It's no revelation that the Nets lack athleticism. That was evident the other night vs. Atlanta. But maybe, just maybe, the team's best athletes could start seeing more minutes.
Other than Mason Plumlee --and maybe even including Plumlee-- the two most athletic players on the Nets are the two rookies, Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. They've seen very limited time on the court this season although Friday night vs. the Hawks, they got blowout minutes ... and both did well enough, particularly on one late game play where they combined on a spectacular play.
It's hard to say who's more likely to see more minutes. Friday night, Brown entered the game with 1:29 left in the first quarter and the game tied at 16, by far his earliest minutes and a measure of Lionel Hollins confidence in him.
Brown came in for Bojan Bogdanovic. Normally, those are Alan Anderson minutes. Looking nervous, he missed a three, fumbled the ball a couple of times, missed a jumper and exited before returning when the Nets were down by 25. His stat line was not great. He missed three of his four shots, including both three point attempts, turned the ball over three times. But he got to the line four times, made both and generally looked like an NBA player. In comparison, Anderson didn't score in 21 minutes and didn't assist either.
Jefferson was already in the game in the game by time Brown arrived. He entered the game in the third with a minute left and played the rest of the way. As usual, Jefferson was aggressive and in those 13 minutes, he scored six points, grabbed six boards, tried out his three point shot and went to the line three times, making two out of three. Even that limited production was better than Kevin Garnett and Mirza Teletovic, who combined for four points.
And the two saved their best for last.
With little more than a minute left, Brown drove in from the right, blowing by Kent Bazemore and neatly hitting Jefferson with a pocket pass that he converted into perhaps the most impressive dunk by any Net this season, a one-handed posterization of Mike Muscala, who fouled Jefferson in the process.
The Nets bench jumped to their feet, led by Jefferson's mentor, KG.
The two are older than the average rookie. Jefferson will turn 24 on December 16, Brown 23 on January 29. They're also more mature, having played four years in top flight college programs, Jefferson at Baylor, Brown at Oklahoma State. By all accounts, both have looked good in practice and are popular with their teammates. But like all rookies they need consistency and experience (which they might have gotten more of if the Nets hadn't opted out of the D-League.)
They both have areas where they need to improve. Brown's ball-handling and Jefferson's strength come to mind. Brown also lost valuable time with a broken hand, a debilitating stomach virus and then a hip-pointer. But they are hyper athletic. Brown's max vertical at the pre-draft combine was 43.5", one of the highest ever recorded. He claims he's done 46". Jefferson's wasn't far behind at 37.5".
Even though they haven't played that much, considering how little they cost the Nets to buy their picks --$1.1 million for Brown, $300,000 for Jefferson-- and how low they were taken --No. 44 for Brown, No. 60 for Jefferson, the Nets have gotten value so far, even with their limited minutes. After all, most late second rounders don't even make the NBA.