Brooklyn Nets Season Preview: Returning Player Profiles
The Nets bring back five core young players from last season's rotation
The Brooklyn Nets return a core of five rotation players from last season's playoff team, all of whom are 28 years old or younger, plus two second-year players who excelled while playing primarily in the G League with the Long Island Nets.
JARRETT ALLEN • CENTER • 6-11 • 243
LAST SEASON: 10.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 59.0 FG%
What’s next for Jarrett Allen? The 21-year-old is one of the league’s most intriguing and tantalizing young players, with solid production behind him and the potential for so much more ahead. In year two, Allen started all 80 games he played, upping his averages by 2.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game while playing 26.2 minutes per game in his first year as the full-time starter. He was seventh in the league in defensive field goal percentage within six feet of the rim (55.1) while notching a string of highlight-reel blocks. Long and athletic, Allen adapted to playing even more in perimeter space and working in the pick-and-roll, ranking 10th in the league in possessions as a roll man (3.7). But with his lean frame, he still has work to do in hanging in the paint against stronger big men, and there were plenty of games last season where he ceded significant second-half minutes to the more experienced Ed Davis, or even small-ball option Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the latter usually when Brooklyn was facing a deficit. Now veteran All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan is here instead of Davis, and we’ll see how center minutes are managed. Oh, and for those fretting about Allen vs. Jordan for the starting role and what it all means long term, keep this in mind: when Jordan’s four-year contract is up, Allen will still be just 25 years old.
SPENCER DINWIDDIE • GUARD • 6-5 • 215
LAST SEASON: 16.8 PPG, 4.6 APG
After a breakthrough 2017-18 season that had him as a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Award, Dinwiddie took another step forward and firmed up his position with a season that likely would have had him as a Sixth Man Award finalist if not for a thumb injury that cost him 14 games in the middle of the season. The versatile guard had a series of spectacular games while finishing second in the league for players off the bench in points (16.8) and assists (4.6) per game. He picked up a contract extension along the way, and while he’ll likely come off the bench again behind newly acquired Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, Dinwiddie’s size and versatility unlocks a range of lineup possibilities for Brooklyn. Make no mistake: Dinwiddie is dangerous. He was tied for ninth the league with Irving and several others for points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (0.99) and also was tied for ninth in the league for isolation plays per game with 3.7. Dinwiddie elevated his scoring efficiency last season, even while increasing his volume by nearly two shots per game. A little more progress there, particularly from 3-point range, will lift his whole game up another level.
JOE HARRIS • GUARD/FORWARD • 6-6 • 220
LAST SEASON: 13.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 47.4 3PT%, 50.0 FG%
Harris just keeps on elevating his game, filling the sheet with career highs in 2018-19 in points (13.7), rebounds (3.8), assists (2.4), field goal percentage (50.0) and 3-point percentage (47.4). That last number led all NBA players while Harris started all 76 games he played, led the team in playing 30.2 minutes per game, and took 5.1 threes per game. He was even 10th in the league in effective field goal percentage (62.2), first among all guards, making him one of the league’s most efficient offensive players. The continuing growth in his game elevated Harris’ profile leaguewide and offered new opportunities; invited to the 3-Point Contest at NBA All-Star Weekend, he edged Steph Curry to win the event. Then he turned an invite to participate in USA Basketball’s World Cup training camp with the Select Team into a spot on the National Team that went to China for the tournament. Everything’s relative, but at 28, Harris is the oldest player among Brooklyn’s returning core. Does he have another level to reach? A repeat of last season’s production would be another terrific year.
RODIONS KURUCS • FORWARD • 6-9 • 228
LAST SEASON: 8.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG
The surprise of the season last year for the Nets, Kurucs enters year two eyeing bigger things. Despite seeing little playing time before December, Kurucs ended up starting 46 games at the two forward positions. The other three players the Nets tried at the 4 spot are all gone, leaving Kurucs as a still-developing piece of the puzzle at the position among a new crew that includes Taurean Prince, among others. The year in Brooklyn’s development system shows up in the bulked-up 21-year-old, and he approached Summer League with the confidence of a veteran, using those games to experiment with different parts of his game. With all the additions the Nets made, Kurucs may have the potential to give Brooklyn the biggest boost in terms of year-over-year improvement of a returning player.
CARIS LEVERT • GUARD • 6-7 • 205
LAST SEASON: 13.7 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.8 RPG
The stage is set for LeVert, who showed star power at both the beginning and the end of last season. After recovering from a foot dislocation, he was in full force against the Sixers in the playoffs, averaging 21.8 points on 49.2 percent shooting. Rangy and explosive, LeVert is Brooklyn’s shot profile come to life. Of his 483 shots last season, 73 percent came from either 3-point range or within five feet of the rim — 8.9 of his 12.1 shots per game. In 40 games, he took just 12 shots from the offensive dead zone of 15 to 19 feet. LeVert was one of 28 players in the league to average at least 12.0 drives per game, and he shot 55.8 percent from inside five feet. The one missing piece — and it’s important considering the Nets were fifth in the NBA in 3-point attempts last season — is consistency from deep. A 40-percent 3-point shooter in college, LeVert is at 32.9 percent for his NBA career. He did shoot 46.2 percent from three in the five-game series against the Sixers.
DZANAN MUSA • GUARD/FORWARD • 6-9 • 217
LAST SEASON (Long Island): 19.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.8 APG
A first round pick in 2018, Musa played in just nine games for Brooklyn, spending most of his time in the G League with Long Island. He made the most of the opportunity to play a lead role and work on different elements of his game, helping the squad to the G League finals. Where does the 20-year-old fit in with Brooklyn for 2019-20? That’s one of the more interesting questions about this season’s rotation. It might depend on how deep a rotation Kenny Atkinson is willing to build. Musa has traditionally profiled as a ball-handling wing playing the 2 or the 3, but at 6-9 he’s taller than most options the Nets have at the 4, and Atkinson mentioned that position as a possibility as well for Musa, who looked strong in preseason action.
THEO PINSON • GUARD/FORWARD • 6-5 • 212
LAST SEASON (Long Island): 20.7 PPG, 6.1 APG
Pinson made himself a fan and organizational favorite last year while playing his rookie season on a two-way contract. Now he’s taking the next step with a full roster spot. Pinson played a lead role for Long Island in the G League, going from college glue guy to a focal point of the offense, taking 8.1 3-pointers a game and connecting at a 38.5 percent clip. But he continued to rebound and distribute while elevating his scoring, offering the kind of all-around game and size that can make him an option at three positions for the Nets. He also played 18 games for Brooklyn in 2018-19, and overall showed enough that the Nets signed him to a full roster spot at the end of the regular season to make him eligible for the playoffs.
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