Power Ranking Every Brooklyn Nets Player Heading into 2015 NBA All-Star Break

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2015

Power Ranking Every Brooklyn Nets Player Heading into 2015 NBA All-Star Break

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The Brooklyn Nets might be in trouble. 

    Ten games under .500 at the All-Star break is no place to be...unless you're in the Eastern Conference, of course.

    Even at 21-31, the Nets are still just one game back of the No. 8 seed and close to the No. 7 seed in the East. So, the team is reeling, but it's also in perfectly fine shape to make a playoff push in the final 30 games of the year. 

    Oh, Eastern Conference basketball. You are a ridiculous being.

    Brooklyn looked like it was about to right the ship recently. It had won three in a row, including an improbable, last-second win over the Los Angeles Clippers and a blowout of the Toronto Raptors. Things were starting to come together.

    Then, they fell apart again.

    That's been the story of the Nets' season: inconsistency. Just when you think they're about to get on a roll, they regress. So now, they head into a 10-day vacation on a three-game losing streak, and their players will have to learn how to improve from here.

No. 14 to No. 11

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    14. Markel Brown

    Brown hasn't gotten much of a shot under Lionel Hollins, which is not exactly shocking for a rookie second-round pick. Still, he has some potential if only because of his tremendous athleticism and ability to improve during each individual collegiate season at Oklahoma State.

    13. Darius Morris

    Morris did a satisfactory job as the backup point guard during Deron Williams' injury period, but he doesn't impact the game much, and his quiet presence forced Brooklyn to play Jarrett Jack for far too many minutes every night. Now, with Williams returned from injury, Morris has gone back to his rightful spot in the Nets rotation.

    12. Cory Jefferson

    Jefferson has shown off athleticism and finishing ability when he's been in games. This is part of where the Nets' strength is: They're actually pretty strong from No. 10 through No. 14. The issue is that players that low in the rotation don't exactly move the needle when it comes to where the squad will finish at the end of the season.

    11. Sergey Karasev

    There was a time when Karasev was actually a starter for this team. That time didn't last particularly long. Even as a supposed shooter, he failed to hit his open attempts. That was one of the main reasons he was in the starting lineup to begin with, and he has fallen out of Hollins' rotation almost completely.

10. Jerome Jordan

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Jordan is showing off skills that most didn't know he had.

    He's always been an athlete. He's always been someone who could block a shot. Go back to his days at Tulsa and check out his 2.5 swats per night to prove that. He's always been a defender.

    He can rebound too. Jordan is pulling down 9.7 boards per 36 minutes this season, a more than respectable figure. But those skills we didn't know about are showing a little.

    Did you know Jordan could pass? I mean really, really pass. 

    He flicked two beautiful dimes during the Nets' loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, bouncing one beautiful dish out of the post. Earlier, he created an open dunk for Brook Lopez off an under-the-hoop touch pass after an attempt for Jordan went long.

    He's legitimately distributing. Of course, you're never going to run anything through Jordan, but it's nice to know that the skill exists if the Nets ever need it—and every once in a while, they do.

9. Bojan Bogdanovic

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Bogdanovic has been pulled every which way this season.

    He was a starter. Then, he was on the bench. Then, he was out of the rotation. Then, he was back in the starting lineup. Now, he just kind of lingers.

    Bogdanovic came over to the U.S. and was supposed to be a knockdown shooter, but similarly to Karasev, it hasn't worked out like that. The rookie is hitting just 31 percent of his three-point attempts and is sinking only 41 percent of his overall field goals from the floor.

    Statistically, Bogdanovic hasn't exactly busted out, but he still helps.

    The 25-year-old is more than just a shooter (who isn't hitting shots). He's an intelligent cutter off the ball. He understands how to find open space within a defense, and his basket cuts are getting better and better as the year continues. 

    Meanwhile, he's learning how to guard, grasping how to rotate intelligently and where to be on the defensive end. He's hardly a major player of consequence at this point in his career, but he's showing he can earn a spot in a good team's rotation down the line.

8. Mirza Teletovic

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    It's sad to think about Teletovic, but at least his off-the-court troubles didn't end in the worst-case scenario.

    The third-year Bosnian left a game earlier in the year because of shortness of breath. At trainer Tim Walsh's recommendation, he went in for a second CTE scan, only to find out that he had blood clots in his lungs.

    On one hand, Teletovic is unlucky to have such a terrifying ailment. On the other hand, he's also lucky to have Walsh, who noticed that something was up and potentially saved his life, a general theme for the Nets trainer in 2015.

    Before he found out he wouldn't be playing basketball again this season, Teletovic was actually having a down year. If his main value is draining threes, then he wasn't doing his most important job, sinking just 32 percent of his long balls.

    When Teletovic gets hot, few things on the Nets are more fun. Possibly the most enjoyable moment in Brooklyn basketball is when he grabs a defensive rebound and tries to run the break, only to pull up for a long three with 18 seconds remaining on the shot clock. It's a terrible play, but it also leaves you chuckling when it actually goes in, which it sometimes does.

    Teletovic is an entertainer, and most importantly, he adds stretch to the Brooklyn offense. Now, the Nets don't have a big man who can hit threes. Is this why we keep hearing Andray Blatche's name?

7. Kevin Garnett

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Every 10 games or so, we'll see Garnett revert to what he once was.

    Maybe it'll only be for a half or a quarter or a play, but it'll happen, and everyone will get up for it.

    That's when you zone into a Nets game: when KG makes a classic KG play. Earlier this season, Bogdanovic threw him an alley-oop in transition. It was probably the loudest Barclays has been all season (save for maybe Jarrett Jack's game-winner against the Clippers).

    Garnett still knows how to defend. It's why he still gets as many minutes as he does. It's why Hollins leaves him in the starting lineup next to Mason Plumlee.

    KG is one of the only Nets who brings it on defense every time he plays and understands how to help off the ball to such a degree that it's pure instinct where his body goes. Hollins loves that—or better, he appreciates it. And it doesn't hurt that he's pulling down 12.0 boards per 36 minutes, either.

    Garnett is a mainstay in the rotation for a reason. Now, if only he could play every night.

6. Alan Anderson

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Alan Anderson is so Alan Anderson. He's just kind of there, you know? And somehow, he's been the sixth-best player on the Nets this year.

    He has made his big shots—none more momentous than his four-point play with less than a minute to go against the Clippers on Feb. 2. He's sunk a fair share of threes. He's played solid defense. And that's just about describes his game: solid.

    There isn't a better word to sum up the 32-year-old, right? He's your rich man's Willie Green, just professionally meandering around and converting on the plays he's supposed to make.

    He's fantastically consistent from year to year. He hit 33 percent from three a couple years ago and 34 percent last year. This year, he's again hitting 33 percent. 

    He's just Anderson. He does Anderson things, and he still has one of the smallest-shaped heads in the NBA. What's not to like?

5. Deron Williams

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    It's odd that Williams would be the Nets' fifth-best player from both angles.

    Two years ago, could you imagine saying that the man who Brooklyn was trying so desperately to keep in free agency would fall out of the team's top four within only a couple of seasons?

    At the same time, at this point, Williams is injury-prone, good for no more than 60 games a year and horribly inconsistent. He just ended a streak of 22 consecutive missed shots. He looks slow at times. And yet, he's still been a top-five player on the Nets.

    That's the state of this team, though. It's how you enter the All-Star break 10 games below .500.

    Williams isn't having a terrible statistical season, averaging 12.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. He's just fallen out of the NBA's top 15 or 20 point guards and is now simply an above-average backup. 

    Lineups with him and Jack haven't worked well, as both dribble-happy floor generals rely on a my-turn, your-turn style, even though they both have experience working in dual-point guard lineups. Often, you'll just see Williams hang around in the corner stoically when he shares the floor with Jack.

    Williams can still play, but the three years remaining on his contract make him somewhat undesirable, which is why the Nets are having so much trouble finding a suitor for his services. So, it's becoming more and more likely we'll see Williams remain a Net for the rest of the season and possibly beyond.

4. Mason Plumlee

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Plumlee had about a month when it looked like he was going to become the best player on this team. It turns out that was more of a hot streak to even out his slow start to the year.

    The Nets' second-year center has smoothed out his play, performing up to expectations following a first NBA season in which he made the first-team All-Rookie squad and competed with Team USA.

    Plumlee is averaging 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on the year. He's put up 13.6 and 8.3 in 32 games since Dec. 12, but he's still learning in many areas of the game.

    He doesn't have a shot yet and lives around the rim, which makes it tough for the Nets to play him and Lopez together, since Lopez's most important contributions are in the post and the floater game. And Plumlee's defense isn't close to all the way there, even if it may seem so superficially.

    Plumlee is a strong athlete who can leap high enough to get himself into the 2015 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but he's still jumpy on defense. He hasn't necessarily learned how to lock into defensive rotations, and he'll often leave his man too early to come help, opening up passing lanes for opposing ball-handlers. He especially has those problems when he plays power forward instead of center.

    These are all fixable issues with which plenty of 24-year-olds struggle. A logical next step in Plumlee's development would be to eradicate some of them.

3. Brook Lopez

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Lopez gets so much blame, but it's not really deserved.

    He's not a defensive-minded center. He's never going to be that, even if he has become a better rim-protector over the years, learning how to swat shots effectively and occasionally having some huge block games, like his 22-point, nine-rebound, six-block performance against the New York Knicks on Feb. 6 or his 22-point, six-rebound, six-block game against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 21.

    (Whoa, those lines are almost identical.)

    Lopez is one of the only players in the league capable of putting up box-score numbers like that, but his value comes from his feathery offensive game.

    He's everyone's scapegoat, but few centers have the touch around the rim that Lopez displays routinely. Al Jefferson? DeMarcus Cousins? Is that it?

    Lopez will dominate with his floater game, showing off a quick release and the ability to sink shots from a little farther than where most post-up centers feel comfortable. He'll step out to 18 or 19 feet, which is just fine considering he's shooting a respectable percentage from mid-range.

    He is possibly the Nets' best offensive player. Assuming he doesn't pick up his player option for 2015-16 and hits free agency this summer, he could still get a big contract. 

2. Jarrett Jack

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Talk about a turnaround.

    Early in the year, Jack was a scapegoat for the Nets' awful play in November. Now, plenty of intelligent, thoughtful people believe he's the team's best player. And who is anyone to disagree with that?

    Jack has averaged 15.9 points and 6.6 assists per game since entering the starting lineup 27 games ago. He hasn't relinquished that spot since.

    He's hit big shots, like the game-winner against the Clippers. He's destroyed from mid-range, showing off why he's one of the best shooters in the league on long twos. (He's sinking a career-high 46 percent of shots from 16 feet out to the three-point line.)

    We've seen Jack put up big lines too. He's had nine games of 20 points and five assists. He's posted a 46-29-87 shooting line since becoming the full-time starter. Basically, he's been consistent, which is an upgrade from what the Nets had before when Williams was the first-string point guard.

1. Joe Johnson

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    He may be overpaid, but Johnson is still the best player on the Nets, even if it does seem like he's been on cruise control for two-thirds of the season.

    The year started with Johnson criticizing teammates for stopping the ball, not passing enough and generally doing things that Johnson does himself. There's a reason the moniker "Iso Joe" exists. But at least the third-year Net backed up his talk.

    He's the go-to guy in crunch time, even if he doesn't hit the big shot every single time, which is a somewhat ridiculous criticism, but one that a few people actually have made.

    In the end, he's been Brooklyn's most consistent player. He's out there every night distributing out of the post, hitting threes or running the pick-and-roll. He's present, which is a big plus on a team whose two highest-paid stars are Lopez and Williams.

    As Woody Allen said, "Showing up is 80 percent of life." Johnson does the other 20 percent just fine.

    Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Feb. 12 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.


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