Brooklyn Nets: Evaluating Rodions Kurucs’ rookie season

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Brooklyn Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs received a lot of opportunities for a second round pick. What can be taken away from his inaugural season?

Latvian small forward Rodions Kurucs was taken 40th overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2018 NBA Draft. If ones takes a brief glance at his rookie season statistics, two things jump out: 1) He played a lot, and 2) It doesn’t appear he played that well.

(Credit to NBA.comBasketball-Reference and The Stepien for statistics and Hoop Intellect for GIFS.)

Kurucs started 46 of the 63 games he appeared in and averaged 8.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game. This was partially due to the team’s lack of a clear answer at the small forward position.

Although not too much can be expected from most first-year players, Kurucs only shot 31.5 percent from downtown and had more turnovers than assists. Advanced stats, however, suggested the Nets were only slightly worse off when the rookie was on the floor.

Over the course of the season, the Nets posted a +0.2 net rating with Kurucs off the court compared to a 0.0 rating with him on (per The 0.0 rating indicates Brooklyn scored roughly the same number of points as their opponents with Kurucs on the floor, which is interesting in itself.

But when it comes to rookies, maybe it’s best to throw out all the statistics. The numbers are often ugly and don’t offer a fair representation of what a player could be in a few seasons. It’s worth considering, however, how Kurucs performed relative to pre-draft scouting and expectations.

Coming into the draft, Kurucs was projected to eventually be able to shoot, but he hasn’t shown the ability to do so yet at any level. Prior to joining the Nets, the forward only shot 31.6 percent from 3 for Barcelona B.

One could argue that the 31.5 percent he shot from the longer NBA distance last season was almost encouraging, but there are still plenty of questions about this part of his game. It’s worth noting, however, that his shot doesn’t look “broken” at all, so improvement could be on the horizon.

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One of Kurucs’ perceived strengths coming into the league was his ability to finish around the basket, and his 54.3 2-point percentage last season suggests some of this has translated.

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Kurucs was known to have decent passing/playmaking abilities, although he also had a propensity for turning the ball over a bit too much.

The high turnover numbers from last season may not be overly concerning, however. It’s been theorized that high rookie turnover rates can at times even be a “positive,” as they suggest the player is taking chances and figuring out what he can and can’t do at the next level.

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How free agency plays out this summer could have an impact on Kurucs’ role on the team next season, but it seems likely that he will continue to have the chance to develop. Even with the ups and downs, there were positive signs that Nets fans should be optimistic about.

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More than anything else, the development or lack thereof of a 3-point shot could be the factor that determines Kurucs’ career trajectory. If he improves to at least 33 percent next season, then he should be on the right track.