The Brooklyn Nets were among the teams not represented in this year’s All-Star Game. What player can breakout in the next few years and bring an All-Star selection back to the Nets franchise?
The Brooklyn Nets didn’t have any serious contenders for All-Star selections this year, with players under-performing in conference loaded with talent at the top of each position. In a year where Kyle Korver, almost exclusively a three point shooter, and three more Atlanta Hawks were either selected to the game, or replacing players due to injury, the Nets still found themselves left out of the Sunday night scoring fest.
The Nets have a few former All-Stars and hopefully a few future ones on their current roster and could add to that in the coming weeks. What players pose the best chance to bring Brooklyn back to the All-Star Game?
Honorable Mention: Lance Stephenson
Obviously, Charlotte Hornets guard Lance Stephenson is not currently on the Nets, nor is he playing at an All-Star level. However, as his name continues to appear in Nets trade rumors, he is still a player to consider.
Stephenson, still only 24 years old, has a mere two complete seasons under his belt where he played 50 or more games. These seasons saw him shoot just under 50% and average 8.8 and 13.8 points per game. For all his antics in Indiana, Stephenson still produced on a consistent level and played above average defense.
This season in Charlotte has been a lost one for Stephenson, shooting 37% from the field and averaging 9.0 points per game. He is, however, averaging a carer high in assists, a sign he is at least growing in one area.
A departure from Charlotte just months after signing a free agent contract should be humbling for Stephenson, and could translate to a more mature player in Brooklyn. If the Nets do indeed acquire Stephenson, he could be an eventual All-Star by providing consistent offense and good defense.
3. Joe Johnson
Shooting guard Joe Johnson was the Nets’ last All-Star representative in 2014, making the team despite a generally average spread of numbers. In fact, these numbers are surprisingly very on par with this season, taking slight dips in points per game and field goal percentage while raising his assists and rebounds per game by a considerable margin. Johnson has made the All-Star game with less than spectacular numbers before, and it’s possible he can do it again.
However, Johnson is aging and will start next season at 34 years old. He’s also seen a decrease in scoring 7 of the past 8 seasons. Johnson is not the superstar he was in Atlanta and will likely never be voted by the fans into the All-Star Game in the future. But if Johnson can increase his scoring while maintaining his improved rebound and assist numbers, it’s not impossible for Johnson to earn a selection from NBA coaches.
2. Mason Plumlee
Big man Mason Plumlee appears to be a huge part of the Nets future, and that could correlate to a future All-Star appearance. Plumlee was an important part of this year’s All-Star Weekend, participating in both the Rising Stars Challenge and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Dunk Contest participants rarely repeat appearances in recent years, and Plumlee will be ineligible for the Rising Stars Challenge in 2016.
Even so, Plumlee could very easily be playing in the weekend’s biggest event next year. Plumlee is a very efficient player in only his second season, averaging 10.3 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, and 1.0 blocks per game, all while shooting a very impressive 59% from the field. Plumlee also outputs a very respectable 19.70 PER, a great number for Plumlee in only his second NBA season.
Plumlee can only go up from here, and the Nets may soon call him the face of their franchise. As Plumlee grows as a player and gains traction as an NBA star, his All-Star credentials improve exponentially.
One thing that could hurt Plumlee, as well as the Nets final All-Star contender, is the still recent change to All-Star fan voting. Rather than voting for each position, players are separated into “frontcourt” and “backcourt,” or forwards and guards. Plumlee would fare very well against other centers and power-forwards in the East as the conference tends to lack star power at these positions.
However under the current format, Plumlee has to go up against the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, as well as fellow bigs like Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, and Al Horford.
Plumlee is only playing 23.4 minutes per game, and if he can push that number upwards, he could be a player who averages a double-double per game. This would no doubt propel him into the All-Star Game, whether elected by the fans or the coaches.
1. Brook Lopez
Mason Plumlee may be the future, but Brook Lopez can produce at an All-Star level now. For a big man averaging 17.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game over the course of his career, it’s surprising that Lopez has never been selected as an All-Star, only as an injury replacement in 2013. Lopez played 82 games each of his first three seasons but has recently battled quite a few injuries.
However, when healthy, something he is working towards, Lopez is one of the best centers in the game and capable of taking over a game in the paint. Lopez is in his prime and needs to get healthy to make the most out of it. If Lopez hits his career average numbers, anything more would be icing on the cake.
Lopez could average 20 points and 7-8 rebounds per game next season if healthy, numbers that would definitely pave his way into the All-Star game.
Something that will make or break both Lopez and Plumlee is how well they can play together. Kevin Garnett has taken the majority of the starts of a lot of time throughout the season in the Nets frontcourt. With Garnett gone next season in all likelihood, the Nets will have no excuse not to play Lopez and Plumlee next to each other.
The biggest concern here is with both on the floor, there wouldn’t be enough rebounds to go around and pad the big men’s stats. However, if the chemistry really clicks, Lopez and Plumlee could see big increases in points and assists totals if they work together.
The last thing that will help any Nets All-Star chances is a more competitive team. The Atlanta Hawks would not have fielded four All-Stars this year if not for there spectacular record and insane win streak. The Nets don’t need to be the best team in the East, but a team in legitimate playoff contention helps anyone’s All-Star chances on the Nets.