Heading into this season, the Nets were seen as a force to be reckoned with across the NBA. However, the first thirteen games of the season have been anything but that for the Nets. The only good thing about this season so far is that there have only been thirteen games played, which leaves the team plenty of time to turn around their game and perform like they were built to. And that all starts at the top.
Regardless of the player’s attitude, when your team adds a generational type talent, which the Nets did with Kyrie Irving, you are going to expect more wins. And a lot more of them. That has not been the case so far this season. Surprisingly, the Nets have accumulated only a 5-8 record. That includes three losses against teams who didn’t even make the playoffs last season. It’s also important to note that Kyrie has been absolutely carrying the Nets load offensively, averaging 32.6 points per game. Even though the Nets are known for their close games, they wouldn’t have been playing in any had it not been for Kyrie Irving’s heroics. But, that doesn’t matter, because they lost them. If the Nets want to start winning more games, it all starts with the presence of Kyrie Irving both on the court and in the locker room.
After hearing about how well Kyrie Irving has played through his first 13 games as a Net, it’s time to break down the bench. The main reason why the Nets have dropped eight of their first thirteen games this season is their lack of production from the bench. Last season, led by guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets bench was one of best that the league had to offer. Dinwiddie was joined by Demarre Carroll, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, and Latvian rookie Rodions Kurucs. This season, however, Carroll, Dudley, and Davis are all gone, which left the Nets bench with some pretty big holes. Now, Dinwiddie is still joined by Kurucs, but also by David Nwaba, Garrett Temple, and Deandre Jordan. Contrary to last season, this bench is one of the worst that this league has to offer. There has been little chemistry shown so far by this bench, and they need to pick it up soon, or else they may be in big trouble.
As I said, the Nets bench has certainly looked incompetent thus far, and it all goes back to Dinwiddie. For the past few years, Spencer Dinwiddie has been a staple on the Nets second unit. But through the first thirteen games this season, he has looked like anything but that. Although he has put up decent stats, his field goal percentage has been just above 40%, and his defensive effort has been atrocious. This is coming from the player who Nets coach Kenny Atkinson called one of the leagues elite pick and roll defenders. He has also shown almost no improvement in his three point shot, which he only has a 31.5% rate. If Spencer Dinwiddie can find his best game, the Nets will be poised to have more success.
Rodions Kurucs has also looked like a completely different player this season. Last year, he was one of the more pleasant surprises in the league. After hardley playing on his team in Barcelona a few years ago, Kurucs set his sights on the NBA by declaring for the draft. The Nets obviously saw what they liked, so they picked him at 40th overall. After a few injuries to the Nets bench last season, Kurucs found himself playing significant minutes, even starting a few games. His defensive effort and ability to cut and finish at the rim often provided that Nets team with a spark when their offense was stalling. This year, however, Rodions has not found his groove, hitting an early sophomore slump. He is averaging just 2.3 points per game this season, and if he doesn’t step it up, he could see his minutes reduced significantly.
The Nets team as a whole just doesn’t look like they have developed much chemistry at all. Considering the Nets added nine new players to their roster this season, this does not come as a huge surprise. In fact, along with the many new faces on their bench, the Nets starting lineup consists of two new players: Kyrie, of course, and Taurean Prince. When all of these new faces came in, there were some expected growing pains, but certainly not the lack of defensive effort that has been shown. Especially since their lack of defensive effort has costed them games. Another defensive area that has been interesting thus far for the Nets is their number of turnovers per game. Over their first thirteen games this season, the Nets have given up the second least amount of turnovers per game at home, but they give up the sixth most turnovers in the league on the road. These stats are very interesting because it shows how they are obviously better defensively at home rather than on the road. Regardless of stats, the Nets have been struggling to find an identity, and if they don’t turn it around soon, they can easily find themselves outside of the playoff picture.
Injuries are certainly not helping the Nets. Caris LeVert is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks after undergoing thumb surgery, and Kyrie Irving is day-to-day with a shoulder impingement. During this period of time we will see what this team is really made of. The Nets have faced adversity before, most recently last season when they overcame Caris LeVert’s horrific foot injury . With him sidelined once again and superstar Kyrie out, Spencer Dinwiddie and company will be forced to step it up. Guys who normally don’t dress for games will be playing significant minutes, such as Dzan Musa and Theo Pinson. Although they haven’t been great this season, the Nets bench has showed that they are capable of digging deep and grinding out a victory without much help. Even without Kyrie and LeVert, there is still talent on this team, but this next stretch of games will certainly test the Nets limits. Their limits have already began to be tested when they lost Monday night against the Pacers. In the game, the Nets reliance on Kyrie was heavily exploited by the Pacers as their offensive game was strongly limited. The Nets were only able to score 86 points in the effort. That is not even close to what they need to be putting up even with Kyrie out of the lineup. It’s even worse when they are only putting up that many points against a depleted Pacers lineup, who were missing Victor Oladipo, Edmond Sumner, TJ McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, and Malcolm Brogdon.
The next four games for the Nets are against teams who didn’t make the playoffs last season and are currently also sitting below .500. This is a prime opportunity for the Nets to get back on track. There will certainly be some ups and downs while Kyrie is out, but it is what they do when Kyrie comes back that will really show what they are fully capable of. And as everyone around the league knows, when they’re fully healthy, at their best, the Nets are capable of almost anything.