Brooklyn Nets: 3 things to watch in final meeting with Knicks

Brooklyn Nets Rodions Kurucs. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Rodions Kurucs. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

1. Dinwiddie injury will test depth

The one thing Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has not had to do this season is game plan without having Spencer Dinwiddie available.

Last season’s Most Improved Player finalist has become a leading contender for Sixth Man of the Year honors this season, anchoring the second-most productive bench unit in the NBA with his averages of 17.2 points, 5.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game.

His shooting has markedly improved from last season’s sub-40 percent figures, as he is at 46.1 percent overall and 36.6 percent from 3-point range.

But as news broke Thursday that Dinwiddie was being evaluated for a right thumb injury and former teammate Caron Butler indicated Dinwiddie might need surgery that could sideline him for at least a month, Brooklyn may find itself facing yet another challenge in an injury-filled season.

Caris LeVert, the breakout star of the early part of the season, has not played since Nov. 12 after dislocating his right foot.

DeMarre Carroll, a starting forward last season who has emerged over the last month as a second scoring option off the bench, sat out the first 11 games of the season after ankle surgery.

Treveon Graham, now starting at the power forward spot, missed 37 games with a hamstring strain, an injury that now sidelines the previous starter at the position, Jared Dudley.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, questionable for Friday night against the New York Knicks with a strained left shoulder, has missed 11 games with strains to both his right and left adductors as well as a sprained ankle.

Allen Crabbe hasn’t played since Dec. 12 because of lingering soreness in his right knee after a very hard fall after being fouled in Philadelphia 76ers forward Amir Johnson.

For folks who want to downplay the severity of the injury, take another look at how Crabbe’s right leg whipped down to the floor.

Throw in rookie Dzanan Musa being out for five weeks now with a partially dislocated left shoulder — he did get in a practice this week with the Nets’ G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets — and you have a roster that has been pared to the bone.

Atkinson talked to the media after spending some time doing extra work with reserve guard Shabazz Napier, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

"“Shabazz, I know we’re gonna need him. I love [Napier]. I think he’s a darn good player. I didn’t give him enough minutes [Wednesday] night quite honestly. And I know he’s gonna help us down the line. “I just wanted to get that connection. It’s the basketball stuff, but it’s also the message. ‘I love you. You’re gonna be really good for us and you’re gonna help us win some big games down the road.'”"

Behind Napier, the only other guard available is two-way player Theo Pinson, who has just 72 NBA minutes in seven appearances this season.

Brooklyn does have options. The Nets currently have only 14 players on full contracts and could add a free agent, although the market for unsigned point guards is fairly thin at this point, likely led by Isaiah Canaan, who has been idle since being waived by the Phoenix Suns in late November.

Michael Carter-Williams is a former NBA Rookie of the Year who was waived by the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 7 after being traded by the Houston Rockets for a conditional second-round pick, but Carter-Williams is a poor shooter and thus not a particularly good fit for a 5-out, pace-and-space system.

The Nets could also opt to add some help on a 10-day contract. If they decide to stay in house for a point guard, Long Island’s Shannon Scott is a solid playmaker, but not a good shooter.

Scott is averaging 6.9 assists per game for the G-Nets, but is shooting only 33.9 percent overall and 28.5 percent from deep. Rookie Jordan McLaughlin, who was with Brooklyn in training camp, has averaged 16.5 points per game at Long Island, but is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.