Brooklyn Nets place in sixth seed for playoffs

By BRIAN FAUSSETTE
On April 17, 2019

Photo courtesy of Erik Drost, Wikipedia

The Brooklyn Nets have had an exciting turnaround this past season, finishing the regular season with a 42-40 record and granting them the sixth seed in this year’s NBA playoffs. They have a tough matchup against the third seed Philadelphia 76ers, but their postseason results this year should not take away from the incredible growth that fans have seen from this team.

Brooklyn’s led by 23-year-old guard D’Angelo Russell, who made his first career All-Star team this year. Russell’s improvement alone has helped propel the team’s offense, with the guard averaging career-highs in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, points per game and assists per game.

Russell is in the run for Most Improved Player of the Year, which may certainly be his if he remains this consistent in the playoffs.

Forward Joe Harris, this year’s Three-Point Contest winner, has been a fan favorite because of his underdog story. Harris, a third-year player, struggled in his first two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he saw limited NBA action and got playing time in the G-League.

Since then, he has become one of the league’s best three-point shooters and has further impressed with his 60 percent field goal percentage when driving to the rim.

Guard Spencer Dinwiddie has become one of the more reliable reserve players in the league over the past two seasons. Many Nets fans thought he deserved an All-Star appearance this year, but he missed the cut.

Averaging only 28 minutes a game, Dinwiddie averaged around 17 points and 5 assists a game this year. He had twice as many games where he scored 25 or more points, meaning that he was simply a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches off the bench. Dinwiddie is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

Head coach Kenny Atkinson has emerged as a 2019 Coach of the Year candidate, with the team improving nine spots from their finish last year. Players have preached his leadership and he has done a good job of overseeing player development on the roster.

Many of the players have seen improvement from last year, with center Jarrett Allen morphing into a defensive force and forward Caris Levert becoming a more reliable role player.

The sudden culture change has also helped the team create a vaunted home-court advantage. Their bench celebrations and the pure swagger they have been playing with is symboling a turnaround for this franchise, where they can possibly land a max-contract free agent this summer, such as soon-to-be free agents Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant.

No matter how their playoff run turns out, fans should be excited about this team’s future. Russell and the vastly improving cast, including Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie, gives widely respected coach Kenny Atkinson a lot of “toys” to work with.

With rumors swirling about this team handing out a max-contract this summer, they can surely become a part of the Eastern Conference elite next year. From the viral celebrations to the dance parties on the bench, this Brooklyn team is surely exciting and are proving to be a worthy opponent to the Knicks for New York’s best basketball team.

 

bfausset@ramapo.edu

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