Explaining why the Brooklyn Nets should pursue Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline
There is a growing sentiment around the league that the Brooklyn Nets will stand pat at the trading deadline next week. Alex Schiffer of the Athletic (subscription required) stated that the organization wants to see Kevin Durant play with this roster before making any changes.
However, one can argue that Brooklyn needs to acquire an inexpensive guard who can thrive on and off the basketball. This is because head coach Kenny Atkinson is currently running a pick and roll centric offense as they are third in the league in pick and roll possessions averaging 26.6 per game.
A pick and roll in Atkinson’s offense calls for a perimeter player to hold the basketball behind the three-point line until a big man sets a screen. Once this happens, the ball handler will wait to see how his defender reacts to the screen. If the defender fights over the screen, the ball handler will attempt to attack the basket.
On the other hand, if the defender stays under the screen, the ball handler will reject the screen and take the open shot. As the pick and roll is unfolding, the other Nets players are standing behind the arc in the role of three-point shooters.
A prime example of this can be found midway through the first quarter of a road game against the Detroit Pistons when Kyrie Irving received a pass with 7 seconds left on the shot clock. Once this happened, Jarrett Allen came to the right-wing to set a screen for him. After Allen set the screen, Kyrie’s defender (Langston Galloway) fought over the pick.
Consequently, Kyrie decided to attack the basket as he believed that he could blow by Andre Drummond for an open look near the basket. Halfway through his drive toward the basket, Irving realized that Caris LeVert was open on the left-wing.
As a result, Kyrie passed the ball to Caris, thinking that he would take the wide-open three-pointer to end the possession. Unfortunately, Caris passed up on the wide-open three-pointer in favor of a mid-range jumper.
This is a frequent occurrence for Kyrie as he accounts for 48.1 percent of the team’s pick and roll possessions. Kyrie being the primary pick and roll ball handler means that Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert have to spend a meaningful portion of the game in the role of a spot-up shooter. Spot-up shooting isn’t their strong suit as they are shooting 27.3 and 31.6 percent respectively on catch and shoot threes.
Unfortunately, Kyrie Irving has missed 60.9 percent of the team’s games due to various injuries. For example, a right shoulder impingement caused him to miss 26 straight games from mid-November to mid-January. Therefore, Brooklyn needs a player who can run Kenny Atkinson’s offense when Kyrie is out with an injury.
Isaiah Thomas is a player who fits both criteria as he shoots 37.3 percent on catch and shoot threes. On the other hand, he loves the pick and roll as it accounts for 36.3 percent of his possessions. Thomas has created 5.4 points per game for his team on these possessions. The 5.4 points per game have accounted for 25.6 percent of his total scoring output as he has averaged 21.1 points since the 2015-16 season.
Lastly, Isaiah Thomas is an inexpensive guard, as he is making $2.3 million this season. Consequently, the Brooklyn Nets can offer Dzanan Musa and a second-round pick to the Washington Wizards for Thomas.
If Brooklyn were to acquire Thomas, General Manager Sean Marks could use Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert as a trade chip to get another shooter.