Brian Lewis of the Post and David Vertsberger of SNY have finished grading papers for the Nets mid-terms. After Thursday’s loss to the Thunder, the Nets are at the half-way point of the season, going 26-15 in 41 games,
So, for the most part, there’s general agreement on Kevin Durant — A+ of course — and on Paul Millsap — a D. In between, there’s some variation and Lewis grades Sean Marks and Steve Nash as well.
Of KD, Lewis writes...
The leading All-Star vote-getter in the Eastern Conference, a candidate for another MVP Award, and he deserves all of it. He’s given the Nets everything they’ve asked — even though they’ve likely asked for too much. He’s on pace for his fifth scoring crown; but he’s also logged 37.2 minutes per game (second in the NBA), and a league-high 39.4 minutes since Thanksgiving. He’s scored, passed, rebounded, led and done everything for Brooklyn short of putting together the game plan. — Lewis
And Vertsberger agrees...
The best player on the Nets, and arguably in the league.
What critique is there to be found on 29.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game on 52-37-89 shooting splits? Perhaps there could be a critique if the Nets weren’t winning, but KD’s dominance has kept his team atop the East. - Vertsberger
Of the two, Lewis is the more generous grader and he also offers more details. For example, Lewis gives Harden’s up-and-down first half an A-, Vertsberger, a C+. As for Kyrie Irving, Lewis takes the player’s attendance record in giving him a D+, Vertsberger sort of an incomplete, noting his grades “don’t include players who have appeared in fewer than 20 games...”
Lewis writes of Irving...
The elephant in the room casts a shadow shaped a lot like Irving. The comprehensive win at East-leading Chicago — by far the Nets’ best of the season — reminded everybody how important he is. But the reason they forgot is he’s only played three times — twice with the Big Three — due to his refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19. His first season was ended by shoulder surgery, his second by an ankle injury. This is strictly by choice.
Since Vertsberger isn’t grading those players who’ve been on the court for fewer than 20 games, the only rookie who gets grades from both is Cam Thomas and in both report cards he gets a B+.
Brooklyn’s other first-round pick has far outperformed his No. 27 draft slot, placing in CBSSports’ Top 5 and NBA.com’s Top 10 of latest rookie rankings. Thomas’ defense needs work but his offensive confidence isn’t unwarranted. He’s averaging 11.6 points in a dozen games since Dec. 8, and bumped that to 13.8 on .474 shooting in his last five, displaying a nice floater and crafty game. Thomas had 21 points to beat Portland and another 21 Thursday vs. OKC.
What a benefit it is to be a contender and have your late first-round pick contribute in his rookie season. Thomas’ shooting numbers may not jump off the page, but the eye test can’t be refuted.
He can create a bucket out of absolutely nothing, and has meshed seamlessly with Brooklyn’s stars despite his reputation as a scorer above all else.
Lewis gives the other rookies —Day’Ron Sharpe, Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr. — all a C+. Of Edwards he writes...
Even though Edwards was a second-round pick, he’s far exceeded that draft slot. At 6-foot-8, 215 pounds and shooting .393 percent from deep, he’s flashed signs of being able to grow into the 3-and-D wing every team is looking for. His shot is inconsistent, but the athleticism is impressive and his defense can be downright disruptive (see his three steals to help spark the huge win at East-leading Chicago).
Both writers, not surprisingly, also give Patty Mills the same grade, A-, and agree on Millsap as well, giving him a D all around. Here’s their respective takes on Millsap.
Lewis asks whether Millsap, who turns 37 next month, might be a buyout candidate. He’s making the vets minimum.
The spirit is willing, but the body is…worn down. More than any other position, power forwards tend to fall off the cliff quickly. Before the season, scouts who spoke with The Post warned that Millsap, 36, didn’t have much left. They’ve been proven right, with his scoring (3.4 points), shooting (.376) and effective field-goal percentage (.412) are all career-lows. He’s logged just 35 minutes since Dec. 10. Will Day’Ron Sharpe’s emergence make Millsap a buyout candidate?
Vertsberger details to some degree what he thinks is the problem(s)...
Another aging big struggling for the Nets, Millsap had his cracks at the rotation with Griffin disappointing and Claxton out. Unfortunately, his sub-36 percent shooting from the floor and lack of mobility have left him benched.
Vertsberger also gives Blake Griffin a D, but Lewis reserves his only D for Millsap. Nic Claxton gets a B+ from Vertsberger, a B from Lewis, who also suggests that his recent improvement across the board has also put him “on the radar of other teams looking to deal.”
On the subject of the head coach and general manager, Lewis gives Steve Nash a C+.
Nash has had to juggle adding 10 new players this offseason with losing a huge one in Irving. Then having 13 Nets go into protocols — 10 at once — decimated his roster. Still learning as a tactician — Nash had been 0-8 vs. elite teams until Wednesday — fans inundate Nets owner Joe Tsai’s Twitter feed to demand the coach’s firing. It’s not happening, but his rotations are perplexing and willingness to run both Durant and Harden into the ground dangerous.
He gives Marks on one grade level higher, a B, but adds he’s unlikely to do anything dramatic at the trade deadline, now a little more than three weeks away (February 10).
Marks’ draft was strong (four rookies are playing), while getting Aldridge and Bembry on minimum deals were outright steals. But then he got blindsided by Irving’s last-minute refusal to get vaccinated. Marks didn’t panic and move Irving for pennies on the dollar; and with only three deadline deals since 2015, seems unlikely to do anything seismic by Feb. 10. Using their trade exceptions would be pricey, but he could dip back into the buyout market again by March 1.
Of course, as any school child knows, it’s the final grade that matters!
- Nets’ midterm report card: Kevin Durant, supporting cast off to good start but bigger tests await - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets midseason grades for 2021-22 NBA season - David Vertsberg - SNY
- Mostly Solid Grades On Nets Mid-Term Report Card, With Some Weak Links - Steve Lichtenstein - Steve’s Newsletter