the last two seasons with 30 seconds or less remaining and the score within 3,” Bondy wrote. “He’s 6-for-6 when there are 10 seconds or less remaining.”
After burying that high-arching jumper against OKC, Johnson was praised by one of the league’s most tenured assassins (and one of his teammates)—The Truth, Paul Pierce.
We believe in him. He has the résumé. When you have the résumé, everybody trusts him — make or miss. We trust him. It’s good to have a guy like that on your team,” Pierce said. “We drew up the play. We believe. It don’t matter. I could have been on fire. D-Will’s on fire. This is our guy down the stretch. The résumé is there. He’s our guy. If he’s 1-for-15 or 1-for-20, we want him with the ball with five seconds on the clock.
As Pierce and KG continue to battle Father Time, expect Johnson to continue to put up close to 15 points on a nightly basis. And if the game is on the line, expect him to win it, too.
The Nets go as Deron Williams goes.
At his best, the three-time All Star is one of the premier point guards in the NBA. But the same ankle problems that have troubled him in recent years crept up on D-Will again this season, causing him to miss 11 games.
Pierce, Garnett, Terry, Kirilenko—these guys are all beyond their prime. Lopez and Williams were the ones who were ultimately going to dictate Brooklyn’s final destination, and now that duty rests solely on the shoulders of No. 8.
Since his return on Dec. 10, D-Will has carried the Nets, averaging nearly 17 points and eight assists a night while shooting over 51 percent from the field.
In Williams, the Nets have a top-tier point guard on whom they will heavily rely as the season unfolds. The only problem, as it always has been with D-Will, is his health.
If No. 8 can stay on the floor, expect the Nets to slowly but surely turn their season around and move into playoff contention in the East.