Brooklyn Nets: Get Our Bulldog out of the Dog House

Akbar Best
Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving
Oct 27, 2019; Memphis, TN, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) in action during the game between the Nets and the Grizzlies at the FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve watched any Brooklyn Nets game this season you know there are two inescapable facts. Much like in life you can’t escape death and taxes, the Brooklyn Nets can’t escape turnovers and bad defense. The Brooklyn Nets are allowing 121.4pts a game heading into their game with the Denver Nuggets. Only the New Orleans Pelicans are allowing more points a game to opposing teams (122.4).

The defense has been so dreadful in key stretches that it has prompted the Brooklyn Nets to go out and sign one of Kyrie Irving’s former teammates in Iman Shumpert (see what he brings here).

Now Caris LeVert’s thumb injury absolutely plays a part in this signing. The Brooklyn Nets expect to be without their homegrown shooting guard for several weeks. The Brooklyn Nets have played one game without him thus far, that being against the Utah Jazz. That game went the way of many games this year. It was yet another game that the Brooklyn Nets probably should’ve won, but a combination of bad defense, turnovers, and stretches of stagnant offense cost us the game.

In the second quarter however, the Brooklyn Nets played some of their best defense and David Nwaba played a big part in that. All five minutes of his play came in that stretch where he immediately contributed with 2 blocks and insane amounts of energy.

In the third and fourth quarters when the Utah Jazz cut into their deficit, David Nwaba was no where to be found. Not when Donovan Mitchell got into his groove. Not when Emmanuel Mudiay started finding his way to the line. Not even when Jeff Green woke up or when Mike Conley used his cunning to punish our defense.

Now I want to share a series of numbers with you.

13     -13

14     +05

14     -08

10     +01

12    +09

21    +13

05    +06

What do these numbers represent? Well, the first column is minutes played. The second column is the Box Plus/Minus. Now you can take it as the Brooklyn Nets are 2-5 in these games. Hell, you can even take it as the Brooklyn Nets are 2-1 when David Nwaba doesn’t play. Those both would be true. But I take it as David Nwaba doesn’t play enough. The way I see it, David Nwaba is a plus when he’s on the floor.

In five of the seven contests he’s in, he has a positive Box Plus/Minus rating. It is indeed a small sample size, but it’s worth noting that the team seems to play better when he’s on the floor. Here are some more numbers.

Nwaba           109     0.1

Levert            115    -0.1

Irving             113     1.6

Dinwiddie     115     0.5

Prince            111     0.4

Harris            116     0.5

Musa              117     00

Temple          111     0.5

The first column of numbers represents a defensive rating. It shows how many points the player is given the upper 100 possessions. The second column shows win shares. David Nwaba is at the top of the defensive rating list while also avoiding being at the bottom of the win share barrel, yet he somehow plays less than every player on the list. He even leads all Nets in defensive win shares (0.086).

This is not to say David Nwaba should be playing minutes over our starters or even leaps and bounds more than bench players. He is a rotational player, not a starter. But with the defensive struggles the team has been facing, Kenny Atkinson needs to find a way to get his bulldog onto the floor.

The Iman Shumpert signing is a need considering the defense we currently put out on the court, but part of me is worried that this is a sign that David Nwaba hasn’t quite earned the trust of the coaching staff. Again, he only played five minutes in Caris LeVert’s first missed game. Dzanan Musa played more than he did. Dzanan Musa played 15 minutes but left with a -9 box plus/minus. David Nwaba played 5 minutes and left with a +6 box plus/minus.

On a more positive note, assuming Kenny Atkinson does from his defense-first guard, he can make use of him and the Iman Shumpert addition to form creative defensive line ups. Irving-Nwaba-Shump-Prince-DJ? Irving-Shump-Temple-Prince-Allen? Temple-Nwaba-Shump-Prince-Claxton? Irving-Nwaba-Prince-Claxton-Allen? Kenny Atkinson will have a plethora of options at his disposal until he gets Caris LeVert and Wilson Chandler back in the fold. So in closing… #FreeNwaba