Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Brooklyn Nets Player

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Brooklyn Nets Player

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    Jason DeCrow

    The Brooklyn Nets put their fans through a ballet of emotion during the 2013-14 regular season.

    Tears turned to cheers as the team transformed from an embarrassing underachiever to a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

    After beginning the season at 10-21, the Nets went 34-17 after January 1, and they will head into the playoffs as the sixth seed with a 44-38 record. They'll take on the Toronto Raptors in the first round.

    Injuries have played a prominent role in the Nets’ 2014 campaign; Brook Lopez’s season ended with a broken foot on Dec. 20, and Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams have been hobbled by various injuries throughout the year as well.

    Jason Kidd, winner of two Coach of the Month awards this season (January and March), also underwent a change. When Brooklyn started slow, it was the rookie coach who was viewed as the ultimate goat. But once the team got rolling after the New Year, J-Kidd became a hero.

    The following slides contain final grades for every Nets player based on their performance in 2013-14. Grading is based on overall contribution to the team, with expectations and injuries being taken into account as well.

    Before we get started, though, can I get the first “Brooooklyn” chant of the postseason?

Marcus Thornton

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    The Nets snagged Marcus Thornton at the trade deadline from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans.

    Two scrubs for a quality player? Sounds like a good deal to me.

    Since coming to Brooklyn, the 26-year-old has averaged 12 points per game while shooting about 42 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond arc. He’s given the Nets a burst of energy off the bench as well as an additional backcourt scoring threat.

    Williams commented on the type of player the team had acquired after spending a month alongside him, via ESPN New York’s Mike Mazzeo: “He’s a guy that just comes in, and if he gets on fire, anything can happen," D-Will said. "Any time you have a threat like that coming off the bench, that’s a plus.”

    Thronton, a 6’4”, 205-pound guard, doesn’t hesitate to launch perimeter shots. He often seems to begin shooting before the ball even hits his hands. Here's what Thornton had to say about that, per Mazzeo:

    I’ve always had that [quick shot] because I was always smaller than everybody else when I was younger, so I had to get it out fast or I’d get it blocked back in my face. It just stuck with me throughout my career.

    Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses, and Thronton has given the Nets more juice in the backcourt.

    Don’t count on the fourth-year man out of LSU to slow down come playoff time.

    Grade: B

Andrei Kirilenko

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    Even with injuries being taken into account, Kirilenko hasn’t gotten it done this season.

    After missing a ton of time with a nagging back injury early in the year, AK-47 suffered a sprained ankle on March 23 against the Dallas Mavericks and missed six games because of it.

    Averaging career lows in scoring, rebounding, free-throw percentage, blocks and steals, Kirilenko hasn’t been the player that he’s been for the past 11 years.

    In addition to his offensive woes, the Russian veteran hasn’t been great on the defensive end either. Per Synergy Sports, Kirilenko is getting beat by opponents in 48 percent of isolation situations.

    Kirilenko’s main value, as noted by SB Nation’s Mike Prada prior to the regular season, was the fact that he could spell Pierce and Garnett, which would have kept the veteran duo healthy and rested.

    Well, as of April 15, Kirilenko had missed more time than both of those guyscombined.

    It’s going to take an extremely strong postseason in order for Kirilenko’s first year in Brooklyn to be viewed as a success. But for now, his grade is appropriately low.

    Grade: D

Joe Johnson

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    On a team stocked with veterans and aging stars, Joe Johnson always seems to be forgotten.

    However, Brooklyn’s highest-paid player deserves a lot more credit than he receives.

    Johnson had led the Nets in scoring with nearly 16 points per game on 45 percent shooting this season, and he has hit a ton of clutch shots down the stretch in some close games.

    The recipient of the NBA’s Player of the Week award from March 17-23, Johnson’s durability was crucial during Brooklyn’s turnaround. Johnson has given the Nets over 17 points per night since the All-Star break, missing just one game in that span.

    After erupting for a team-high 32 points in a playoff-clinching win over the Houston Rockets on April 1, Johnson reflected on Brooklyn's season, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

    It means a lot to clinch the playoffs. We’ve come so far. We’ve been on an uphill climb pretty much the whole season, so we’ve been basically playing catch-up. It’s somewhat of a relief. But we understand there’s more work to do.

    More work to do, indeed.

    As Brooklyn goes forth into the postseason, expect Johnson to be a reliable and efficient scoring threat for a team that has a shot to really make some noise.

    Just don’t expect him to get a whole lot of credit for it.

    Grade: B+

Marquis Teague

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    David Zalubowski

    Two years removed from a NCAA title with Anthony Davis at Kentucky, Marquis Teague has struggled to find his footing at the professional level.

    His older brother, Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks, didn’t help him on April 11, either. The older brother shook his younger sibling with a deadly crossover, and Brooklyn’s platoon guard ended up on the floor.

    The former one-and-done Wildcat has given the Nets about three points per night since the team acquired him from the Chicago Bulls him in January in exchange for Tornike Shengalia.

    Kidd is only giving Teague about eight minutes a game, and the 21-year-old has yet to crack double digits in the scoring column.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that Teague is getting paid more than Anderson this season, his campaign with Brooklyn wouldn’t be noteworthy. After all, the Nets' season isn't going to be decided by the play of a third-string point guard.

    But because of his high price and low production—not to mention his 1.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio—Teague’s grade isn’t favorable.

    Grade: D

Shaun Livingston

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Livingston’s career was nearly lost to one of the most gruesome injuries in the history of sports. But after years of bouncing from team to team, hoping to reestablish himself in the league following his 2007 knee tragedy, Livingston has found a home with the Nets.

    Per Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger, Reggie Livingston, Shaun’s father, thinks that his son may be better now than he was before getting hurt:

    I don’t know if his handle is as good, but he’s a more complete player than he was pre-injury. Defense, post-up, mid-range. He just understands the game better. It’s been seven years since the knee, and we’ve waited for him to finally cross over to where he once was. I think he’s there, and now he can only go up.

    Livingston has given Brooklyn 8.3 points per contest—the second-best scoring output of his career—to go along with about three assists, three rebounds and a steal. The eight-year veteran has also shot over 48 percent from the field while serving as one of the team's premier perimeter defenders.

    When Lopez went down in late December, it was Livingston who gave Kidd the flexibility to institute the small-ball lineup. And when Williams was sidelined, again it was Livingston who stepped into a starting role, not allowing the Nets to miss a beat.

    Livingston will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he’s going to be sought after by other teams who have seen his revival. However, he’s going to cost a lot more than the $1.2 million Brooklyn is currently giving him.

    But according to his dad, Brooklyn has a good shot at bringing him back, per D’Alessandro. “Money might be calling [this summer], but this is about loyalty, too," Reggie said. "Let’s be honest: The Nets helped save his career, and Shaun is a very loyal kid.”

    Livingston added that he’s content with where he is. “I like where I’m at, let’s put it that way," he said. "This year’s been everything I could have asked for.”

    The Nets are thrilled with Livingston, too, and will expect him to play at a high level in the playoffs.

    Grade: A

Jorge Gutierrez

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Jorge Gutierrez will be interesting to watch down the road.

    As relayed by Reed Wallach of Nets Daily, the former Cal star went undrafted in 2012 after winning the Pac-12 Player of the Year award, but he was invited to the Nets training camp that summer.

    After being waived early last October, he then spent time in the D-League and averaged about 14 points, six rebounds and seven assists in his second season with the Canton Charge.

    Gutierrez has outplayed Teague for the backup point guard spot, averaging about four points and two assists per game, and has seen a steady increase of minutes since his call-up.

    On March 28, after completing his second 10-day contract, the Nets signed the rookie to a two-year deal.

    Gutierrez, the fourth Mexican player in NBA history, appears to have a promising future. He could spell Williams or Livingston for small stretches in the playoffs, but don’t expect too much from him.

    At least not this season.

    Grade: C+

Jason Collins

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    Jonathan Bachman

    Remember, this is a grade for Jason Collins—the basketball player.

    Despite his barrier-breaking heroics off the court, the 12-year veteran has been nonexistent on the hardwood.

    After inking a pair of 10-day deals with the Nets, Brooklyn officially signed Collins for the rest of 2013-14 on March 15.

    The 35-year-old backup center has averaged less than a point per game this season, though he’s never been an offensive juggernaut. Collins, who’s played on six different NBA teams, is more known for things that don’t show up in the box score—defense, setting screens and being a good teammate.

    Collins will go down as the first openly gay player in the history of the NBA and deserves to be celebrated for his bravery.

    But as far as his impact on the Nets goes, he’s been invisible.

    Grade: D

Mason Plumlee

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    Mason Plumlee began the season as an afterthought, but he’ll finish 2014 as one the Nets most important players.

    Brooklyn drafted the former Duke big man with the 22nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, and he’s brought a sense of athleticism and toughness that was missing from last year’s Nets squad.

    Plumlee, averaging over seven points and four rebounds a night, has stepped into a starting role with Lopez out and Garnett battling the injury bug—and he’s done a tremendous job.

    Kidd, who enforces a strict rule that prohibits Plumlee from taking shots outside the paint, is very high on the first-year big man, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

    [Plumlee] understands his role. We talked about what we wanted him to do and told him how we can expand that range over the summer. He’s done his role and he’s gotten better at his role each time he’s taken the floor.

    Garnett has taken Plumlee under his wing, too. Here's what the standout rookie told Bondy:

    [KG]'s actually grabbed me and put me through individual workouts. Like after practice, like, ‘Mason, let’s go do this workout. That’s just how KG is. Like scouting reports, he’s meticulous with the defensive scouting reports. So if he doesn’t like something I went through in the walkthrough, he takes me through it again.

    Plumlee has been stellar for the Nets this season, and he will play a key role in Brooklyn’s postseason run.

    Grade: A+

Andray Blatche

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    USA TODAY Sports

    As reported by ESPN New York’s Mike Mazzeo, Andray Blatche could be out of Brooklyn’s playoff rotation.

    With the way Plumlee is playing, it’s impossible to sit him. And unless Garnett’s health humps him up, there’s no way he’s coming out.

    That leaves Blatche, who’s averaging over 11 points and five boards a game on close to 48 percent shooting, as the low man on the totem pole.

    The eight-year veteran has handled the situation with admirable grace, however, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

    I couldn't even tell you (if I’m going to be in the rotation in the postseason). I don’t even know. It could go how it went last game or it could change. But the good thing about it, Mase has been playing great. Of course, K.G. is a leader on the floor, controlling us on defense. I’m a team-player, whatever helps us get to the championship.

    Blatche must stay ready, though, because Garnett’s health is far from reliable.

    If the back injury that caused KG to miss 19 straight games—the entire month of March—reemerges, Blatche will be next in line.

    Grade: B-

Deron Williams

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    USA TODAY Sports

    D-Will has struggled a bit in 2013-14, but Brooklyn has managed to survive without him when necessary.

    With his lowest scoring and assists averages since his rookie season, Williams has been far from the star that he’s been for much of his career.

    However, those numbers—about 14 points and six assists per contest—need to swell in the playoffs.

    A pair of shaky ankles kept Williams sidelined for 16 games this season, and he was never able to get into a consistent rhythm running Brooklyn’s offense.

    Injuries can’t be looked at as the sole cause of No. 8’s problems, though; there have been nights in which he simply hasn't show up. Perhaps it’s because the Nets don’t live and die with him, as the team has a ton of other options offensively.

    Regardless, Brooklyn is going to need A-level D-Will come playoff time.

    Grade: C+

Alan Anderson

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    David Zalubowski

    Alan Anderson is the prototypical role player.

    He can play multiple positions, is durable, doesn’t demand the ball and defends. On a veteran, star-heavy team like the Nets, players like “Double-A” are extremely valuable.

    In his first season with Brooklyn, Anderson has put up over seven points a game while shooting 40 percent from the field. He’s also played about 23 minutes a night, which has been an integral part of keeping Pierce and Johnson on the floor.

    Will Anderson alone dictate how far Brooklyn goes in the playoffs? Nope.

    He won’t steal any headlines, and you might even forget that he's on the court at times, but Anderson will be there to do the dirty work as the Nets attempt to run the gauntlet in the East.

    Grade: B-

Mirza Teletovic

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    He’s shootin’! Ah, made you look.

    If you’re unfamiliar with that Nas (NSFW) line, perhaps you’re more acquainted with Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn’s break-out three-point assassin.

    After averaging under 10 minutes a game last season, the Bosnian baller has given Kidd’s offense a spark off the bench in 2013-14. In his surplus of 19 minutes a night, Teletovic has put up an average of nearly nine points while shooting 39 percent from three-point land.

    Teletovic played one minute in the playoffs last seasonone. Then-head coach P.J. Carlesimo shackled the 6’8” forward to the bench for all but 60 seconds of Brooklyn’s first-round clash with the Bulls last season. But Kidd has put him to good use in 2014.

    Teletovic creates matchup problems for opposing forwards by dragging them out of the paint, which creates room for Williams, Livingston and Johnson to work on the perimeter.

    After a very successful regular season, the Nets will count on Teletovic to continue launching, and hitting, long-range shots in the playoffs.

    This time around, he'll get more than one minute to do so.

    Grade: A-

Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce is washed up. He’s got nothing left in the tank, and his days of being a star in this league are over.

    Relax—those are lies, and we all know that No. 34 is "The Truth" for a reason.

    After averaging less than 13 points on 40 percent shooting prior to Jan. 1, Pierce raised his game once the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

    Since then, he’s carried Brooklyn with about 14 points per night while connecting on 48 percent of his field-goal attempts.

    On April 11, the 15-year veteran became the 18th player in league history to eclipse 25,000 career points, joining Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Garnett as the only active stars to reach that height.

    Pierce, a future Hall of Famer once he hangs up the kicks, has also given the Nets an attitude adjustment. A team that greatly lacked toughness and heart last season now has an unparalleled sense of swagger—predominantly thanks to the presence of Pierce and Garnett.

    The Nets will count on the cold-blooded veteran throughout the playoffs, and they’d be wise to bring him back once he hits the free-agent market this summer.

    Grade: A-

Brook Lopez

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After checking into just 17 games this year, Lopez’s injury altered the course of Brooklyn’s season—for the better.

    Kidd pointed to losing arguably his best player as the catalyst that sparked the Nets’ turnaround, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

    I think the injury is something that changed the whole landscape of who we were trying to be. When you look at with Brook in, we were trying to play through Brook, play inside-out. But now with Brook out, we went with what you guys call a small lineup, even though Joe Johnson is just as big as anyone and he's our post player -- or Deron (Williams) or Shaun (Livingston)," Kidd said. "So we just kind of changed the face of who we play inside and now we've given guys who weren't getting a lot of attempts at the 3. That's probably the thing that has changed with the Nets is that we shuffled different guys and with Paul (Pierce) playing the stretch (power forward), we kind of found our identity at that point.

    As harsh as it is to say that the Nets were better off without their starting center, it’s true.

    The 26-year-old big man put up nearly 21 points and six boards per game before breaking his foot on Dec. 20, but Brooklyn’s record during those 17 games was 7-10.

    B/R's Jim Cavan insists that trading Lopez could save Brooklyn in the long run. However, it’s also important to note that Livingston, the key piece of the small-ball lineup that has proven to be so successful, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    Brooklyn will be faced with a tough decision in determining Lopez’s future with the team. But for now, it’s difficult to call Lopez’s 2013-14 campaign anything more than a failure.

    Grade: F

Kevin Garnett

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    Jason DeCrow

    It’s extremely tough to pin down a grade for Garnett.

    The 18-year veteran has been a shell of his former self offensively, but that’s not where his true value to Brooklyn lies.

    KG’s impact on the Nets comes on the defensive end and in the locker room. A legendary leader, the Big Ticket has, along with Pierce, transformed Brooklyn from a soft squad into a gritty team that bows down to no one.

    A bad back kept the 37-year-old sidelined for the entire month of March, and Kidd was able to sprinkle in some rest nights throughout the season.

    Garnett hasn’t been an offensive stud this season, by any means—he’s put up a career-low scoring average and his worst rebounding total since his rookie season.

    But that doesn’t matter—and neither does the grade on this slide.

    A true assessment of Garrett can only be made after the postseason; that's why the Nets brought him to Brooklyn anyway.

    Grade: C

    All stats and information are accurate as of April 16 and courtesy of Basketball Reference.