Brooklyn Nets’ Rodions Kurucs impressed as a rookie last season, what should we expect in his sophomore campaign?
With household names such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan flooding any and all news pertaining to the Brooklyn Nets this summer, promising yet unestablished players such as Rodions Kurucs continue to float under the league’s radar.
Despite lacking a high profile ahead next season, the Latvian product poises to offer an equally impressive sequel to his surprising rookie campaign last year.
During the 2018-2019 season, injuries sidelining players such as Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis–Jefferson, and Allen Crabbe left head coach Kenny Atkinson with ample minutes to distribute as the team labored its way into the playoffs. Eating up those minutes, Kurucs stunned the league with his gritty and productive play, averaging 8.5 points per game while also earning a bid to the Rising Stars Challenge.
For similar reasons, more specifically the team’s health moving into next season, I expect Kurucs to surge once more. With Durant expected to miss the entire season next year as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles, Kurucs seems destined to see more minutes and consequently improve his game to a further extent.
Complementing this, Durant and his playstyle somewhat mirror Kurucs, as both players stretch out to 6’9 and attack offensively with slashing techniques while also wielding an effective jump shot. Given the similarities between the two and noting Durant’s excessive experience as an NBA player, serving as an effective mentor for Kurucs appears as a likely role for him as he recovers.
Benefitting from this, Kurucs enters next year with a 2x NBA Finals MVP and 4x scoring champ basically whispering in his ear, a luxury few players ever find themselves fortunate enough to attain.
Kurucs himself even connected the dots between Durant and himself when speaking with the media this summer, according to Brian Lewis of nypost.com, here’s what he had to say regarding his excitement on the acquisition:
"“KD is my favorite player. How do you think I feel? Of course I feel great. He is my teammate, and I will have a lot of things to learn from him."
Kurucs even compared himself to Durant during a press conference after the draft last summer, certainly unaware he’d be referring to Durant as his teammate just a year later.
Even with Kevin Durant related factors aside, the game-breaking play style which Kurucs illustrated last year provokes reason to expect his continued growth as well. Even with his limited time on the court, Kurucs often portrayed aggressiveness which often led to decisive steals and fast break points.
Kurucs often resorted to his unique gifts such as his impressive size and speed to rush past and then stretch around defenders to attack the rim. He also served as a threat from beyond the arc, an attribute always appreciated in today’s “three-point happy” NBA.
Arguably during his brightest moment last year, Kurucs essentially took over a game against the Detroit Pistons, scoring 13 points while only logging 20 minutes. Kurucs also shut down All-Star Blake Griffin during the contest, forcing him into a gruesome 1-10 shooting performance.
Even outside his head-turning performance against the Pistons, Kurucs still found himself flashing across the big board at the Barclays Center at least once or twice every night, providing sparks for the team and igniting lead–altering runs. The 40th overall pick also finished last year with an under-appreciated top ten field goal percentage amongst rookies.
Most notably, Brooklyn paired an impressive 28 wins with just 18 losses during games started by Kurucs, while going a subpar 18-22 when limiting him to sixth man duties.
Warranting serious some belief that these predictions will come into fruition, Kurucs continues to work on his craft this summer. Allowing him to play a part of their summer league team, Kurucs shot an impressive 46% from the field and scored 9.3 points per game for the Nets during the tournament.
While these numbers don’t exactly highlight the box score as an exclamation point, they certainly express the sophomore’s commitment to sharpening his already promising skill set.
Although fans should surely expect to see a tsunami of jerseys bearing Durant’s or Irving’s numbers when entering the Barclays Center next season, make sure to keep an eye out for Kurucs’s double zero, as both he and the Nets await liftoff.