NBA Restart: 2019-20
NBA Restart: 2019-20

2019-20 Season Reset: Brooklyn Nets

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Jun 5, 2020 2:24 PM ET

The Nets have had a complicated season, but their potential is through the roof.

The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season is tentatively set to return on July 31 and NBA.com's writers are taking an updated look at each of the league's 30 teams. 

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Record: 30-34, No. 7 in Eastern Conference

Season summary: Injuries to free agent acquisitions Kevin Durant (who won't play for the Nets until next season) and Kyrie Irving (who played just 20 games before having season-ending shoulder surgery) have made this a season of waiting for the Nets. Without its stars, this team has struggled offensively; The Nets are the only team that ranks in the bottom six in field-goal percentage (44.4%, 26th), 3-point percentage (34.0%, 26th), and free-throw percentage (74.4%, 25th). But they've improved defensively for a fourth straight season and are set to rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor for the first time in 14 years. The defense has them in playoff position for a second straight season, but wasn't enough to save the job of Kenny Atkinson, who never got the chance to coach the Nets' best player. As the restart got warmed up, the Nets added some guard depth in signing Tyler Johnson. Overall, next season could bring title contention for the Nets, though finding the right coach to lead a pair of somewhat complicated stars is easier said than done. 

Breakout player: Fourth-year guard Caris Levert's breakout took some time. He was his team's best player in their first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers last year, but suffered a right thumb injury in the ninth game of the season and missed almost two months. When he returned, LeVert struggled, and his true shooting percentage of 50.9% remains the lowest mark among 40 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher. But after moving back into the starting lineup on Feb. 3, LeVert averaged 24.1 points (on a true shooting percentage of 55.1%), 4.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists over the Nets' final 16 games. That stretch included a career-high 51 points in a huge comeback win in Boston on March 3 (see below), as well as his first career triple-double against San Antonio three nights later. On his best nights, LeVert looks like the Nets' third star. But sustained success has been elusive thus far.

 
Kyrie Irving had a debut for the ages with the Nets.

Statement win: The Nets had won two straight games at home, but were beginning a four-game trip against the best team in the West on March 10 against the Lakers. The Lakers made 11 of their first 18 shots and built an 11-point lead late in the first quarter, having won the last 24 games they led by double-digits. But a big second quarter (11 points and two assists) from Spencer Dinwiddie got the Nets back in the game, and a big third quarter (11 points on 4-for-5 shooting) from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot helped them build a nine-point lead with six minutes to go in the fourth. The Lakers came back and tied it on an Anthony Davis 3 with 42.6 seconds left, but Dinwiddie put the Nets back on top with a pull-up, elbow jumper with 28.4 seconds to go. LeBron James and Davis both missed 3-pointers for the win and the Nets came away with their best win of the season, having held the league's fourth-ranked offense to just 102 points on 97 possessions. It was the last game for both teams before the season was put on hold. 

Most compelling game:  The Nets had lost their last seven games in Boston and trailed by as many as 21 points midway through the third quarter of their March 3 matchup with the Celtics. They were still down 17 entering the fourth, having scored just 67 points on 75 possessions at that point. The Nets began the fourth with LeVert and four reserves on the floor, and they didn't make a sub until there were 20 seconds left in regulation. Point guard Chris Chiozza, 5-11 and on a two-way contract, provided some brilliant passing and a big shot in the final minute. DeAndre Jordan's interior defense was critical (only three of the Celtics' 20 fourth-quarter shots came in the restricted area), but Boston still scored 34 points in the fourth period. The Nets forced overtime with offense (51 points on 27 fourth-quarter possessions), and the bulk of that offense came from LeVert, who scored 26 points in the period and sent the game to overtime with three free throws with 0.2 seconds left. LeVert went on to score all of 11 the Nets' points in overtime, finishing with a career-high 51. 

 
The Nets pulled off a stunning win against the Celtics on March 3.

Memorable moments: The Nets had an opportunity to get a win in Toronto just four days earlier, but missed two shots for the win in the final seconds. In their last game before the All-Star break (on Feb. 12), they got their revenge, holding the champs to just 91 points on 98 possessions. ... Oct. 23Irving drops 50 in his debut -- Irving put on a show in his first game with his new team on Oct. 23. He scored 50 points on 17-for-33 shooting, highlighted by a step-back 3 for the lead with 1:16 to go in the fourth quarter. Alas, Jarrett Allen missed two free throws with 5.7 seconds to go in regulation, Irving's And-1 Mixtape attempt for the win bounced off the rim, and the Nets lost to the Timberwolves. 

 
The Nets halted the Raptors' win streak on Feb. 12.

Less than 12 hours after the Nets picked up an easy win over the San Antonio Spurs, news broke that they had "mutually agreed to part ways" with coach Kenny Atkinson on March 7. Given how far the Nets had come since Atkinson took over in 2016, his dismissal was a shock. As the Nets improved in each of his first three seasons, Atkinson helped develop Dinwiddie, D'Angelo Russell and Joe Harris, three players discarded by other teams, into quality rotation pieces for what became a playoff team last season.

Team MVP: It's Dinwiddie. The Nets' point guard has not shot well as his effective field goal percentage of 43.6% on shots from outside the paint ranks 171st among 183 players who have attempted at least 200 and is down from 48.9% last season. But with Irving missing 44 games and LeVert missing 25, Dinwiddie has been asked to carry the Nets' offense for much of the season. His usage rate of 28.7% is a career-high mark and the Nets have scored 11.5 more points per 100 possessions with Dinwiddie on the floor (110.5) than they have with him off the floor (99.0). That's tied for the fifth biggest on-off differential among 218 players who have played at least 1,000 minutes. Dinwiddie has shot just 2-for-24 (8%) on clutch 3-pointers (the worst mark among 40 players who have attempted at least 20), but is still tied for the league lead with seven baskets (on 14 attempts) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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