Isaiah Whitehead had one of his best games Wednesday night, if you judge it by most standards: 14 points in 18 minutes, 3-of-4 overall, 1-of-2 from deep, 7-of-7 from the stripe. But he had no assists and four turnovers. Is that so much of a bad thing or does it portend what we might see from the Coney Island and Seton Hall product for the rest of the year: experimentation as a combo guard?
With Jeremy Lin back, and upping his minutes at the point, with Caris LeVert starting at the 3 and with Spencer Dinwiddie doing a steady job as back-up, the opportunity now exists.
The reality is that before he was thrown into the PG role when Lin went down, Whitehead had been a shooting guard in high school and through his freshman year at The Hall. He had exactly one year playing the point: last season, when he led the Pirates to the Big East Championship.
Physically, he has always had the body for the 2. As he told us last summer, he played at the 2 in high school and college because he was always so much bigger than his opponents. He’s a legitimate 6’4 1/2” and big across the shoulders. Kenny Atkinson has said that LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson need to get stronger over the summer. He doesn’t say that about Whitehead. Instead, Atkinson thinks Whitehead needs to get more consistent, but that’s a typical rookie issue.
“He’s a rookie who’s up and down. Some really good moments and times when he’s struggled, but for a rookie, I think he’s done a pretty darn good job,” Atkinson told Nets in-house beat writer Cory Wright. “A lot was thrust upon him. He’s in a better role. He’s comfortable coming off the bench. That’s not saying he couldn't push into the starting lineup again. I think he’s growing. But it’s doing it consistently and over and over, night after night, game, recovery, game, recovery I think that’s taxing for any young player.”
He has been one of the season’s better rookies. He’s been on the NBA.com Rookie Ladder for the last 11 weeks, moving up three places to No. 7 this week. Scott Howard-Cooper explains why he jumped the 21-year-old three spots this week. (Caris LeVert dropped out of the top 10)
Whitehead isn’t having many big games, but the consistent contribution has moved him to third in the class in assists, seventh in minutes, seventh in blocks and ninth in scoring. That’s enough to pick off a couple Ladder regulars in free fall, Pascal Siakam and Andrew Harrison,” Howard-Cooper wrote. “It helps that while Whitehead has struggled with his shot overall, making just 39.1 percent of the attempts, he is at 47.2 the last five games.”
And that was before his 3-of-4 game vs. the Kings.
Sean Marks and the Nets organization will have to make a lot of decisions on players in the swing positions this summer. Dinwiddie, Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris, and K.J. McDaniels all have team options and there are decisions on where Whitehead, LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will play. There are worse problems.
- Opportunity knocking for Isaiah Whitehead - Cory Wright - Brooklyn Nets
- Kia Rookie Ladder: Trade deadline pays off for handful of rookies - Scott Howard-Cooper - NBA.com