The theme of this week’s power rankings edition is that the Nets are “fun,” unless of course you’re trying to control your blood pressure or agita.
D’Angelo Russell was expectedly rusty in his first two games back from a two-month absence, shooting just 1-for-10 and registering more turnovers (four) than assists (three). But he can’t really hurt an offense that has scored just 98 points per 100 possessions over its last nine games. The offense was just good enough over the weekend for the Nets to pick up two good wins, with Spencer Dinwiddie shooting 6-for-7 in the clutch against Miami and Detroit. They’ve slowed down a bit, ranking 18th in pace in January. And while they’ve struggled on one end of the floor, the slower pace seems to have helped their defense, which ranks fifth this month, even though they still rank 30th in opponent turnover rate (for the season and in January) and still haven’t figured out how to stop the Knicks. They’ll get one more try next week.
Spencer Dinwiddie made the game-winning floater with 1.1 seconds left to beat the Pistons on Sunday. Brooklyn is getting used to seeing these shots go down, as the Nets have made five of their last 10 go-ahead attempts in the final two seconds by four different players: Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Randy Foye and Dinwiddie.
The Nets are always fun to pay attention to around trade rumor season. They’ve been willing to take on just about anybody as long as it gives them talent and maybe a draft pick or two. They’re an ideal third team in a big trade.
Brooklyn has won two in a row over teams above them in the East standings. The Nets play in a decent amount of close games, and they often make better teams work for wins. I like this squad a lot.
The Nets needed 77 games to reach 18 wins last season. They needed 47 this season.
The Nets just knocked off the Pistons and Heat in back-to-back games and they continue to be (much) better than the roster talent would suggest. Brooklyn is fun.
The losses — getting blown out by 34 against Detroit, losing in overtime to a Wizards team notorious for losing to bad teams, falling to a skidding Knicks team and coming up short against a good Spurs side — always sting in the context of the Brooklyn Nets owing someone else their first round pick this year.
However, with a rusty D’Angelo Russell finally back, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson quietly playing excellent basketball and Spencer Dinwiddie submitting clutch baskets and revenge games left and right, that Cavaliers pick might not be as valuable as we once thought.
Second-half question: Do they have some keepers in this group? With Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell out for most of the first half of the season, little could be expected from the Nets. Yet they have performed above expectations, and might even have some players who factor into their future. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one, but Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LaVert — good college players whose draft stock was dinged by injuries — have shown themselves to be legitimate NBA players. They could even help Jahlil Okafor salvage his career. It won’t always be pretty in Brooklyn, but they have interesting guys to watch.