It was no surprise when the Brooklyn Nets made moves to acquire draft picks for the 2016 NBA Draft. One of those picks turned out to be Isaiah Whitehead, who the Nets received after a trade with the Utah Jazz. Whitehead will be the first Brooklyn-born player to play on the Nets.
Out of all the Brooklyn Nets rookies, Isaiah Whitehead stands out the most because of his roots in Brooklyn. Whitehead played high school ball at Lincoln High, the same school that produced former NBA stars Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair. It’s safe to say that there are high expectations for Whitehead to do well in the league.
The NBA has a long history of players who played for their hometown teams. Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) and LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) are the most notable ones. It was evident when Rose was traded to the New York Knicks this offseason and when James left the Cavaliers in 2010 how much they meant to their hometown fans. Hometown players turn into the face of the team and create so much hysteria in the home city, that it’s almost an outrage if they leave. Whitehead just might develop into one of those players that Nets fans refuse to let go.
"“I was speechless. I thought I was going to Utah, then I heard about the trade and it was a dream come true.”-Isaiah Whitehead on his first reaction to joining the Brooklyn Nets"
During his two seasons at Seton Hall University, Whitehead averaged 15.8 points per game and 4.5 assists per game, while shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from three-point range. He led the Pirates to the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, where they were eliminated by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. While at Seton Hall, Whitehead posted many honors, including 2014 PSAL Wingate Award and being named Mr. New York Basketball.
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Whitehead has shown flashes of potential in NBA Summer League. In his five Summer League appearances, he tallied 8.8 points per game, 2.8 assists per game, and 2.6 rebounds per game. On the downside, Whitehead also posted 2.8 turnovers per game in Summer League. Though only shooting at 36.2 percent from the field, Whitehead shot at an impressive 41.7 percent from long distance. This is good news for the Nets, who ranked 14th in the league last season in three-point percentage.
The weaknesses to Whitehead are his high amount of turnovers and his inability to convert on twos, as evident from his performance in Summer League. If Whitehead can develop his game to handle the ball better and score more efficiently in two-point territory, then he can certainly become a lethal weapon on the Nets.
It’s unclear how the Nets plan on using Whitehead in their lineup. Whitehead, who usually plays at shooting guard, has demonstrated his sharpshooting abilities in his college career and Summer League. However, he could be more valuable to Brooklyn as a point guard for his good passing vision. The Nets might also choose to use him as a combo guard if the situation arises. Either way, Whitehead would serve as a great backup for Jeremy Lin, Sean Kilpatrick, and Bojan Bogdanovic.
So, can Whitehead turn into the new hometown favorite? He certainly won’t be THE favorite on the Nets; that title will likely belong to Lin. Nevertheless, Whitehead will have the chance to shine in Brooklyn, and we just might be seeing the future of the Brooklyn Nets develop in the name of Isaiah Whitehead.