20 games into the season time to decide who the most important player on the Brooklyn Nets is, because, why not?
The Nets beat the Memphis Grizzlies on the road and then the next day the Grizzlies fire Coach David Fizdale. Coincidence? Absolutely. But the Nets are not as terrible as they were last year and this is after losing their two best players in Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell. While Russell should still play again this season, the Nets have had to completely reinvent themselves in Kenny Atkinson’s second year. Against the Grizzlies the Nets most effective lineup was Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, DeMarre Carroll, Trevor Booker, and Tyler Zeller. This lineup was a +21 on the night while no other lineup was greater than a +3.
This falls in line with most of the season as Booker, Dinwiddie, Harris, and Zeller are all in the team’s top five in plus/minus on the season. Basically, this team has put together several fringe NBA players and made a genuinely competitive core of players. Right now the Nets are second in the league in pace, fourth in points per game, and 13th in team offensive rating.
They get up and down the floor and put the ball in the hoop a lot. Pretty basic but also really fun to watch. The team’s efficiency, defense, and several other spots are sorely lacking but 20 games into the season (or 24%) is a decent enough sample size to make some judgments.
The following are the way too soon to even matter Nets team awards for the year:
Rookie of the Year
Allen runs away with this award. Why? Because he’s the only rookie that’s actually played any significant minutes. That being said, he has shown to be both a decent rebounder and pretty good defender. Right now, there’s not much to write home about Allen other than for what that projected to maybe need some time in the G-league he has turned into a decent rotation player. Allen is raw and needs time to develop. With a PER of 13.3 and a true shooting percentage of 50%, Allen’s stats leave a lot to be desired. At least he’s not completely lost out there and is currently second on the team in defensive rating.
Most Improved Player
Last year Harris averaged around four three-point attempts per game and this year he is making about four threes a game. Increased playing time has resulted in very positive contributions from Harris. He currently leads the team in offensive rating and true shooting percentage. His efficiency shooting all around the court is exactly what Brooklyn needs and in his third year out of Virginia, it's obvious that Harris is beginning to find his comfort zone within the league.
Most Valuable Player
Dinwiddie is fifth on the team in points, first in assists, third in PER, second in offensive rating, first in VORP (value over replacement player), second in plus/minus, and first in win shares. All of these stats together mean that per possession Dinwiddie has been the most valuable player on the team. Most of these stats are offensive centered and ignore Dinwiddie’s less than stellar defense. That being said, the team’s overall defense is reprehensible so Dinwiddie leading in most offensive and overall categories shows just how important he is to the team being able to run a coherent offense. Right now Dinwiddie’s per 36-minute totals would put him at 17 points, 8.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 40% from the field, 40% from three, and 80% from the free throw line. Given the opportunity, Dinwiddie should continue to impress and lead the team while Russell and Lin remain out.
Most Irreplaceable Player
Booker’s 10.7 points and team-high 6.9 rebounds per game are not eye-popping statistics. In fact, in advanced stats such as PER, win shares, and plus/minus Booker hovers around the sixth or seventh place on the team consistently. That being said, the five victories that Booker has been a part of have all had him be one of the top plus/minus guys on the team. With an average of +8.6 during victories, it’s fair to say that when Booker plays well the team plays well. Beyond just contributing on the court, Booker's veteran presence and calm demeanor seem to be a steadying force for the younger Nets team. Booker has become an invaluable piece on a team with very little talent in the big man positions.