The Nets may no longer be on the brink of championship contention, but they’ve got a plethora of new talent waiting in the wings. After shipping out Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (as well as veterans TJ Warren and Markeiff Morris) shortly before the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline, Brooklyn officially marked the end of a failed superstar experiment that could barely get going before proverbially shooting itself in the foot.
In the return, the Nets received Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith from the Mavericks and Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson from the Suns, as well as a bounty of draft capital. None of the four qualify as “young talent,” per se — both former Suns are 26 years of age and the former Mavericks are each three years older — but are all versatile building blocks for a Brooklyn team desperate to re-establish a culture and identity, a la 2019.
Dinwiddie is a point guard with a knack for the dramatic… and getting to the rim. Bridges, Johnson, Finney-Smith are all variations of the much sought-out “3-and-D” forward in the NBA, but all bring a special, “je ne sais quoi” to their games. I decided to examine each player and dive deep on some of the more unique aspects of their respective games.
Bridges is a strong long-range shooter, nailing 39% percent of his 3-pointers on five attempts per game. But what Brooklyn’s newest wing also brings, unlike most prototypical 3+D forwards, is savvy in the mid-range area.
With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and TJ Warren all headed elsewhere, the Nets — once a team that made living from 14 feet away from the basket. Now, only Cam Thomas and Seth Curry (who is currently injured, and also an unrestricted free agent who is unlikely to be with the team long-term) frequent that range on the floor.
Forty-three percent of Bridges’ attempts this season have come from mid-range, which puts him towards the top of the league in the 95th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass. For comparison, only Thomas’ rate is higher at 54%. After he, Curry, and Dinwiddie (middle-of-the-pack at 31%), every other jump-shooting Net is in the bottom third of the league in frequency.
Bridges’ usage rate is at a career-high mark of 18.8% in 2022-23, good for 59th percentile in the NBA for his position. Prior to this season, the wing had never been higher than 30th percentile, often relegated to a standstill 3+D role in the corner. His Assist Percentage is also at a career-best, cracking double-digits for the first time at 14% (72nd percentile). Bridges’ handle isn’t anything to marvel at, but he turns the ball over at a low rate and is able to silk his way through the defense and hit the right player situationally...
In the clip above, Bridges employs a “Nash dribble,” where the ball-handler will drive to the basket but maintain the bounce to evaluate his options across the floor. Eventually, he dumps it off to forward Torrey Craig, eagerly cutting to the basket.
Johnson is a knock-down marksman, nailing 45% of his threes this season. He’s also comfortable spotting up several steps behind the 3-point arc, attempting nearly 55% of all long-balls from beyond 24 feet.
Dinwiddie, though not the All-NBA, future Hall-of-Fame point guard that Irving is, does bring something to the table for Brooklyn that they haven’t had at PG since Dinwiddie’s initial departure — size. Dinwiddie is listed at 6’5,” 215 pounds officially. His estimated defensive plus-minus, a popular catch-all metric used by NBA teams, is poor: -1.7. But the self-described “Tech Guy with a Jumper” also won’t need to be an all-word defender on a Brooklyn roster with a linty of rangy forwards...
Alternatively, as showcased in his second Nets debut, he’ll often use that size to backup smaller or like-sized guards for free throws. He’s a player who gets to the rim frequently and finishes well, using his speed, a trait complimented by Sean Marks, to get to the basket.
He’ll also spend a tremendous amount of time at the charity stripe. His “Shooting Foul Percentage,” defined by Cleaning The Glass as “the percentage of a player’s shot attempts he was fouled on” has been excellent throughout his career, regularly in the 90th+ percentile and even 100th on multiple occasions.
This move, where Dinwiddie backs down a defender to draw contact, was used regularly in Dallas as well...
Dinwiddie’s on ball-prowess may not be strong — as evidenced by him struggling to contain Zach LaVine’s 38-point outburst Tuesday, and then joking about it post-game — but his feel for the game remains strong. Against the Bulls, the guard contributed a season-high four steals, a couple coming after he recognized personnel and collapsed on the middle of the floor, anticipating a pass to Bulls center Nikola Vucevic.
Dinwiddie won’t be checking opponents’ best perimeter on a given outing, but he’ll relinquish that role to Bridges, who seems more than delighted to pick up the slack...
Finney-Smith is one of the NBA’s premier defenders. Just ask Kevin Durant, who he regularly hounded for Nets-Mavericks matchups. In addition to being a strong defensive player, Finney-Smith is an astute offensive rebounder. A third of his nine boards against Chicago came on the offensive side of the ball, including this fiery And-1 putback in the third quarter...
In Dallas, Finney-Smith offensive’s rebound rate (the percentage of Maverick misses that he recovered) hovered around five and six percent, very strong marks. Even more impressively, Dallas’ team offensive rebound rate improved by 5.5 percentage points with Finney-Smith on the floor in 2022, an increase good for the 92nd percentile, according to Cleaning The Glass.
With Nic Claxton in the fold, this iteration of the Nets will look to make some noise on the defensive end, for a change. With solid positioning in the standings and not many games left to be played, they could act as spoilers for contending hopefuls in April and May, even if they themselves likely won’t be participating in June.