With Brook Lopez (foot) out for the remainder of the season and Kevin Garnett (back) currently riding a nine-game DNP streak, rookie big man Mason Plumlee has stepped in as the Nets starting center and has helped lead Brooklyn to a 7-2 record in Garnett's absence. Plumlee's impact has been great, as he leads all rookies in shooting percentage (62.6 percent), Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 17.45, and, well, dunks (74).
Nets coach Jason Kidd certainly has taken note as to Plumlee's impact on the team, and as Alex Raskin of the Wall Street Journal examines, it might be because the rookie is a better fit for what Kidd wants to do than the All-Star big man, Brook Lopez.
"I think [Plumlee] fits in great," said Kidd, who built his fast-breaking reputation by recording 2,684 steals as an NBA player. "He uses his athletic ability. He's not Brook, where we're just gonna throw the ball into him and let him post up. So he fits in great."
Raskin writes that with Plumlee fitting into Kidd's system as an athletic big man, the Nets might want to look at trading Lopez this summer, even though his trade value has "diminished."
While some might think trading Lopez, an All-Star who is owed over $30 million for the next two seasons, might be shortsighted, Raskin digs further into the numbers to show how the offense has improved with Plumlee in the middle.
With Lopez, a lumbering seven-footer, the Nets scored just 10% of their points on the fast break and 16.4% off of opponent turnovers. But with Plumlee starting over the previous eight games (entering Monday's game against Phoenix), those figures ballooned to 16.7% and 27.1%, respectively.
The real advantage of having Plumlee on the floor, as opposed to Lopez, is how the rookie fits with Williams. The 29-year-old point guard has never publicly complained about playing with Lopez, but he has repeatedly stressed his preference for playing at a faster pace—similar to Kidd. So it's not surprising that the Nets' offense has been better when Williams shares the floor with Plumlee (111.5 points per 100 possessions) than with Lopez (104.1).
Of course, this is merely speculation at this point, and being able to develop arguably one of the best rookie bigs this season while still winning games against the league's elite teams, it's easy to get lost in the moment and let the internal GM run wild. But, again, there is no indication that the Nets are "expecting" to trade Lopez this summer.
Really, it's probably better to just enjoy the ride, because having the best rookie big man and one of the best skilled bigs, who also happens to be just 25 years old, is a nice "problem" for the Nets to have.
- Even if Lopez Returns, Plumlee May Be Answer for Nets at Center - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal