What: Charlotte Hornets (20-45) at Brooklyn Nets (35-28)
When: 6:00 PM EST
Where: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, NY
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBATV
It has been a year of drastic changes for the Brooklyn Nets. They started the year with perhaps the league’s most explosive offensive duo with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving which gave them legitimate hopes of making noise in the playoffs. With a healthy Durant they started the season 27-13 and were on an 18-2 heater before KD injured his knee in early January and missed significant time.
The wheels fell off for the Nets with Durant’s January injury followed by Kyrie Irving’s trade demand in February. Both superstars got traded and the rebuild was on in Brooklyn.
The Nets starting five at this point is a collection of good-but-not-great NBA veterans. Four of Brooklyn’s starters - PG Spencer Dinwiddie, SG Mikal Bridges, SF Cameron Johnson, and F Dorian Finney-Smith - were only recently traded to the Nets but are each playing well for their new team. Dinwiddie continues to be a good source of points and assists while Bridges and Johnson are both averaging over 20 points per game in Brooklyn, though the sample size is limited. Center Nic Claxton is the only season-long starter remaining for the Nets and he averages about 12.5 points and nine rebounds per game.
Brooklyn’s bench consists of names that are familiar to educated NBA fans. Guards Seth Curry and Cam Thomas can both score and hit 40%-plus from 3-point range. Joe Harris has been one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the league in recent years and is hitting around 42% this year. Forward Royce O’Neal is a gritty glue-guy that just makes his teams better who’s also hitting a career high of his 3-pointers, nailing about 40% of his attempts.
This Nets squad might not have Durant and Irving, but this rag-tag group of unheralded yet effective veterans can shoot the lights out when they get hot. As a case in point, they just beat the Boston Celtics in their last game.
Where Brooklyn is weakest is in the paint. This game could be another step forward in the coming out party of Hornets rookie center Mark Williams. Over his last four games William has averaged an impressive 14.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, and he could build on those numbers against a rather thin Brooklyn front court.