Brooklyn Nets: 3 things to watch against rebuilding Hawks

Brooklyn Nets Jarrett Allen. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Jarrett Allen. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets Rodions Kurucs. Mandatory Copyright Notice (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) /

3. Fan favorite Kurucs also big with his teammates

When the Brooklyn Nets selected Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs with the 40th overall pick last June, it’s fair to say they never saw this coming.

Kurucs has dazzled in limited opportunities this season and those opportunities are becoming larger as the season progresses.

With guard Allen Crabbe out for Friday’s game against the Washington Wizards, coach Kenny Atkinson made a stunning decision, inserting Kurucs — with 12 games and 156 NBA minutes under his belt at the time — into the starting lineup at the 3 spot, shifting Joe Harris to the 2.

Kurucs responded with a career-high 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the longest outing on his short NBA resume to date, 30 minutes.

He helped staunch a Washington rally in the fourth quarter with back-to-back jumpers, one a long 2 (rookie mistake with a toe on the line) and an above-the-break 3. Kurucs made all four of his free throws as well and matched his career-best with six rebounds.

Atkinson told the media that the rookie is just getting started, per Greg Logan of Newsday:

"“It’s like a flower starting to sprout. You don’t know how colorful it’s going to be and how big it’s going to be. Right now, what we’re seeing is his talent. I don’t think we’ve had a ton of time developing him. “We’re working with him, but right now, he’s going a lot on his instincts and he’s just out there playing. I just hope I don’t screw him up.”"

Harris told that what we’re seeing from Kurucs of late is what the guys in the gym and in the locker room have seen from the time the 20-year-old arrived.

"“Rodi’s been great all year, honestly. It’s just his energy when he comes off the bench, you know he’s going to play hard. You know he’s going to make hustle plays. The amount of times that he just gets the 50-50 balls, just happens to put himself in the right spot. “He’s a great defender, athletic offensively, great at attacking the rim and, again, he just provides a lot of energy for us.”"

Atkinson is confident the run can continue for Kurucs, even as the league learns his tendencies, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

"“The big question is can you do this long term, as the league gets to know him better? This is a small pocket of games, but my experience says I believe this will be a season-long thing where he’s getting minutes now.”"

Kurucs has appeared in just 13 of Brooklyn’s first 30 games — missing five games early in the season with a sprained left ankle and two while on assignment to the NBA G League’s Long Island Nets.

But among rookies receiving regular playing time, Kurucs is 11th in his draft class, averaging 7.7 points per game — the highest among players taken in the second round — despite averaging six fewer minutes than any of the players in the top 10 in rookie scoring.

Among rookies with at least 100 minutes played, Kurucs is fifth with .122 win shares per 48 minutes and is tied for 15th in the rookie class with 0.5 win shares thus far.

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And, if as Atkinson said, he’s playing purely on instinct? That’s a pretty solid basketball IQ Kurucs has, because he’s almost always in the right place at the right time.