Shouldering the Load
After some memorable sound bites and only 20 disjointed appearances, Kyrie Irving’s first season as a Net has come to an abrupt close. His decision to opt for shoulder surgery is obviously more about next season than the final 28 games of this one, but there are major questions to answer regarding how the Nets rotation will shake out in his stead. Without Irving and his 31.8% usage rate (8th highest in the NBA), there will be plenty of touches to distribute among the team’s other players.
Spencer Dinwiddie stole the show during Irving’s first extended absence. In 26 Kyrie-less games from November 16th to January 10th, Dinwiddie’s usage rate surged to 32.4%. He thrived in control of the offense averaging 24.8 PPG, 7.2 APG, and 34.25 fantasy points over that stretch. Dinwiddie excelled as a ball-dominant scoring threat and should once again see an uptick in production, but not at that level. The biggest reason: Caris LeVert was also sidelined then.
LeVert’s season started inefficiently before he succumbed to injury, the only two constants in his young career, but he has caught fire since returning. The Michigan man has averaged 24 PPG over the final five games before the All-Star break, culminating in a career high 37 February 8th in Toronto.
Yet, LeVert’s inefficiency has consistently suppressed his fantasy value. In the Nets’ second-half opener versus the 76ers, LeVert had the team high in minutes (39:03) and points (25), but missed a whopping 20 shots from the field! That alone would account for -10 points on Jock MKT and much of the same can be expected from the career 42.8% shooter.
Dinwiddie and LeVert will have the most volume, but many of the Nets key role players will have the opportunity to contribute. Wilson Chandler chipped in a season high 33 minutes against the 76ers and is definitely a player to monitor. Additionally, Garret Temple, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen all averaged at least one more FGA in their games without Irving than the games with him.
Irving’s injury will pave the way for increased production from virtually every Net. This core has been together for a few years and has exhibited tremendous chemistry. They’re in the thick of a playoff race and will be giving their all the rest of the season to prove their worth to a front office keeping a watchful eye in anticipation of a supposed championship run in 2020-21.
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