The Nets have found a winning formula playing in the absence of two of the team’s biggest frontcourt names in Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett.
Even though this half of the Frontcourt vs. Backcourt column would like to be able to point to the Nets’ big men for their in-season turnaround, it is clear that small-ball is working for this team.
However, an unlikely name has stepped up and played some of the biggest minutes: Mason Plumlee.
At the beginning of the season, it didn’t seem as if there was even a spot on the bench for Plumlee.
Playing behind Lopez, Garnett, Blatche, and Evans, it look like Plumlee was headed for the NBA’s D-League.
But due to key injuries and trades — and crediting Plumlee’s play — he has managed to stick with the big boy club, and make a name for himself.
During the last 13 games, Kevin Garnett, the Nets defensive and vocal leader and most important member of the fronctourt corps has been sidelined due to back spasms.
The first-round, 22nd overall pick from Duke was inserted into the starting lineup and the Nets haven’t missed a beat, going 10–3 during that stretch.
In his role as a starter, Plumlee has averaged eight points per game on 63-percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and one steal. And the majority of his points have come from inside the paint, proving he can finish from under the rim — which is exactly what any coach wants to see out of its young big men.
It goes without saying that there is room for growth with Plumlee, but he’s given coach Kidd and general manager Billy Knight more than they could every expected when they selected him last June.
And while it is still Kevin Garnett’s frontcourt, it isn’t clear when he will return. The Nets hope he does before the first round of the playoffs. But if that doesn’t happen, management should be confident with the young man standing behind him.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports-world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.